Looking for alternatives to Box? Many people want Cloud Content Collaboration software to help with the interface, file sharing, file support, and file Audit. What’s important is finding out what software is right for you. We have a list of Cloud Content Collaboration tools that are best suited for your needs if you are looking for an alternative to Box.
Before jumping on to the list of the best alternatives, let us breakdown and see what box offers and compare the features with others
The system places a strong emphasis on security, especially with collaboration and workflow. For instance, a user or administrator can protect their shared links via passwords set with an expiration date. Or, they can view the times and frequencies of when specific content is viewed or edited. Box also allows users to share content outside of the company (i.e. clients or other partners), no matter what device they use. It does offer 10GB of storage for free
Now that we have covered some pros and cons on Box let’s go through some of the other FileSharing software available
Dropbox is simple. It’s just a folder—a magical folder that syncs everything you put in it up to the cloud. Before Dropbox, file sharing and sync were geeky and confusing, so it’s no wonder that it quickly became the default cloud-storage app after it launched in 2007. While it’s far from the only way to sync your files, the hidden features put Dropbox a step ahead of the rest. Dropbox has provided the opportunity for employees in the organization to manage and share files locally and remotely without the need for carrying thumb drives from workstation to workstation. Not only has this feature enabled flexibility and efficiency in the workspace but also improving the standard of work, saving time and energy as compared to other file management solution. While the sharing of information is critical Dropbox for Business allows the administrators to issue special permissions for users to access links and files. Administrators can further perform other security tasks such as the setting of expiration dates for every information that has been shared with the Cloud. These types of security measures are available to avoid a breach of information on Dropbox for Business.
Google Drive is simply a cloud-based storage option that gives you the ability to keep your photos, emails, and other files on their server.
But having extra storage is just the beginning.
Google Drive also comes with a suite of office tools rivaling the heavyweights from Microsoft Office, including:
You can even share these documents and make edits in real-time so collaborating with your team has never been easier.
Microsoft OneDrive supports a specific file-syncing technology called block-level copying, where files are broken into smaller packages. When you make a change to a file, only the packages that house those changes are re-uploaded to the cloud—instead of the entire file. The result is data transfers that take far less time. Microsoft OneDrive’s backup options are more limited, only allowing for photo and video backup. But on the plus side, you get more control over your photo backup settings, including organization options for new photo uploads and the ability to select a file type for HEIC photos
The latest version of ShareFile has updated workflow options allowing you to send documents out for signatures, feedback, and approvals. There’s integration with Microsoft Outlook, which lets you push document attachments directly from Outlook to ShareFile, sharing those documents securely with others. There are new desktop integrations, similar to those you’ll find in Dropbox, which let you do drop a file into a folder on your Mac and have it synchronize with ShareFile so it’s available on all your device. While it still lacks the kind of refined group management tools we see in a file-sharing application, the service’s Distribution Groups are a move in a good direction.
FileCloud, by Codelathe, is an on-premise as well as a cloud-based file sharing and sync solution offering a much secure environment for sharing and storage with unlimited client accounts allowing for a much greater ROI (return on investment) compared to Dropbox. The client base spans globally with over 3000+ enterprises.
FileCloud has been focusing on security, data leak prevention, content classification, data governance, and retention for some time with an intuitive and easy to use interface and advanced administration controls.
FileCloud has two plans FileCloud server (self-hosted/on-premise) and FileCloud online.
Plans start at $5,000/ year for 100 users and go up to $18,000 for the enterprise version. Dropbox’s comparable Dropbox business advanced plan costs $24,000/ year for 100 users.
In our age of information, most modern enterprises have started to move towards the digitization of data. Never have there been quite so many enterprise file-synchronization and sharing (EFSS) solutions available on the market — and while a wide range of choice is always good, it also makes it much more difficult to choose the perfect solution for your organization.
After all, investing in a solution that offers either too little or too much functionality can cost you valuable time, money and resources. And no one wants that! As such, we’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of great EFSS solutions for your consideration, so that you can pick the one that offers all the features your enterprise might need, while remaining affordable and within your price range.
Naturally, being one ourselves, we have compelling opinions about what makes a fantastic EFSS solution. Here are the factors that we’re taking into account when choosing our list of Top 10 Enterprise File Sync and Sharing solutions on the market:
Now that we’re on the same page about what the perfect EFSS solution looks like, without further ado, let’s move on to what you’re here for: the list!
✓ Pricing: FileCloud Online: $10/user/month (Standard), $15/user/month (Enterprise) || FileCloud Server: $4.20/user/month | FileCloud Server: Contact for Quote
✓ Storage: FileCloud Online: 1TB out-of-the-box, +100GB/user (Standard), +200GB/user (Enterprise) || FileCloud Server: Unlimited
✓ Security: FileCloud is compliant with all the most stringent data governance policies, such as HIPAA and GDPR. Encryption at rest and in transit, 256-bit AES encryption, granular file-sharing, password-protected, public and private shares.
✓ Features: From deployment models to unlimited client accounts, branding capabilities and more, FileCloud is filled with incredible enterprise-level features.
Naturally, we’re proud of our own product and firmly believe FileCloud to be one of the most powerful and affordable EFSS solutions on the market. FileCloud offers on-premise, public and a unique hybrid cloud deployment model. This deployment flexibility separates FileCloud from its competitors, and ensures that your team can enjoy the benefits of both on-premise and cloud storage systems — read more on our hybrid infrastructure here.
Our pricing is also one of the most affordable on the market, while offering larger storage plans, better enterprise-level features, and unlimited FREE external client accounts — all great for your wallet and your ROI. Feature-wise, we consider seamless, remote access to your data as the bare minimum that a good file-solution should offer. Collaborative and content management tools, a comprehensive admin panel, plus infinite customization options are all features that ensure not just your team, but also your clients and sysadmins get in on the enhanced EFSS experience.
