British cloud-based content collaboration firm Huddle has launched a private beta programme for its new intelligent file synchronisation tool, which the company describes as a Dropbox for the enterprise.
The new patent-pending technology allows everyone in an organisation to securely access company files, and intelligently syncs relevant documents onto their desktop and mobile devices using algorithms linked to workers' actions in Huddle. This means that workers can access the files they need without consuming large amounts of bandwidth.
Alastair Mitchell, chief executive of Huddle, explained that cross-enterprise file sync is far more complex than personal file sync. "While consumer sync tools such as Dropbox are useful for providing access to documents at an individual level, they lack the security, scalability and intelligence required for the enterprise," he said.
Huddle Sync gives the IT department transparency into where data is stored and which files have been shared within and across the firewall, as well as providing full audit trails and granular permission settings. It also has a remote wipe capability, in case a device is lost or stolen.
Mitchell claims that Huddle is the only company to offer this kind of cloud-based enterprise-class sync tool. He said that, unlike the cloud version of Microsoft Sharepoint, which is merely "a legacy bit of kit that has been plonked in someone else's data centre," Huddle harnesses the "real cloud" - a single platform that everyone can access.
Gartner analyst Jeff Mann said that the comparison with Sharepoint was difficult to judge, as Huddle does not offer many of the functions that Sharepoint offers.
"Huddle doesn't prentend to be a portal, it's not really used for BI, but I think for file-sharing it's one of the many competitors," Mann told Techworld. "If you find Sharepoint on-premise clunky, then Sharepoint in the cloud is clunky too. But the advantage that Office 365 has is that it is Sharepoint - it may not be what you like, but at least it's what you know, and that has been attractive for a lot of companies.
"The 'real cloud' companies do have some advantages, in terms of ease of use and accessibilty, but you still have to convince people that they can trust the cloud at all, and then that they can trust you specifically. It's certainly a hurdle for a lot of the cloud suppliers," he added.
Huddle caters primarily to large enterprises and government departments, whereas other competitors such as Box.net are more focused on the SMB market, according to Mitchell. Huddle Sync aims to replace the traditional shared drive, allowing workers to access all of their organisation's content and share files in real-time across entire workforces and multiple devices.
Meanwhile, the intelligent file sync engine uses algorithms to determine who the user is and which files they need, based on their Huddle profile, activity, workspaces and recent activity. Employees receive notifications on their devices when a new file is available, and files that are not automatically distributed can be synchronised manually.
"Humans have lost the war against information overload, and only machines can save us now. In this case the machine would be the algorithms in Huddle Sync that enable it to send/suggest relevant content that I should download from the cloud repository," said Forrester analyst Tim Walters.
"Having all of my content - as well as all of the content of all of the teams of which I'm a part - available in the cloud sounds like a blessing. But then the sheer volume of it is actually a curse, and it's the reason that enterprise sync (as opposed to personally syncing music files, for example) remains a problem. Huddle's intelligent sync aims to address this problem. Now we need to see if it is intelligent enough."
Huddle has released a new iPhone application to coincide with the launch of Huddle Sync, which syncs users' recommended content for offline viewing over an encrypted 256-bit SSL connection. Content can be reviewed and approved, new tasks can be added to a to-do list, and items can be assigned and completed. The iPhone app's storage is also encrypted, so content cannot be accessed.
The company also plans to release versions of the client for iPad, Android and BlackBerry in the coming months.
Earlier this month it was rumoured that Google is on the verge of launching its own cloud-based storage product, which has been described as the search giant's answer to Dropbox. People familiar with the matter reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that the new service, called Drive, allows users to store photos, documents and videos on Google's servers, allowing them to be accessed and shared from any web-connected device.