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Mobile content management market heats up as IT pros try new methods

There's no one-size-fits-all fix to mobile content management issues, but EMM vendors are upping the ante, and new, low-cost approaches are available.

Companies in search of alternatives to consumer products such as Dropbox, Box and Google Drive could find the answer with a vendor already in-house as EMM providers add mobile content management tools.

Today, IT administrators take very different approaches to mobile content management, file sharing and cloud storage, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to do it.

Trying to make sure people have accessibility to all their data while being able to control and govern it is a constant battle.

Darren Hauck,
head of European IT operations, Selig Group

Citrix has ShareFile, and AirWatch, recently acquired by VMware Inc., offers Secure Content Locker. Good Technology added mobile file sharing to its lineup through the acquisition of Copiun in 2012, and its chief independent enterprise mobility management (EMM) competitor, MobileIron, has its own Docs@Work MCM product as well as partnerships with numerous other vendors through its AppConnect platform.

But when it comes to a complete offering for all aspects of enterprise mobility -- including devices, applications, service management, content and collaboration, among other features -- none of the vendors have nailed it, according to Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at VDC Research Group in Natick, Mass.

"The integration and seamlessness of how these things work together is going to be really important, and I can honestly say I don't think anyone's there yet," Klein said.

In many cases, EMM vendors already have connections with technology and security officers and can now offer their MCM capabilities, said Terri McClure, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

"But we're seeing a big problem with employees continuing to use their [Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.] accounts because it's just so easy," McClure said.

AirWatch Secure Content Locker offers 'mobile library'

With its Secure Content Locker, AirWatch may be able to make a name for itself among file sharing and content management vendors. The full approach of device and content management attracted Robert Debault, systems analyst for a maintenance product distribution company in Texas.

"[Secure Content Locker is] a mobile library of all the information we make available for our salesforce," Debault said.

In addition to rolling out devices on AirWatch's Software as a Service mobile device management (MDM) platform quickly, Secure Content Locker allows users at Debault's company to publish documents without IT interaction.

"They can log into the Content Locker with an option to be offline or online," Debault said. "It will tell them when some documents on their devices have been updated, which to me is priceless."

VMware's ownership of AirWatch will result in cost savings for cloud services such as Secure Content Locker, according to AirWatch chairman Alan Dabbiere. Selling a cost-effective product will allow AirWatch to remain competitive against Dropbox and Box, he said.

AirWatch's Secure Content Locker is available in two versions: View, at $1.50 per device per month with a $20 one-time perpetual fee; and Collaborate, at $4 per device per month with a $50 one-time perpetual fee. By comparison, Box's Business version and Dropbox for Business are both $15 per user per month, and Box's expanded Enterprise version is $35 per user per month.

Acronis goes beyond backup with MCM

Non-EMM providers also deliver MCM.

Selig Group, a global seal and packaging manufacturing company, wanted to move to a secure platform for file sharing and content management for its devices, according to Darren Hauck, Selig Group's head of European IT operations.

When Hauck began implementing a more complete IT infrastructure for the company around two years ago, he "went into panic mode" when he found employees were using Dropbox to share data internationally.

"Trying to make sure people have accessibility to all their data while being able to control and govern it is a constant battle," he said.

He chose Acronis, which recently updated its file-sharing software, Acronis Access. The latest version combines previous products activEcho and mobilEcho, applications that allow file sharing between mobile devices.

Selig Group already used Acronis for backup software when it purchased activEcho, with a free version of mobilEcho included. Selig Group has used Acronis for cross-continent document sharing and collaboration, its sales staff uses it to synchronize data as they travel the world, and there's a container component that allows users to separate their work data from personal information, Hauck said.

"We have a very lean IT team, and I can't afford to have a product I have to babysit," he said. "None of the users have complained about [Acronis]."

While Acronis hasn't heavily invested in device management, mobilEcho has some MDM-like features in addition to the container, including remote-wipe capabilities. Acronis Access has direct integration with two major EMM vendor platforms, Good Technology's Good Dynamics and MobileIron's AppConnect. Acronis also has a version of its mobile application with the Good Dynamics file encryption and policies built in, according to Brian Ulmer, Acronis' director of product management.

Acronis Access is available on a subscription or a perpetual license based on a number of users. For a subscription model, for up to 1,000 users, the price is $50 per user per year, and the price is variable beyond that number of users. It's also available now for a free 21-day trial.

Other companies specialize in content management and file sharing, including Accellion Inc., AppSense Inc., WatchDox Inc., Soonr Inc., FilesAnywhere, Biscom Inc. and Novell Inc., among many others.

nCrypted Cloud secures existing file-sharing platforms

Another option is to secure consumer file-sharing platforms by wrapping applications around them. Boston-based nCrypted Cloud offers a free version of its product that does just that, plus an enterprise version at $10 per user, per month, with a 25-user minimum.

The nCrypted Cloud software uses AES 256-bit encryption along with its own Zero Knowledge Encryption to secure services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Both the free and enterprise products have proven useful for Caroline Kuo, an academic researcher at a major New England university. Because Kuo and her team must adhere to strict guidelines for securing confidential health information with limited funding, they use nCrypted Cloud-secured Dropbox to share data.

While pleased with nCrypted Cloud's security and accessibility, depending on Dropbox is part of the downside of that approach, according to Kuo.

"I spend a lot of time inviting my colleagues to Dropbox so I can get extra space, because when you are working on a project, you don't want that limitation," Kuo said.

The idea of a company wrapping application control around Dropbox creates some of the same issues that come with controlling users' personal devices, according to McClure.

"It's the challenge of, 'I don't want my company managing my Dropbox account because I've got my family pictures in it, my financial documents in it,'" she said. "The last thing I want is my company managing my Dropbox account."

Executive editor Colin Steele contributed to this report.

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Would you buy content management products from an EMM vendor?
It seems clear after reading this that everyone needs something slightly different. As a fairly decent sized business owner, I need a lot of users for cheap, so I picked DriveHQ. My friend, also a business owner, likes the hybrid option of Egnyte for his company. I think it really just depends on figuring out what you need, and what service best fits your needs.
BBan93 said what I wanted to say. It really just depends on figuring out what you need, and what service best fits your needs before you can leverage something that will make you more efficient and successful.