Last but certainly not least, FileCloud is compliant with most data security governance policies, meaning that you’ll never see your organization’s good name tainted in headlines labelled with “Security Breach” or “Data Leaks”. Plus. it’ll save you tons on the fines and fees that’ll rack up if you go with a less-secure option.
|Affordable, no paywalls, money/time-saving features||Unfortunately, FileCloud isn't an open-source software.|
|Compliant with all data security governance policies||With all these features, FileCloud's UI can get a bit complex for beginners and laymen|
|Integration with most common office softwares, APIs|
✓ Pricing: Free Plan: Free | Basic Plan: $6/user/month | Business Plan: $12/user/month | Enterprise Plan: $25/user/month
✓ Storage: Free Plan: 15GB | Basic Plan: 30GB | Business & Enterprise Plan: Unlimited, or 1TB / user if less than 5 users
✓ Security: Encryption in transit; no option to encrypt individual documents. Multi-factor authentication.
✓ Features: Google Drive comes with powerful, recognized collaborative tools, such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Having quickly risen in popularity over the past couple of years, Google Drive is now a powerful file-sharing solution on the market. A file storage and synchronization program created by Google, it’s best known for its collaborative capabilities via Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, which offer real-time collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets and slides respectively.
The solution’s enterprise plan, GSuite, comes with a similarly clean and intuitive UI, as well as integration with popular enterprise softwares such as Autodesk, Salesforce, and more. Apart from this, Google Drive for Business offers unlimited cloud storage, access from any device, offline file access, includes apps like Gmail, Google Keep, Google Sites, as well as enterprise-grade access controls, e-discovery for emails, chats and files.
However, reportedly, users have encountered frequent connectivity and syncing issues while using Google Drive. Plus, while Google Drive has fairly beefy data security with encryption in-transit and at-rest, human error on part of the developers has led to security issues, such as when Google Photos started sending private videos to strangers.
|Strong team collaborative tools||Has had major security issues through developer error|
|Clean mobile and desktop software||On the pricey end: $30,000 for 100 users/ year|
|Allows offline mode and offline file-editing||Known occasional syncing issues|
✓ Pricing: Basic Plan: Free | Plus Plan: $11.99/user/month | Professional Plan: $19.99/user/month
✓ Storage: Basic Plan: 2GB | Plus Plan: 2TB | Professional Plan: 3TB
✓ Security: AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest and AES 128-bit encryption for data in transit; however, known past security issues
✓ Features: Unique “Paper” and “Showcase” features: basic “Notes” and “Portfolio” app respectively
Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention Dropbox in a file-sharing solution comparison post. With its clean, intuitive UI and easy-to-use features, Dropbox has become a well-known, household name in terms of file storage. Dropbox also offers password-protected links, integration for Office 365 and Google Drive, and strong administrative tools. However, while it certainly has its pros, we feel strongly that there are better enterprise-level file-sharing solutions — and here’s why.
Due to the system’s popularity, it’s always been a popular target for hackers. Even now, it doesn’t offer local encryption. Their customer service certainly leaves more to be desired, as seen from their lack of 24/7 customer support.
And above all that, despite having fewer features than many enterprise-level solutions out there, Dropbox is far from the most affordable on the market, especially with their 5-user minimum. Plus, with their measly 2GB- free storage and paywalls for unlimited storage, it certainly feels like the solution is out to milk their users dry.
|Clean mobile and desktop applications||Disappointing 2GB starting storage space|
|Automatic synchronization of files and folders||Frequent past security issues|
|"History" feature allows access to past versions||Pricier end of things, 5 user minimum|
✓ Pricing: Box Starter: $5/user/month | Box Business: $20/user/month | Box Business Plus: $33/user/month | Box Enterprise: $47/user/month
✓ Storage: Box Starter: 100GB | Box Business: Unlimited | Box Business Plus: Unlimited | Box Enterprise: Unlimited
✓ Security: A regulatory-compliant Zero-Knowledge Provider. Tools to manage user perms and customer-managed encryption keys.
✓ Features: Secure collaborative and project-management tools, as well as rule sets for work-flow automation
While perhaps less of a household name than Dropbox, Box, founded in 2005 and based in California, is also an incredibly strong contender on the EFSS market. With tools that integrate with other services, like Google Docs, Box also goes above and beyond in offering custom branding capabilities and letting users create a professional appearance for their organization.
Plus, Box’s security is nothing to scoff about, being a uniquely zero-knowledge provider and offering tons of options for encryption and user management.
Unfortunately, with their heavy local encryption, Box transfers tend to get slow — something that could impede or even cripple the seamless remote workflows that have become the norm today. Box also does not offer any options for on-premise or self-hosting, nor local storage, and does not perform end-point backups. Plus, while it certainly provides tons of enterprise-level features, it’s also significantly pricier than almost any solution on the market.
|Platform-independent, apps for most major devices||More expensive than most competition|
|Secure, regulatory-compliant solution||Local encryption can slow file transfers|
|Tons of features, intuitive to use||No on-premise or local storage|
✓ Pricing: Office Plan: $8/user/month | Business Plan: $20/user/month | Enterprise Plan: Contact for a quote
✓ Storage: Office Plan: 5TB | Business Plan: 10TB | Enterprise Plan: Scales with your needs
✓ Security: Standard encryption, includes user and group access permissions
✓ Features: What stands out most with Egnyte is their great auditing system which timestamps user activities, plus a robust access permission system.
Egnyte has recently become one of the leading choices for enterprises, claiming to have been designed with businesses in mind. Egnyte provides the branding capabilities to customize logos, URLs and message headers, providing a more professional look. In addition to useful sharing and collaborative features, Egnyte also provides great security features, such as intuitive access permissions and encryption. It also integrates with most operating systems and devices.
Unfortunately, there have reportedly been frequent sync/network problems with the solution. While robust in features, Egnyte provides little documentation for these features — combined with poor customer service, creating a steep learning curve for their product. There are also paywalls for features such as audit reports and storage sync, for an already-relatively-high price tag.
|Great security measures||More expensive than most competition|
|Robust user and group permissions||No Linux support|
|Custom branding capabilities||Reported network and sync issues|
✓ Pricing: Business Plan 1: $5/user/month | Business Plan 1: $10/user/month | Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $5/user/month | Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50/user/month
✓ Storage: All Plans: 1TB – extra storage space can be purchased separately for up to 1TB/$9.99/month
✓ Security: Standard encryption, file-locking, paywalls for SSO/SAML Authentication
✓ Features: Advanced sharing, mobility and security. Heavy integration with Office software.
