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5/10/2012
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Watch Out, Dropbox? Citrix ShareFile's Enterprise Twist

Last year Citrix bought cloud file sharing service ShareFile, taking on YouSendIt, Box, and Dropbox. Now Citrix will turn that service into a product you can also install as enterprise software.

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Last year Citrix bought the cloud file sharing service ShareFile, positioning itself to compete with the likes of YouSendIt, Box, and Dropbox. For its next trick, Citrix will turn that service into a software product you can also install as enterprise software.

Citrix announced its Storage Zones strategy for ShareFile this week at its Citrix Synergy user conference in San Francisco. Another major theme was the integration of Citrix's recent acquisition of social software company Podio, which already offers some basic integration with ShareFile.

As a feature of a forthcoming ShareFile enterprise edition, Storage Zones will allow network administrators to create local file shares that provide the same user experience as the ShareFile cloud service. The only difference is that the network storage is on a piece of equipment the organization controls, but that's an important distinction for some enterprises.

"Since being acquired by Citrix, we're getting opportunities with much larger enterprises than we ever did as a startup," said Jesse Lipson, former CEO of ShareFile. "Many of them really need at least part of their data stored on premises, or in a private cloud." Whether that desire is justified or "just psychological" doesn't really matter--it's what they want, and Citrix is going to give it to them, according to Lipson, who is now vice president and general manager of Citrix Data Sharing.

[ Do you SharePoint while walking? See Harmon.ie Brings SharePoint Collaboration To iPad.]

Moreover, Citrix wants to offer more options for file sharing than anyone else. "You can mix and match, or you can have it all on-premises or all in the cloud," Lipson said.

Organizations that opt to use the cloud can define where data should be stored for specific users, choosing from seven cloud data centers around the world. That's important to some enterprises for compliance reasons, Lipson explained, such as making sure sensitive documents aren't stored outside the legal jurisdiction in which they were generated. In other cases, it makes sense from a performance standpoint to ensure that documents are retrieved from the closest data center to a given corporate office.

Technology previews of Citrix Receiver with ShareFile integration and the on-premises software for StorageZones are available for download now. Citrix is planning the commercial release of these technologies for later this year.

ShareFile came to market as a competitor to YouSendIt, with a file-sharing service for files that are too big or too confidential to be sent as email attachments. ShareFile added iOS and Android apps as well as file-sync capabilities last year, following a similar path to YouSendIt as both broadened their offerings.

ShareFile has increasingly come into competition with Box, with its enterprise ambitions, Dropbox, with its emphasis on simple file synchronization, and most recently, Google Drive.

There are many other competitors in an expanding market that also includes Accellion, a SharePoint-friendly file sharing product that emphasizes an on-premises installation option, although it is also available as a cloud service.

"It is a crowded space, but we try to be very strategic with how we position ourselves and our features," Lipson said. "On the enterprise side, I believe we're well positioned to be the number-one player in market."

ShareFile "kind of flew under the radar" as a private company, and never had a consumer product or a freemium product to attract the kind of publicity Box and Dropbox have enjoyed, Lipson said. Now things are different. "We're the only ones with a mature product and a globally trusted brand, with a mature company, a multibillion-dollar marketing company, being able to stand behind it."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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