Can EFSS Become the New ECM? A Look at Three Leading Players

This is the final post of my series on electronic file sync and share (EFSS) applications, those increasingly popular tools for content management, document sharing, and collaboration. This time I’ll look at the three leading EFSS providers, considering the enterprise content management (ECM) functionality that each offers—particularly in contrast to O365, their principal competition in IT portfolios today (see “Office 365 or EFSS: That Is the Question”).

The truth is that organizations considering EFSS now have many choices. Purpose-built solutions such as Box.com and Dropbox are the most successful independents. Google’s Backup and Sync app is based on a narrow band within the EFSS concept; content is stored in the cloud and can be replicated on any device you choose (but can’t do much more.)

The choice between each of these depends, to a great extent, upon whether you have one—or more—of these file-sharing solutions in your company to begin with. And when choosing among the EFSS players, it’s important to understand that one size does not fit all use cases.

Box.com

Unlike Office 365, which is designed to be an ever-expanding suite, Box.com is purpose built for file-based collaboration. And, also unlike Office 365, Box.com appears to be methodically and purposefully adding new functionality, the most important of which are the tools that allow developers to build applications on top of Box.com repositories.

Examples of companies using the Box.com platform to build new applications includes HR Block, which is a back-end to the tax preparation application used by tax preparers in the branches. For its part, Toyota built a dealership application based on a Box.com repository.

In recent months, Box.com also has added collaboration and co-authoring capabilities. (Microsoft offers this too, but it’s more complicated.) The search function in Box.com is straightforward. And there’s more openness to connecting Box.com with third party applications such as Salesforce. Box.com provides the APIs that allow the third-party system to store data on its repositories.

Box.com, like Microsoft, has placed a lot of emphasis on security and information governance; both have a high degree of encryption. But Box.com allows the company that’s licensing the system to be the only entity that actually owns the encryption key. For an Office 365 instance, Microsoft doesn’t have the ability to give a company that kind of anonymity and protection.

Google

Another option is the Google G-Suite. Its synchable storage is, of course in the mix, but outside of an organization’s marketing department, which may well have been using Google tools for some time now, Google will likely present a dramatic change for most organizations. It’s been a challenge, thus far, for Google to get a foothold in large organizations. There’s less of a sense of security. And many users report that as a file-sharing application, Google G Suite is not as robust as Box.com or Office 365.

Nor does Google offer as robust information lifecycle governance or the workflow capabilities as Box.com (or O365). And Google also falls down when it comes to analytics, data protection, and overall security when compared with Box.com, O365, and Dropbox (below).

Dropbox

Dropbox, of course, is similar to Box.com, and in more than just name. But Dropbox seems to be targeted at smaller organizations and for personal use. Less of its functionality is truly enterprise-class, and it offers fewer ways to build or integrate with other applications. However, recently Dropbox has added the ability to co-author files and to provide mini workflows to users.

Finally, like Google, Dropbox lacks the robust information lifecycle governance and the workflow capabilities that are present in Box.com (and O365).

At the end of the day, you need to take a long, hard look at the use cases you’ll be asking your ECM tool to fulfill. And if you have an existing investment in EFSS, and you aren’t experiencing pressure to rush to O365, then you’re in a good situation. You can wait for the dust to settle, and then you’ll be ready for that eventual move to Office 365.

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Rich Medina
Jeff Phillips
I’m a Principal Consultant, specializing in strategies for using ECM tools such as Microsoft Office 365 for information management.