Microsoft OneDrive is a file hosting service and synchronization service operated by Microsoft as part of its web version of Office. Naturally, this Microsoft-based solution heavily integrates with Office 365 programs that most teams use, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as Outlook, which is a huge plus. Certain plans even grant access to said software. It also provides encryption at rest and in transit. Overall, it has robust features that make it a strong solution, as expected from Microsoft.
Unfortunately, data privacy issues have surfaced time and time again with large corporations, and OneDrive is no exception. When using this solution, Microsoft can scan your files for “objectionable content”, stating that file security cannot be guaranteed for said content.
|Integration with Office 365 programs||File-size limit of 10GB|
|Provides file-versioning features||No on-premise / self-hosting options|
|Great security measures||Security measures locked behind paywalls|
✓ Pricing: Standard Subscription: $3,750/50 users/year | Enterprise Subscription: $9,000/50 users/year | Custom Subscription: Custom pricing for 10,000 users and above
✓ Storage: Unlimited Self-Storage Space
✓ Security: Standard Encryption, Multi-Factor Authentication, NTFS Support
✓ Features: Custom branding, open-source customizability, local storage options
ownCloud is a reliable file sharing infrastructure with a client-server architecture, allowing users to setup a complete private file-sharing service with data encryption server side while avoiding popular public ones like Google drive or Dropbox. An open source solution, it offers rich features and the ability to use on-premise / self-hosting.
However, most potential users balk at the massive price tag of $9,000/50 users/year — even if you divide that into per user per month, it’s still pretty hefty — especially compared to available file solutions that have the same features while staying at 1/4 of that price! Due to being open source, there’s also a lack of a strong support system, and poor documentation. It also doesn’t offer endpoint backup, nor granular subfolders.
|Feature-rich, open source||Relatively high cost|
|Support for local storage and on-premise||No endpoint backup or granular subfolders|
|Work across all popular operating system||Poor support and documentation|
✓ Pricing: Standard Plan: $55/5 users/month | Advanced Plan: $85/5 users/month | Premium Plan: $135/5 users/month | Virtual Data Room Plan: $375/5 users/month
✓ Storage: Unlimited Storage Space
✓ Security: Standard encryption and SSL/TLS. Recovery sites in both the US and EU.
✓ Features: Collaborative and productivity-enhancing tools, custom electronic signature tool. File-versioning features.
Sharefile is Citrix’s enterprise-class cloud storage solution, and they’re well-known in the commercial software and service industry. Notable features of Sharefile include an auditing system that generates activity reports, integration with Single Sign-On, download alerts, and two-factor authentication. This cuts down on the amount of time it would take to print out a document, sign it, and scan it to the cloud.
Unfortunately, despite their generous offer of unlimited storage, they do have a file size limit. The solution itself doesn’t support Linux. Plus, with a standard plan starting at $55, paywalls for features and their enforced 5-user pricing plan, it’s safe to say that Sharefile isn’t the most affordable solution for smaller organizations. Reportedly, Sharefile’s licensing plans are also misleading.
|Great security measures||File-size limit of 10GB|
|Provides file-versioning features||No Linux support|
|Simple to use, clean user interface||Pricey, misleading licensing plans|
✓ Pricing: Basic Plan: $2,136/50 users/year | Standard Plan: $3,823/50 users/year | Premium Plan: $5,510/50 users/year
✓ Storage: Unlimited Self-Storage
✓ Security: Standard Encryption, SSO, SAML Authentication, 2FA, File-Locking
✓ Features: On-Premise and Cloud file-hosting, large file support, local storage support, OS compatibility
While NextCloud is a free, open-source software, NextCloud Enterprise comes as a powerful, pre-configured EFSS solution that takes some of the guesswork out of configuring their free, alternative solution. It certainly totes the basics expected of any EFSS solution, such as audit logs, a desktop sync client and user management, and has great security with end-to-end encryption.
Unfortunately, similar to ownCloud, which NextCloud was a spinoff of, the open-source software can come with a lack of support and documentation. As such, many deployments, updates and bug fixes fall to you and your team — wasting precious time that could have been used on other productive activities.
|Strong collaborative features||Lack of support and documentation|
|Good security measures, with encryption||Self-dependent for updates|
|Compatible with common operating systems||On the pricier end of things|
✓ Pricing: Personal: $5/user/month | Business: $5/user/month | Enterprise: Contact for quote | Government: Contact for quote
✓ Storage: Personal: 100 GB | Business+: 300GB
✓ Security: Standard encryption in-transit and at-rest, SSO, 2FA
✓ Features: Hybrid solution, remote access and mobility
For a solution that’s much less popular and well-known, Syncplicity offers a surprising punch with their rich features, hybrid hosting options, great security, file restorations and backup. In addition, good things have been said about their customer support, with online chat and a 24/7 phoneline.
At a price of $60 for even the lowest personal plan and a whopping minimum of 25 users, Syncplicity is far from the most affordable solution on the market. Syncplicity also doesn’t support customer-managed keys. Plus, Syncplicity uses a traditional interface — great for the early 2010’s, but perhaps not the most modern for today’s standards.
|Hybrid file-hosting solution||High user minimum, expensive|
|Great customer service, 24/7 support||No user-managed encryption keys|
|File restorations and automatic backup||Low storage - 300GB|
Gartner, the leading research and advisory firm, has replaced the term “Enterprise Content Management (ECM)” with “Content Services Platform (CSP)” in its popular research report “Reinventing ECM: Introducing Content Services Platforms and Applications” published in Dec, 2016. Gartner feels the term “Enterprise Content Management” no longer reflects organizational needs for content in business and encourages organizations to rethink their content strategy.
