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Salesforce.com Shakes Up File Sharing

ChatterBox is reborn as Salesforce Files, a file-storage and sharing system that will reach into the likes of SharePoint and Dropbox.
Salesforce.com on Thursday announced the beta launch of Salesforce Files, a major upgrade of its ChatterBox file sharing and sync system. Users will gain the ability to use any device to call up documents from document management systems such as Documentum, FileNet and SharePoint, and file-sharing systems such as Box and Dropbox.

When ChatterBox was announced at Dreamforce last fall, Salesforce was aiming for the internal equivalent of a Box or Dropbox for storing and sharing files and synchronizing changes. In May, Salesforce separately announced a Chatter Files capability to search and browse documents from the Chatter mobile client for smartphones and tablets.

Salesforce Files subsumes and replaces the ChatterBox and Chatter Files capabilities with one file storage, sync and sharing system, and offers an added twist: the ability to peer into third-party repositories and view business-relevant documents needed to plan projects, collaborate with internal experts and close deals with customers.

"ChatterBox was about taking local files and synchronizing, but the problem is much bigger than that," said Nasi Jazayeri, executive VP and general manager of Salesforce Chatter. "Salesforce Files is about accessing and connecting corporate files into the business process."

[ Want the lowdown on cloud file sharing systems? Read Cloud File Storage Fight: No Knockout Yet. ]

The goal with Files is not to replace internal or external repositories that companies rely on, but rather to provide an all-access, single-sign-on pass without replicating documents or exacerbating the version-control problem. Files will debut with read-only access to files in third-party systems, but Jazayeri said the company is working on read-write capabilities with check-out/check-in version controls.

The technology behind Salesforce Files comes from EntropySoft, which Salesforce acquired in February, and it includes connectors to content management systems and file-sharing services such as Box and Dropbox. Salesforce insists that the new Files system will give users access only to files that they are entitled to see, as stipulated by the access controls and user privileges defined by third-party systems.

Read-only access to third-party repositories is not new or unique to Salesforce Files. Content management and collaboration systems and file-sharing services like Box and Dropbox have been there and done that. With this read-only limitation, teams can view documents, but edits, updates and annotations have to be applied by a collaborator who has checked out the document from its source repository.

The advantage that Salesforce brings to consolidated file access is embedding that collaborative experience into the heart of sales, service and marketing business processes. Sounds good, but for now, Salesforce Files is still in private beta testing. The product's launch is not expected until early next year, and pricing details are not available.