New share-and-sync file services stoke feature-vs-product debate

There seems to be a new cloud-based file sharing and sync service every week. And that doesn’t count the number of big companies that are adding those services to their existing products.

That proliferation — as Microsoft(s msft), Apple(s appl), Google(s goog) — launched their Dropbox-like services led to a debate about whether these standalone services constitute a true disruption to the software ecosystem or are just flash in the pan which will disappear as software giants add those capabilities.

This week, updates from Alfresco and Box might renew that debate.

Alfresco adds file sync to content management suite

Alfresco, a London-based provider of open-source content management systems (CMS), announced a new synchronization and sharing platform for its enterprise customers.

The service will be part of the overall Alfresco One subscription service, and lets the company preserve the workflow and metadata of corporate documents in the cloud, then search them for key attributes — for example, all contracts worth over $250,000 —  Alfresco CTO John Newton told me recently.

One motivator is that businesses — up to and including IBM — do not want employees using consumer-class file share and sync services like Dropbox for internal documents. But Alfresco’s move also impacts companies like Box, which positions its service as a business-friendly Dropbox for the enterprise.

“We run into Box which works with enterprise systems but loses a lot of the context. It’s fine for social sharing but it doesn’t fit into the business process,” Alfresco’s Newton said.

Box boosts upload speed worldwide

Box would undoubtedly dispute that. It’s been building integrations to various legacy corporate systems and on Monday announced a new global network that will make it much faster for users to upload their documents regardless of where they are, said Stefan Apitz, VP of operations at  Los Altos, CA-based Box.

More than half of Box’s use now comes from outside the U.S. but Box has no data centers outside the country and needed a way to boost transfer times for distant customers. New endpoints at data center colos in Amsterdam, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Sao Paolo will fill the bill, he said.

Box COO Dan Levin will speak about BYOD and cloud in the Post-PC era at GigaOM’s Structure Europe conference in Amsterdam next month.

The centers make use of Box’s intelligent routing technology that learns from and a user’s previous actions how to best speed up his subsequent updates. “It knows who I am, where I come from, what browser I use and, based on those trends, predicts the best route,” Apitz said in a recent interview.

As it stands now the new Box Accelerator network works with uploads and only with web and desktop apps, but will support downloads and mobile clients over time, Apitz said.

The landscape for file and sync is getting more interesting by the minute. CEO Marc Benioff last week pre-announced his company’s new Chatterbox sync service last week (the formal news will come later this week at Dreamforce). This is interesting because not only does Box already integrate with Salesforce’s software as a service, but bought a stake in Box last year.