Traditional ECM systems has not live up to its original promise of bringing all enterprise content into one repository. The utopian concept of single repo for all enterprise data has not happened and it is unlikely to happen in the future. Infact what has happened is an increase in number of data silos in enterprises because of the advent and use of new SaaS productivity apps. Traditional ECM systems from Alfresco, OpenText and Documentum has fulfilled to some extent the goals of compliance and control. But they have failed to provide the user experiences that end users want (any device and anywhere access) and they come short when it comes to solving new functionalities like enterprise file sharing and sync, group communication, team collaboration and others.
Gartner analysts define Content Services Platform as a “a set of services and micro services, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”
If you want a simple definition Content Services Platform are nothing but “an API centric, cloud/device-agnostic next generation enterprise content management systems that support multiple repositories, endpoints, content types and business use cases to serve multiple stakeholders across an organization.
1. While traditional ECM systems support a single repository, Content Services Platforms support external content repositories in addition to its its primary repository. For instance please see FileCloud architecture given below,
In-addition to its primary repository (Managed Storage), FileCloud supports external repositories (Network shares, AWS S3 and Azure Blob storage). A traditional ECM architecture is shown below that supports a single, primary repository.
2. Content Service Platforms are API centric. All clients use the common APIs to access the content from the repositories. For instance, all FileCloud clients (Sync, Drive, Web, Outlook Add-in, Mobile apps) use the same REST APIs to access the content
3. Compared to traditional ECM architecture, Content Service Platforms offer intuitive user interfaces and excellent UX to appeal to business users. In-addition they provide flexible architecture. Not a monolithic one .
4. Content Service Platforms offer multiple endpoint access to the content managed by CSP. For instance, FileCloud offers multiple clients (Drive, Sync, Web, Mobile apps, Browser add-ons, Salesforce integration, Outlook add-on and so on) to access the content.
5. Content Service Platforms offer integrations with popular, common line of business applications like Salesforce, SAP and others.
6. An Ideal Content Service Platform is cloud agnostic and supports public, private and hybrid cloud storage. For example FileCloud can be deployed on-premise or on public cloud infrastructure and also available as SaaS.
7. Content Service Platforms support content governance to be compliant with regulatory and organizational mandates.
8. Content Service Platforms offer powerful data leak prevention capabilities to secure and manage enterprise content. It shall also offer granular folder, sub folder level access permissions for granular access control.
9. Content Service Platforms offer flexible metadata management and enables auto classification of content to organize and secure content.
10. Content Service Platforms provide an array of content management capabilities that include versioning, document preview, annotation and editing.
In the quest for desktop virtualization, the two main options open to organizations are virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop as a Service (Daas). With our growing dependence on computers and Internet-based applications, more and more organizations are opting for desktop virtualization from schools to finance companies, government agencies, and even hospitals. There are many advantages of virtual desktops including improving efficiency, lowering costs, and providing better customer service. It also supports the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
In this blog post, we’ll highlight some key differences and similarities between them so you can make an informed decision about which is best for your establishment.
Differences between VDI and DaaS
Both VDI and DaaS allow you to access your desktop from a remote location. However, they are very different in how they are set up and operated.
The Set Up
To set up a VDI platform for your organization, you need to create a server in your data center. You’ll also need to install a VDI software on the central computer in your data center. Once that is done, you can deploy your VDI platform, and everyone on the network can access it – provided they have the proper login credentials.
On the other hand, you don’t need to set up a server and datacenter to use DaaS. Instead, you need to signup to a company that provides DaaS. Essentially, DaaS is the same as VDI in terms of functionality and remote access to your desktop.
The main downside of using DaaS is that you need the internet to access your virtual desktop. Your connection to your DaaS platform is relayed over the web. However, lack of internet connectivity does not affect an in-house VDI setup especially if you are connected to the server.
You generally need a dedicated in-house IT team if you plan to create an in-house VDI platform. There is a lot of things involved in the process including managing the software and hardware used to deploy the virtual desktop as well as troubleshooting potential issues that users may encounter. The process of setting up an in-house VDI platform can be costly. You need a powerful device in your data center as well as your VDI software and a good IT team to run everything. However, thanks to advancements in the sector, both small and big establishments can create an in-house VDI platform today.
As indicated above, with DaaS you do not create the virtual desktop but instead, subscribe to a company that provides this service over the internet. But this does not mean that you do not need an IT department to run your DaaS. However, they’d be doing less work compared to running an in-house VDI service. For example, some DaaS platforms come with only basic apps that you’ll find on a device. Therefore, you need IT experts to set up and maintain all the apps that people on the network will need.
On the surface, it appears that subscribing to a DaaS provider is a more affordable option than creating an in-house VDI. But that is not necessarily the case. Most DaaS providers charge based on the number of users that you have on the platform (i.e., the more users you have, the higher the subscription fee that you’ll have to pay). So, while the upfront cost may be low, it can climb over time as your organization grows.
The story is completely different for setting up an in-house VDI platform. Although the upfront cost will be high, that’s about it. You can add as many people to the network as required without having to spend on anything else apart from perhaps upgrading your hardware and paying for your IT staff working hours.
You invariably have more control over an in-house VDI than you do over a DaaS platform. One of the reasons why this is important is security. The recent spate of hacking incidents has forced many organizations to tighten their security protocol. The fact that DaaS is deployed over the internet makes it susceptible to hackers. DaaS service providers have a lot of security measures in place to prevent any potential data breach, but there are no guarantees.
With an in-house VDI platform, you have complete control over the network, and you can implement the best security measures to protect your data. The fact that the VDI is usually accessed by people connected to a server automatically makes it less open to unauthorized access.
How FileCloud can Help
If you are using VDI, FileCloud can be useful. We provide all the tools that you need to make the most of your virtual desktop. You can integrate FileCloud with your server.
The following are some of the benefits of choosing FileCloud:
Customization: FileCloud allows you to customize all aspects of your virtual desktop with your company’s brand. You can even select a different language for the platform.
