A theme I’ve reflected on in the past when writing about the file synchronization and sharing space is how much of the functionality that enterprises regard as a “base requirement” should be delivered by the file sharing vendor. A typical approach that young companies take is to build an ecosystem around themselves made up of complementary products – in doing so they reduce the amount of development that they need to do themselves. But a gray area exists when it comes to non-core, but important functional areas like security. Can a vendor get away with partnering with a third party to deliver security solutions or do they need to do it all themselves?
This question is made all the more interesting in the uncomfortable event of the acquisition of a third party vendor who provides a critical piece of functionality for a platform. And even worse when the acquisition is made by a competitor – this was the situation last week when DocTrackr, the security and Digital Rights Management (DRM) vendor was acquired by Intralinks. Until then it was the DRM solution of choice for Intralinks competitor Box.
I was musing over this question the other day when Content Raven, a competitor to DocTrackr, pinged me to talk about its own cloud-based solution that has been used as the security and analytics solution by customers such as VMware, Infor and EMC.
Essentially Content Raven provides a content security and analytics service that allows users to pull from any datasource (including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint and any workflow or storage app) or upload documents and then share them with tight controls that are aimed to stop data leakage. Content Raven also provides in-depth analytics on who, how, when, where the files are accessed.
Content Raven was excited to show me how the product worked – the service, which allows a user to send a link to a particular file, but set some security parameters on the file (such as disallowing printing, or locking the emailing of the file). They duly emailed me a link but unfortunately it didn’t work. Whether it was a bandwidth issue or a problem with the platform, the document Content Raven directly emailed to me worked just fine, but when sending it via its own platform it didn’t work. Admittedly just one data point, but an unfortunate one. [Update – Content Raven called me and advised that the problem had something to do with an AWS load balancer and only affected Chrome users]
Anyway, the reason for the contact, other than the fact that Content Raven is undoubtedly positioning itself to be the solution to the problems caused for Box by DocTrackr acquisition, was that Content Raven is announcing its latest release. Specific features of the release include:
- Instant integration via URL links with popular cloud file sharing solutions such as Box, Dropbox and Google Drive
- Dynamic watermarking that puts an individual, personalized stamp on every file shared, ensuring data is accessed and distributed only to intended users
- Support for annotation and comments within shared files, enhancing collaboration and engagement, and creating a positive user experience.
Or, in other words, precisely the sort of functionality that real enterprises demand of a vendor before signing a purchase order with them. And therein lies the rub – clearly over time every vendor will include this functionality natively, so while these vendors are quick to talk up what they do as a valid addition to a file sharing platform, what they’re really trying to do is build their product sufficiently that one of those same file sharing vendors swoops in and acquired them.
There’s a big elephant in the room that the upcoming IPOs of Box and Dropbox make all the more obvious. Enterprises regard much of this stuff as non-negotiable. Passing their security requirements off by simply saying “oh, we have an awesome ecosystem of add on products and one of them will surely fit the bill”, simply doesn’t cut it.
Content Raven might be an awesome solution, but it’s a solution that really needs to live within one of the large file sharing platforms. The platforms know it, Content Raven knows it and, most importantly of all, prospective enterprise customers know it.