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Oxygen Cloud Enhances iPhone, iPad As Collaborative Devices

Cloud file storage with IT access controls can convert Apple's consumer devices into units serving more collaborative business purposes.
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The iPhone and iPad would be more useful as business devices if workplace documents and files could be accessed with them at an agreed upon destination in the cloud, especially if policies set by IT governed access to those files.

That's why Oxygen Cloud has created a virtual file system that accepts files generated on a Mac, Windows, or Linux PC, transfers them to one of several cloud storage sites with which it interfaces, and applies policies to them set by a company's IT department. The virtual file system also interfaces with the iPhone and iPad, allowing authorized users of those devices to access the files remotely.

Oxygen Cloud is a small Newark, Calif., startup, which itself was spun out of another company, five-year-old LeapFile, a secure file transfer service. Oxygen Cloud showed off its wares at the Cloud Computing Conference & Expo 2010 in Santa Clara, Calif., this week. Oxygen Cloud has even created an application that allows iPad users to comment on, label, or draw symbols on documents as part of a collaborative editing effort. The application has yet to be made available in Apple's App Store, but Julia Mak, Oxygen Cloud's marketing manager, said approval is expected shortly.

Such an editing application, combined with Oxygen Cloud's virtual file system, will make the iPhone and iPad more useful as collaborative business devices, Mak said, speaking from the firm's booth at the Nov. 1-4 event.

Oxygen Cloud's virtual file system does not connect to RIM Blackberry or Android mobile devices. Mak said Android will be its next target.

In one sense, Oxygen Cloud is doing something similar to DropBox, SugarSynch, and Synchplicity, services that link individual mobile devices to cloud storage. But Oxygen Cloud interposes IT management through its virtual file system and allows authorized users to choose from a number of possible IT-approved destinations for a given file. Through a drag-and-drop action, the user designates a file to be sent to an Oxygen Cloud on-premises storage system, one in Amazon EC2's S3, or the Iron Mountain external cloud service. At the same time, it can use either an internal or external cloud system powered by EMC's Atmos. The virtual file system maintains an audit trail and integrates with a company's Active Directory identity management system. It automatically sends encrypted data into the cloud.

In addition, if a mobile device is lost, Oxygen Cloud offers "a remote wipe capability, erasing any data saved by our application" that remains on the device, Mak said. The data can still be reconstructed from its cloud storage location for the user.

The service is still in its beta phase, Mak said. Pricing, once the service is generally available, is likely to take the form of a monthly subscription, with Oxygen Cloud consolidating the bill for its service with the bill from the cloud storage service, giving users a single bill to pay.