Collaboration and Content Management: We provide a range of tools to support seamless collaboration and content management. This includes the ability to share files, add metadata and search for files, access and sync files on different devices, access to activity log on each file, smart notifications when a file is changed, custom workflows and much more. FileCloud even supports Microsoft Office apps like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel as well as PDF and DICOM files.
Security: FileCloud provides full security for your virtual desktop platform including encryption, ransomware protection, two-factor authentication, and more.
Administrator Tools: FileCloud gives you administrator access over your virtual desktop. You can manage all connected devices, restrict access to specific files, remotely wipe devices, recover deleted files, and much more.
The underlying similarity between VDI and DaaS is that they both provide you with remote access to a desktop. One is not necessarily better than the other. The option to select depends on your needs (i.e., the size of your organization and what the virtual desktop will be used for). It should be stated that DaaS is relatively newer than VDI. Some tech experts have expressed some apprehension about DaaS since it is a rapidly evolving field. The fact is that DaaS would not replace VDI anytime soon. Both platforms are likely to exist side-by-side for years to come.
Author : Rahul Sharma
Many companies are implementing business intelligence (BI) software for smarter data use, but few are achieving the desired ROI results. Why? Because the organizations hardly understand the actual costs of BI. They are focusing primarily on license metrics while comparing BI analytics tool and platform vendor expenses, not realizing that it’s only a fraction of the total ownership costs.
So, failure comes from evaluating the “sticker price” of the BI solution and comparing it with direct returns from data analysis. The cost of the BI tool or that of the present situation is underestimated. To know more about the hidden expenses of business intelligence, read below:
Businesses cut corners wherever they can, often buying low-end data tools that work fine for a year or two, but then fall short while handling the growing data quantity. Moreover, new IoT devices and other new technology increase the complexity and number of data sources.
Thus, the cheap tool you bought earlier is a short-term solution; it is not a permanent answer to your data requirements. However, by the time you realize this, you’ve already wasted considerable resources purchasing licenses, allotting training hours, and making your employees reliant on this tool.
No wonder they have zero interest in knowing more about the use of a different software tool. As a result, companies must grudgingly spend their extra resources for implementing a new, full-fledged business tool. The alternative would be to keep on working with a subpar tool that does not fulfil all their requirements.
A big mistake that organizations make early on is buying into the business intelligence hype – investing in the latest, most advanced BI tool just because they’ve been told they need one, rather than choosing one on the basis of its problem-solving capabilities. There’s no doubt that business intelligence is of value to companies, but spending money on a BI tool arbitrarily doesn’t do any good. You must first identify the issue you’re outlining or hoping to solve; otherwise, you will never achieve the desired results.
First, think about your business problem along with what your company hopes to achieve. Have a clear idea of the capabilities required to solve those issues or fulfil that goal. Select a BI tool that adheres to those requirements. This way, you will avoid spending money on something that has no place in your organization.
One of the key considerations in a cost-benefit estimation of BI tools is whether the current ecosystem can support the software. Another is, whether it can serve as a standalone solution for data analytics or join the cluster of other programs to be of any real value to the company. What’s important is that you understand the number of moving parts the analytical value chain contains. First, you’ve got to connect the raw sources of data and then perform ETL and data cleanse before analysis.
Most market BI tools perform only the last stage, using flashy dashboards and graphics to hide how every important backend task is delegated to an IT professional or a separate tool. Thus, you need to carefully understand the functionality you’re going to get from the desired software. Tools – both the single and full-stack varieties – serve well as platforms for handling various activities, from data modelling to preparation to the development and sharing of dashboards.
While using proprietary database tools and ETL with data visualization software is not wrong, you must figure out how all this changes the final price, and whether you’re willing to foot the bill for the perfect analytic solution.
You must also think about the price being paid for by your company as your precious employees spend more time preparing reports instead of focusing on different mission-critical activities. While this applies to the first scenario, where everything’s done through spreadsheets, when you’re getting a modern business intelligence tool, you need to ensure it upholds the standards of self-service expected by business users.
Regular enterprises sought help from qualified data analysts and IT professionals, to build BI. They needed somebody who was perfect for coding and scripting for the purpose of a different query. Though modern tools neglect this, with back-end functionality being absent means that coding and scripting happen in the initial data preparation phase. Businesses users within the company will no longer have to struggle with countless spreadsheets; they can assign the task to technical workers instead, who must operate IT-focused systems for producing reports. To avoid this, business users in your company should consider the tool and answer personal data questions, rather than relying constantly on external or internal tech support.
When you’re unable to do something because you decided on something else, the cost incurred by the company is the opportunity cost. It’s one of the most hidden and overlooked BI expense, and you need to consider what you’ll do during that time with those resources. Although this is difficult to measure in projects, it becomes easier to find the similarities between projects and assign a value to any missed opportunity.
Companies often buy business intelligence upfront due to a combination of factors, from high pressured sales strategies to promises of big discounts, to decision makers failing to realize the best course of action. This can significantly add to your BI program expenses and also lead to shelfware if your employees fail to receive proper tool training or remain clueless about the positive impact of the tool and refrain from implementing and using it within the organization. To prevent wasting the company money, you should seek out a BI tool vendor that gives you the opportunity to begin small, prove that the concept is useful to your business, and then scale as required.
Successful BI depends on people in various roles, and even when the project is deployed, many of those roles continue to play a vital part. However, end users will only enter into the process if they think the question they want to answer is worth their effort and time. We automatically assume that a new BI solution is going to be better, which is precisely why we invest resources and time into implementing it. But does it answer the questions of the end users? Think about the questions not asked because they weren’t worth the effort. Or worse, if they were worth it, but the user refused to wait due to lack of time, and so, made an instinctive decision.
Businesses thinking about BI will rarely have the necessary visibility into these missed questions until they discuss the situation with end users. The price of an unasked question may be considerable, for example when you’re deciding if you want to pull or extend a specific marketing campaign.
Rather than look at BI from a tech perspective, you need to consider it also from an end user’s workflow perspective. These costs are recurring, and directly affect the other indirect expenses discussed earlier. While we’ve discussed the price of not asking a specific question above, what price do you have to pay when you do ask and receive a response? If you’re lucky, you won’t have another business intelligence platform decision on your hands for several years, but the workflow to get new answers will keep on repeating itself.
