Watch Out Dropbox: Up-And-Comers Want Cloud Storage, Share Of The Spotlight

A handful of cloud storage and file sharing players have emerged looking to unseat Dropbox and others of the world, claiming that consumer-focused cloud storage options lack the security and feature set required for small business and enterprise users.

In an era of BYOD (aka, bring your own device) and the consumerization of IT, free and cheap cloud storage services like Dropbox have made their way into the business, offering affordable ways for users to move and store files, photos, documents and other content in the cloud and to various devices. But according to this new breed of companies, Dropbox-like storage and file sharing options can't be easily managed, create security holes and don't offer some of the advanced collaboration features to get the most value out of them.

This week, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Accellion revealed that it raked in $12 million to dig deeper into the enterprise file sharing market. The funding round was led by Riverwood Capital and comes on the heels of a successful 2011 for Accellion, during which the company saw record new customer growth, revenue, profitability and cash generation. Accellion plans to accelerate growth and continue to invest in developing enterprise-grade mobile file sharing products, strategic partnerships and international growth.

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"We have just ended a profitable year of record revenue and customer growth for the company," said Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Accellion, said in a statement. "The adoption of iPads and the resultant use of unmanaged 'dropbox-type' applications are creating real security and compliance issues for organizations. Smart companies, proactively meeting the challenge and looking for a solution for secure, mobile access to enterprise content, are fueling our rapid growth." Accellion offers an iPad app that provides secure mobile access to files stored in Accellion Secure Workspaces, letting users who have an Accellion Secure Collaboration account browse their workspaces, securely send and share files, share folders, subscribe to notifications and collaborate in real time on shared files with internal and external partners. Files and folders can be organized into views defined by a business.

"Unlike consumer-based applications, Accellion solutions meet both the requirements of business users for easy anytime, anywhere access to enterprise content, as well as the requirements of IT to retain control over access and security of information," added Jeffrey Parks, Founding Partner of Riverwood.

Another cloud storage upstart, Palo Alto, Calif.-based CX (C To The X Power), has also come out swinging against its chief rival, Dropbox, with a cloud storage application backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt's investment vehicle TomorrowVentures, which pitched in $5 million in July. CX has recently released a mobile Web application and has several new products on tap in coming weeks.

What sets CX apart is the ability to use groups and add up to 1 million participants per group. Additionally, CX hangs its hat on security, boasting that its key developer has a background at NASA. But it's the group collaboration and the sharing of files in context that differentiate CX from the pack, said CX CTO Jan Vandenbos.

"They're missing something," Vandenbos said of CX's competitors, adding that work is virtual now and many work in groups. "As we work together in virtual stores, we need context."

Next: Insync: 'It's Ok To Break Up With Dropbox'

CX's offerings make it possible for users to put comments, almost like a social media stream, on top of content, comparing it to micro blogging in a cloud storage platform.

"We're interested in how people collaborate and work together," Vandenbos said, adding that the three pillars of CX's play are collaboration, communication and discovery. Storage and sync are becoming commodities, Vandenbos said, but the differentiators going forward will be security capabilities and collaboration features. Deeper integration with common software and hardware platforms will also be key as the market for cloud storage and file sharing evolves.

CX works on a computer, an Apple iPad, an iPhone and will soon be released for Google Android and BlackBerry. While the main purpose is similar to its key rivals -- save content on the device, make revisions and publish to the cloud while distributing to group members -- CX has seen steady growth. Vandenbos said that CX is also investigating a channel play where it would build a roster of resellers and partners as part of its go-to-market.

Accillion and CX join a growing list of cloud storage and file sharing offerings targeting the enterprise and the channel with their wares. Late last year, file sharing and collaboration mainstay YouSendIt launched a channel program around its enterprise-focused play. And, which launched a channel program last year as well, has made many steps to move from the consumer into the enterprise.

For its part, Dropbox has also made a business push and with the launch of Dropbox for Teams in October adds new controls for SMBs to keep tabs on cloud storage and file sharing environments.

Still, up-and-coming cloud storage players are gunning for Dropbox, and in some cases, they make no bones about who they're targeting. "8x cheaper than Dropbox" and "it's OK to break up with Dropbox" are just two of the many pointed slogans of Insync, a cloud storage offering that leverages users' Google accounts to create a Google Docs storage locker.

Insync's key is that it uses Google's cloud to let users save, share and sync local documents between devices, and those documents can be accessed while offline.

"Besides allowing you to utilize Google's cheap storage, Insync allows you to sync files in Google Docs across all your devices, Dropbox-style," the company said in a blog post upon its launch. "But our unique feature is the support of multiple Google Docs accounts, allowing you access to your Gmail and Google Apps accounts from Finder and Explorer."

"Finally, an alternative to Dropbox worth trying," Insync CEO and co-founder Terrence Pua wrote.