For IT managers contemplating file sharing alternatives to their email system or content management platform, Egnyte’s Egnyte HybridCloud is worth consideration. A business-class file sharing tool, Egnyte HybridCloud uses local and cloud storage to store, share and back up files while also providing IT with centralized administrative control.
The latest version, which became available on Nov. 30, includes unified FTP capabilities, file preview, tighter Salesforce.com integration and subfolder synchronization, along with other security improvements.
The offering is favorably priced when compared with roughly similar business file sharing services. The “Corporate Plan” provides for 30 power users and 600 standard users and costs $228 per month when paid annually. This works out to $7.60 per power user per month, just under half the cost of services from YouSendIt and Box.net.
Egnyte HybridCloud power users are typically employees with full access to Egnyte HybridCloud services, including Web browser and mapped drive letter access, along with access to Egnyte’s Personal Local Cloud software to synchronize local file changes with a version stored on the Egnyte cloud file server. Standard users are typically external to the organization, such as partners or clients. There is no charge for Standard user accounts.
Sending Large Files
Where other file sharing services tend to move users away from FTP, Egnyte is moving in the opposite direction. New in this version is a fully integrated FTP service that is hosted by Egnyte. I was able to use the no-cost FileZilla FTP client to securely upload large files to my Egnyte HybridCloud account.
As a result, I was able to track file uploads and see when files were shared and when access to shared files would expire. This kind of access control should be appealing to IT managers interested in retiring on-premises FTP servers while making FTP available to those who use the protocol to move large files.
IT administrators should be aware that power user systems will need to be modified to install client-side software including a Java-based uploader. I needed to install the FileZilla FTP client on my test systems as well.
As an Egnyte power user, I also used the Personal Local Cloud software to synchronize files between my laptop and Egnyte HybridCloud. The local cloud acts as a hard drive that continuously synced files with my Egnyte account. Once I installed the local software component and designated which folders and subfolders should be kept in sync, the process proceeded with only a slight hitch. The behavior of the Egnyte local cloud software tripped several Kaspersky tripwires-my test system is protected with Kaspersky Pure client security software-that I had to approve before the synchronization could continue. This happened only the first time I installed and used the local cloud software.
Sharing and Tracking
Egnyte HybridCloud power users can share files with standard users, who are provided access at no additional cost. As with many file sharing platforms, there is a modest amount of work the file recipient must do to log in and retrieve the shared file. This did not prove to be a problem for my test users, and most recipients should be able to follow the Egnyte instructions without having to ask for help from the sender.
I was able to integrate our test instance of Egnyte HybridCloud with an Okta single sign-on identity management system. Egnyte HybridCloud also works with OneLogin, although I didn’t test with that platform. Okta is a cloud-based single sign-on platform that specializes in software as a service (SaaS) to Microsoft Active Directory identity management. This version of Egnyte HybridCloud also supports full Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) for other single sign-on platform support.
After a user is granted access to Egnyte HybridCloud, a range of file sharing options are available. Using FTP, I was able to upload and share large ISO files. I was also able to use the standard file transfer methods provided by Egnyte HybridCloud to upload and share a variety of Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel files. New in this version of the product is the ability to preview certain files, which should make it even easier for users to ensure they are grabbing the right file. I was able, for example, to preview a PowerPoint presentation. However, the ISO files, which contain no human readable information, were rightly not recognized by the Egnyte HybridCloud system and could not be previewed.
Egnyte HybridCloud errors on the side of user notification, whether that user is the administrator, a power user or a standard user. Every significant file and user event generates an email notice to the administrator. Users are notified when a file is accessed, and email is used extensively to inform recipients that they have a file waiting for them. The user emails, of course, are necessary, but I did turn off most administrative notifications after the first day of use.
While the administrative emails were a bit wearing, they were necessary to make up for the paucity of reporting capabilities in Egnyte HybridCloud. The product takes much too Spartan an approach to helping administrators and users understand anything other than rudimentary usage of the Egnyte HybridCloud system. For example, I was able to see overall capacity used but wasn’t easily able to see activity reports for users or files. And while there was an “audit” report, this report was not detailed enough to inspire confidence that it would be useful in a rigorous external audit situation.
Even with these reporting weaknesses, I was satisfied with the basic user and file sharing activities in my test organization.