So, it becomes evident that several sources of cost exist outside the upfront expenses of procuring and managing a solution. If you think that offering data-driven insights is a valuable function, you must try and appreciate the actual cost of your company’s BI solution.
Remember the good ol’ days when software had to be downloaded and accessed on-premises? Well, the advent of SaaS changed all that and made life easier for everybody involved. Scalable, easy to install, and most importantly, cheap, Software as a Service (SaaS) has a host of benefits, including the ability to optimize the individual business functions efficiently so that departments can now procure and use the desired systems. However, everything has a good side and a bad side, and this applies to SaaS as well. Everywhere you look now, there’s data present and every system possesses its own dataset that is stored in multiple formats. So, it is getting harder to combine and rely on data.
Fusing one or more dissimilar dataset into a trusted, unified dataset is difficult, not to mention time-consuming. But it is not impossible. You just have to watch out for these five challenges and figure out ways to avoid them. Find more details below:
Believe it or not, but the removal of duplicate data takes a long time and consumes a lot of your valuable business resources. However, this process is a must unless you want to risk the onset of inaccuracy in your consolidated dataset. For example, without duplicate data removal, you might be dealing with contacts or accounts that have not been consolidated into specific records.
You need a two-pronged approach if you’re going to tackle the duplicate data problem. First, you must begin the de-duplication process within a certain silo to prevent applications from having more duplicate data inside them. Once that’s done and you’re ready to merge datasets, you have to connect similar records throughout all the systems in your organization. If you require duplicate cleanup work within a certain application, then you must load the non-duplicate data and flag any duplicates you find for cleanup within their systems of origin.
A big advantage of SaaS systems is how several business processes and users contribute to a shared database to power the application. However, an unintended consequence of this method is how different apps end up with different data on the same clients. If your system shows records of a customer having two separate accounts, your analysis encounters some severe obstacles. Even a single update is capable of spangling various databases, tables, and even rows, with conflicts. And resolving these kinds of conflicts “by hand” is not only difficult but impractical as well.
Thankfully, there are two approaches – both automated – that can help you resolve conflicts existing in your data, viz. Last Modified and System of Record (SOR). While the latter focuses on the ranking of the system to find out which one is the winner in case of a conflict between two types of data, Last Modified involves using the most recently updated information across different systems for a specific field. It is possible to use a single approach to avoid any future data conflicts or a mixture of both, depending on the circumstances.
While conflicts jeopardize the accuracy of your company data, inconsistent formats cause the values to conflict with one another. What this means is, even if the data is not wrong, one system might format the dates as YYYY-MM-DD and the other might use the DD-MM-YYYY format. So, even though both the details are technically correct, querying the same information can prove a hassle. From Booleans to states, phone numbers to capitalization, when you’re applying a certain standard to your data, you can update the formats for a countless number of fields.
The solution here is to standardize all your data into a single format and establish consistency. This will help improve the speed of the comparison processes as the databases will no longer have to verify the different formats against one another at a specific time.
Creating rules about which formats are going to be treated as the canonical standard for every type of entity helps make sense of the acronyms, abbreviations, order matching, and casing. Thanks to the removal of inconsistencies, improvements in data quality become noticeable, analysis becomes more reliable and querying speeds up.
The relative objects tend to differ considerably when a SaaS solution is built and deployed in isolation. Related objects encompass a vast range of data associated with a specific contact, such as their opportunities, account, support tickets, departmental activities, and so on. However, a lot of the related data gets lost during data extraction, thereby causing problems with the completeness of consolidated datasets.
The best solution is to compare records on common identifiers between non-identifying and identifying fields. For matching a Contact record, for example, you must begin with an email address, since this common identifier offers the greatest probability for a singular match across different systems. There are multi-level de-duplicating keys that incorporate extra supporting data like company, address, and name. No matter what sort of common identifiers you use, related objects should always be mapped so you’re able to achieve a complete standard data schema for powering your analytics.
Data constantly gets updated, which signifies that the consolidated data sets manufactured by your business might become obsolete if a part of the source data changes. It is difficult to keep data constantly updated. When connected data sources are no longer in sync, the data used to feed business intelligence tools, like dashboards, start outputting less reliable reports.
It’s tedious to query siloed systems for the latest data every time the data inputs are changed. It is better if you spend your time analyzing different datasets, finding insights, and sharing recommendations with others in your company. Use automated pipelines to join the dots between the data in apps and your central database to analyze, bridge the gaps between analytics and apps.
In such situations, data is going to be updated in almost real-time, anywhere from five minutes to 24 hours. This unified and consolidated data not only saves data prep time but also provides trusted data resources. This ensures that every customer record in your company is available in a centralized, trusted source, but at the same time allows separate SaaS apps to perform vital business functions.
So, there you have it – the unintended consequences of SaaS and how to successfully overcome them. Thanks to these handy tips and tricks, you won’t have to worry about accessing your software online or mishandling of data.
The universe of consumer apps is expanding rapidly, in volume, as well as quality. Think about the top five consumer apps you regularly use (cab hailing, grocery shopping, online shopping, payments, productivity management, etc.), and evaluate how beautifully their interfaces have evolved over the past 3-4 years. Today, you’re used to new features and full-fledged upgrades being pushed to these apps ever so frequently, bringing all kinds of improvements to the user interface and experience design.
The enterprise apps universe, sadly, is a different story. Do the same analysis on the top five frequently used enterprise apps (time sheet updates, workflow planning and management, document management, video conferencing, etc.). It should be clear that enterprise apps (deservedly) don’t get the same kind of love and appreciation as their consumer market counterparts. The question that begs for answers now, is – why can’t we design enterprise apps such that humans love them as much (if not more) than their routine consumer market apps?
In this guide, we attempt to answer how the tables can be turned. Here are some strategies that application developers, development project managers, and designers would want to implement, to make their apps more lovable.
