I’ve written before about a number of desktop sync products I use – these products help me to keep my life organized across multiple devices (see my Syncplicity posts for example). The fact is that, for me at least, I live on three different laptops, a desktop from time-to-time and one or two mobile devices (oh yeah, and an iPad when I can wrestle it off my better half) – given all of this, and despite being a hand waving cloud enthusiast – I want my files on my desktop AS WELL as being available in the clouds.
I’ve long been a fan of what box.net is doing, but was a little perturbed at their vision of everything being in the clouds – I felt it ignored some base facts about the way people work with data. Well it seems box listened, this morning they are announcing BoxSync, an extension of Box.net that:
centralizes crucial business content by connecting users’ desktops to Box.net’s cloud-based content management and collaboration solution. With the Box Sync desktop client, users can sync Box.net folders with their desktops, making it even easier to share new and updated content with collaborators and extend it to partnering business applications and mobile devices.
What’s really funny in all of this is that it is traditionally Microsoft that has a software plus services approach, betting on the fact that users want desktop apps (and files) but want them available in the clouds as well. In another of his famous sideswipes aims at Microsoft, Box.net CEO Aaron Levie said that:
Traditional enterprise content management systems like SharePoint are now looking to the cloud… but take a disjointed approach with separate on-premise and cloud-based products; at Box, we’re providing a compelling alternative by building a seamless bridge from the desktop to cloud content management, with Box Sync as an extension of our core platform.
Which, for those who watch this space is something of a WTF? moment. Beyond incredulity however it does point to the fine dance that cloud vendors need to make around their products. While evangelizing the move to the cloud and (sometimes) overstating the state of the nation in terms of uptake, they also need to address the real world fact that users like having local files and oftentimes see the cloud merely as a backup location.
In terms of how BoxSync works – it’s pretty much as you’d imagine it. Box Sync is a downloadable desktop client that lets users sync selected Box.net folders to their desktops. As you’d expect Box Sync provides conflict management, alerts collaborators when relevant files are created or updated, and incorporates real-time updates in users’ activity feeds. All good stuff, and all stuff that will prove challenging to the others in the space – DropBox, SugarSync, Syncplicity and other startups – not to mention the cloud-centric and desktop-centric offerings from Microsoft et al.
I’ve attached some screenshots of BoxSync in action below – a pretty standard experience and about what you’d expect from this sort of product. BoxSync is free to all business users, a slimmed-down version of the offering will be available for Box’s free customers but box isn’t divulging what that will look like saying:
Sync is currently designed for business use case, with focus on collaboration, conflict management, real-time updates in the activities feed, etc. We’re not sharing details on the free version at this time.