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1/18/2011
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ShareFile Launches Sync Feature

File sharing and storage provider chisels its niche by tailoring features and services to SMBs and ignoring the crowded consumer market.

ShareFile Sync
(click image for larger view)
ShareFile Sync
File sharing and storage vendor ShareFile on Tuesday rolled out continuous synchronization to its existing services, adding the feature at no additional cost to all but its entry-level package. ShareFile Sync offers one- and two-way synchronization between a customer's computer systems and its ShareFile folders.

The feature will help automate existing file sharing and storage workflows both internally and with external clients and partners, said ShareFile chief marketing officer Steve Chiles. Although ShareFile's pricing plans come with a specific number of employee accounts, it offers unlimited sharing with external users, with controls to allow clients to set and manage permissions and other workflow rules. Sync joins mobile access, custom branding, reporting tools, alerts, and storage encryption among ShareFile's existing offerings.

"The platform was actually built to address what [company founder and CEO Jesse Lipson], at the time, felt was an unmet need within specifically the SMB marketplace, which was: You know, FTP has been around forever, but it can be kind of kludgy depending on what your use-case is," said Chiles. What began as an application for sharing large files has since evolved into a customizable, folder-based platform that can support a variety of sharing, backup, and storage workflows. ShareFile has roughly 2 million users and 14,000 corporate clients.

When ShareFile sells itself as a friend of small and midsize businesses (SMBs), its pitch is pretty compelling: The 50-person company has been bootstrapped since its inception in 2005 and has not sold stakes to venture capital funds, which Chiles described as "empowering" when it comes to making business decisions. "Virtually everything that we do is born from customer requests," Chiles said. "Sync is yet another one of those features."

While some players in the online sharing and storage space -- such as Dropbox, Box.net, and SugarSync -- cast a wider net for customers (or, conversely, specialize in one primary feature), Chiles said that ShareFile has ignored the consumer market in favor of a business-centric focus. "Our business is, frankly, myopically focused on business, specifically SMB," Chiles said.

Its packages are built and priced accordingly, from its Basic plan, which offers two employee accounts for $29.95 per month, to its Enterprise plan, which serves up 150 accounts and exponentially higher storage and bandwidth for just under $500 per month. The company said its most popular package is the Professional plan -- around $60 a month for 10 accounts, 10 GB of storage, and 10 GB of bandwidth. Chiles said, however, that ShareFile's business-to-business focus means it will mold a plan to any organization.

"We really are committed to setting up one plan for one organization so that it can be the right fit for them," he said, adding that ShareFile's account management team always reaches out to clients before they reach any bandwidth or other limits.

Though ShareFile's platform might aptly be tagged as a cloud application, that's not in the company's marketing lingo. "That's a word we generally try to steer away from because it can mean 50 different things to 50 different people," Chiles said. He added that certain features that ShareFile refers to as "power tools," such as its Outlook plug-in and drive mapping, exist outside of the Web-based solution.

If ShareFile indeed has a bit of tunnel vision for the SMB segment, does that mean it has limited its potential reach? Not necessarily. Following up on a question about what percentage of ShareFile's current customers fit the SMB segment, a rep for the company wrote in an email: "An actual figure isn't available; however, their portfolio really mirrors the business world in general. Meaning, the vast majority of their platform is SMB."

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