The timeless question that UI/UX engineers face almost every day while working on app development is about the trade off between the app’s power potential, and its simplicity. Contemporary wisdom seems to be geared towards keeping it simple; just check out how ‘simple, clutter-free, neat, etc.’ are frequently used words in app descriptions.
However, there’s a lot more to consider. An enterprise app is not your cab-booking app; users won’t use it for merely 30-60 minutes a day (or less). An enterprise app, ideally, would be developed to deliver a service that thousands of users would need for a good part of their workday. This also means that the app would be expected to deliver sophisticated and powerful functions, without being too complicated.
The rule to remember is – simple functions should be simply done, and complex functions should be possible. This thumb rule helps you answer difficult power versus simplicity questions.
Did you know – if a web page takes more than 2 seconds, users generally abandon it for another search, or hop over to another web page! That’s the kind of ‘speed’ expectations we’re all getting used to, and we are less likely to be relenting when it comes performing doing all important information searches, tasks, and transactions on enterprise apps. The takeaway for enterprise app developers is to design with speed in mind.
Of course, this is not easy, because enterprise apps are built to deliver performance on a massive scale. Crunching thousands of GBs of data to deliver visually enriched outcomes on the screen – that takes time! This is where smart app developers are able to break down customer-app interactions into micro steps and optimize each step to ensure the complete interaction appears faster.
Convenience is at the core of app UI and UX design. Enterprise applications are the front end of massive databases of information. So, ‘search’ becomes a central pillar for an app’s success. This is also where great enterprise apps differentiate themselves from the good ones.
Often enough, users don’t know what they don’t know. Hence, they need help to build their search queries. Envision how UX masterminds at Google and Pinterest solve this problem. As soon as you begin typing, their search boxes show suggestions that help you word the query perfectly, to get relevant results in the first shot.
Do more of the same in your enterprise app’s search box. The benefits are twofold:
Unless you’re developing the first experimental enterprise app, you’d naturally have the visibility and experience of dozens of other enterprise apps used within the organization. Also, unless you’re sure that you’re developing an app for a standalone process (which is rare in an enterprise setting), you’d need to take the existing ‘ecosystem’ in mind, to keep on delivering seamless experiences.
So, consider the ripple effects of user-app interaction flows, data mutability, messaging and notifications, object search-ability, and data validations while prototyping the application. Remember, the application will soon become a part of a large mix of modules, portals, and dashboards, and hence, must not require the users to undergo any psychological inconveniences by taking an off-route approach to a basic and non-core app functionality.
Let’s face it, the user spectrum for an enterprise app can be wider than you’d imagine. There would be dozens of power users. These would expect power-packed features, the ability to personalize the user experience, technically advanced features, and shortcuts for more productive use of the app. Then, there would be hundreds of casual users who’d only use, let’s say, the top 20% of the capabilities of the app for 80% of the time.
In such a scenario, enterprise app developers would do well to follow the layering approach. Here, the more sophisticated features, such as availability of keyboard/keypad shortcuts, are kept a few menu blocks away from the main screen. This helps in keeping the application non-cluttered for most users while making sophisticated features available for power users, subject to their real desire to find them out, activate them, and use them.
The ‘perceived quality’ gap between consumer apps and enterprise apps is widening by the day. Don’t let your organization’s apps be a part of the rut. Learn from what the consumer apps are doing well, strike balance between conflicting quality parameters, prioritize, and you’ll do alright.
Author : Rahul Sharma
It wasn’t until recently that CIO became a job title recognized across the world, and particularly within organizations that consider technology as a strategic pillar. However, after an initial glory period, the scope of a CIO’s role started getting stonewalled.
For instance, in many companies, the CIO is seen as somebody who ensures that technology becomes an enabler for the other C-Suite executives to achieve their goals. For several others, it’s about one leader for oversight of everything the company is doing to replace on-premise systems with cloud-based alternatives.
However, the modern CIO’s role cuts through deeper waters. This guide tries to bring these latent ripples to the surface, to truly present the scope of a CIO’s role in the true shape.
Though DevOps is certainly not a new idea anymore, only a precious few organizations have been able to implement it. Done rightly, DevOps enables an enterprise to make technology a driver of quick process improvements that enable it to do business better. The reverse, sadly, is also true.
DevOps’ unrelenting focus on speed of development could as easily become the cause of frequent system crashes and application downtime for an enterprise. Here, success is dependent on a visionary leader who is also able to implement tight controls over the release process, with a focus on quick and credible feedback loops to quickly stabilize the system.
Industrial IoT proved to be one of the most talked about enterprise technologies in 2017. The transformative impact of smart sensors and connected devices in an industrial environment has held CIOs in awe for some years now. Though the emergence of the end to end IoT vendors diluted the fame-equity of the CIO in many industries, there’s a trend that’s helping CIOs reclaim the lost ground. And that’s in the form of BIoT.
The blockchain is the system of community-based digital ledger management that offers practically hack-proof information management. The same technology can also be used to offer credible information from a vast network of sensors in millions of devices. The information such captured will help analysts bring out insights that help them create processes and products that add immense value. Individually, as well as together, blockchain and industrial IoT are immensely powerful technological forces that need a potent CIO to be channelled properly for a company.
As per a recent PwC survey, 61% of CEOs consider cybersecurity as a major threat to national and commercial interests. And, all of them look up to CIOs to make the enterprise prepared to combat even the most sophisticated cyber-attacks.
CIO’s role, in the context of cybersecurity, was often imagined to be limited to cybersecurity vendor management, data security process improvement, and disaster recovery and business continuity assurance. However, the modern CIO has to shape the IT strategy of the company with cybersecurity concerns firmly in mind.
In a scenario where every new access point in the enterprise IT ecosystem adds to the threat surface area, CIOs need to help organizations strike the right balance between security and mobility. Considering the huge value of intellectual property and digital assets, the ‘value’ of the CIO in ensuring these assets remain secure is immense. Particularly after the multiple ransomware attacks in 2017, enterprises have realized how crucial the CIOs role is in terms of upgrading the security readiness of an enterprise.
An IBM study done back in 2016 revealed that 58% of the CIOs consciously pursued technologies with the potential to truly transform processes and deliver superb business value. Though ‘disruption’ has been overused to such an extent that the word has stopped meaning anything, it has to be said that these CIOs realize the risk of remaining still in times when technologies are growing at breakneck speed.
The modern CIO is not content with managing his/her enterprise’s me-too journey on the boar of a new technology. The modern CIO knows that he/she has to choose the boat, the route, the speed, the crew, and the destinations. These are the kind of leaders that take risks, have a vision, can build teams, and motivate the urge to innovate without the fear of failure.
The goal of growth for the enterprise is common to all C-suite employees. However, the CIOs responsibility is to build system capabilities and technological capabilities that can support fast growth. Considering the pace at which economic models are changing, the focus of large enterprises on growth via mergers and acquisitions, and expansion of SMB operations across international borders, enterprise technologies need to be scalable, flexible, and highly customizable. This can only happen when the CIO continues to upskill and expand his/her horizons. The role of a CIO, hence, is a growth enabler and not an operation enabler.
It’s natural for today’s IT leaders to wonder – what skills does it take to become a successful CIO? Well, considering how the role of CIO has evolved beyond technology management, today’s leaders need to quickly upgrade their understanding of how technologies enable better business. Also, the political awareness required to manage a vast number of stakeholders within the technological environment is essential to achieve sustainable success in the capacity of a CIO. Apart from the technological awareness, CIOs need negotiation and business skills. Also, relationship management and partner management will become more important over time.
The CIO is an enterprise’s torchbearer when it comes to the wide and often dimly lit fields of technology. From continually improving technology delivery process to securing the digital and intellectual properties of the company, from keeping the enterprise’s technology foundation strong to embracing and adopting disruptive technologies – the CIO does it all, and a lot more.
Author: Rahul Sharma
Working in the IT industry means dealing with a rapid pace of change that impacts everything, right from operational practices to remunerations. Plus, the complexity of systems, applications, and processes is mindboggling. Then, systems and processes are so interlinked that managers can’t take a single decision without dealing with several little-known variables. Plus, clients are always pushing to shrink delivery teams and cut costs every year. Of course, there are cybersecurity and compliance risks to make life tough.
It’s commendable, then, that there are great IT leaders in most enterprises, driving progress, and enabling everyone around them. In this guide, we’ve covered some of the skills that separate a great IT manager from the merely good ones.
Of course, understanding one’s people is a skill relevant to managers in every industry, and not particularly IT. However, IT presents specific challenges that make it crucial for a great manager to understand the people in his/her team.
In a typical IT team, there are people who are keen to learn the latest technologies and work using latest tools. Then, there are people who wish to grow their expertise within a specific technology and come closer to the business impacts of the technology. Put an employee in a role that’s in utter contrast to his/her key technology learning motivations, and you’ll have a might mess to manage very soon. Instead, great IT managers are always prepared to go to great lengths to understand their team and help them take up IT operations and delivery roles that match well with them.
It’s been suggested that emotional intelligence accounts for almost 90% of the difference between good and great managers in general. IT managers who take conscious efforts to upgrade their emotional intelligence reap the benefits in the form of respect from all related stakeholders, faster and better conflict resolution and even quicker and more valuable promotions. When pressures from all sides (clients, internal auditors, dissatisfied employees, and supervisors) mount, the great IT manager is able to exercise caution, care, and courage in dealing with situations. Emotional intelligence also helps IT managers understand the intrinsic feelings and desired of different players around them, further enabling them to frame their communication so as to appease, satisfy, and convince them. A keen sense of observation, coupled with high EQ, is the perfect recipe for success for an IT manager.
In a typical IT manager’s routine day, there are 2-4 meetings, several discussions on project KPIs, and brainstorming on new projects and campaigns. With an eternal stream of deadline bound deliverables to manage, it’s tough for IT managers to find out the time and desire to upgrade their technical knowledge. However, strong technical understanding is essential for managers to maneuver conversations with teams comprised mostly of IT engineers. Plus, employees are quick to identify IT managers who fail to account for the limitations and strong points of technologies and tools while devising plans and strategies.
IT is an industry where the depth of subject matter knowledge is so much that it almost accepted that individuals won’t possess it. Thus, IT managers always need to rely on several people to take control of projects. This calls upon managers to showcase dexterity in delegating tasks to others (again, this links back to the skill of knowing your team). Developments in IT business sphere and operational management frameworks are so fast that IT managers always need to anticipate the need to keep their time free for proactive management. This is only possible if they delegate tasks like a pro.
A no-brainer, for sure. But why does an IT Manager need to be super strong in communication? The answer – because the very nature of the product or service is such that customers don’t exactly understand or appreciate the nuances unless somebody explains them in a language they are comfortable with. Only a strong communicator, hence, can detect unsaid emotions among client representatives and mold communications accordingly.
Expect an IT manager to face several situations every day, wherein they are expected to make quick decisions. Whether it’s something short-term such as estimating resourcing needs for a new project to something with long-term consequences, such as deciding among a few equally potent vendors for a virtualization project – IT managers have to rely on their intuition, experience, data, advice, and heuristics to be able to manage such situations. Unremarkable IT managers fall into the trap of extracting data from different sources for every decision they need to make. Equally obnoxious, of course, is the practice of taking hasty decisions and letting your teams bear the brunt of the same. The great IT manager strikes the right balance.
Considering the breakneck speed at which the dynamics of IT industry are changing, teams that fail to innovate will fail to exist in a few years. How does an IT manager, then, foster the spirit of innovation, particularly considering how important it is to also maintain operational discipline? Well, great IT managers do so by:
Calculated risks, taken consciously – that’s a good mantra to live by. It takes continued focus on extracting valuable lessons from failures, documenting them, and sharing them with the entire team, for IT managers to truly grow their people.
Amidst all the challenges of working in the IT industry, great IT managers manage to stay calm, deliver projects within deadlines, and grow their teams and themselves. This guide presents some of the skills that help them do so.
Author: Rahul Sharma