Connecteddata-logoTwo weeks ago I had the chance to meet a really interesting company and check out the devices it has been launched on the market a couple of years ago. I’m talking about Connected Data and Transporter.

Transporter is not new on the market (I already wrote about it, in Italian, a couple of years ago), but I was totally unaware that this startup is now building a much larger range of devices capable of covering from personal to enterprise Sync&Share needs.

[Disclaimer:] First of all,to be fair, I have to say that Connected Data gifted me a FileTransporter for my personal use.

A bit of background

Screenshot 2015-03-24 09.04.40Only 3% of users pay for Sync&Share service, and I’m one of them. I payed for Dropbox for years and I’ve recently moved to GDrive (and yes, I’m paying for it too!!!). Dropbox is way better, but integration between GDrive and GApps makes a huge difference to me… And I think it’s probably the same for Microsoft users. Now, Sync&Share is included in the basic subscription with Office365 or GApps.

Box, Dropbox and others have little chance of success in the long term. Box is a public company and you are probably already informed on how things are going for them… that 3% says a lot about sustainability of a freemium business model in this market. Sync&share is a feature, a feature wanted by everyone, but just a feature.

The problem

Screenshot 2015-03-24 09.05.24People like Sync&Share, they use it at home and they want to use it at work too. At the end of the day it’s all about better productivity and collaboration from their POV. It’s easy to use, your data is accessible from anywhere, always updated, and so on… why not?
Furthermore it’s really mobile-friendly and BYOD has also helped it to spread the word among enterprise users. The biggest problem though, is that enterprises don’t always keep up with their employees.

In fact, implementing Sync&Share for a traditional enterprise is not always easy. There are many solutions out there but in most of the cases they are too complicated, the entry point is too high or they are just not good enough when compared to Dropbox. There are exceptions of course, especially when hybrid solutions are involved, but if you also have to comply with specific laws and regulations the easiest path is to build it on-premises.

Eventually, end users use their personal Dropbox accounts at work. This means enterprises losing control of their data, compromising security and data protection!

The solution

Connected_Data_Transporter_plain_thumbTransporters allow you to build a kind of “peer-to-peer network” where these devices replicate data to each other (you can select the number of copies and many other tunables are available). Once the first device is installed, you can have access to a local Transporter (via SMB for example) or via specific PC/mobile clients.

The configuration options are many and you can generate public as well as private repositories. The business version of the product also provides Active Directory support and different models, which differ in terms of capacity and performance characteristics. File Transporters can be mixed to serve offices of any size in the largely distributed organizations.

Web UI is neat and easy to use and has all the features you can usually find on other public Sync&Share solutions (like file versioning for example).

I just love it!

A few concerns

punti di domandaThe solution is very compelling, especially for the SME and if you are thinking about Sync&Share as your primary storage resource for unstructured data, it’s ok. On the other hand, if you have a traditional file server infrastructure in place, creating a new silo just for the sync&share could be less appealing. SMB protocol is supported, but we haven’t dealt with the performance issue of these appliances in large environments…..something to look into before adopting it.

Looking at my particular case, I don’t have two different locations where the File Transporters can be placed. Yes, I can make use of some bandwidth/power/space at my parents’ house… but not the ideal solution. Even though a single device isn’t totally useless because files stored in my local File Transporter are visibile anywhere (and from any device), the basic data protection option is missing. A Virtual Appliance (on AWS?) would be perfect for my personal hybrid solution for example (local + cloud for backup/DR)… Or perhaps, I’m just asking too much!!? In any case the VSA could also be nice for end users who want to test or deploy it in different scenarios or existing virtualized infrastructures.

Last but not least, File Transporter works also when it is placed behind a NATed router (like my home ADSL for example), which is great, but this also means that it needs an external service, provided by Connected Data, to find/manage appliances, and initiate connections. What would happen if they went out of business?

A support issue

iStock_000015266973LargeConnected data gave me a 24×7 “Vip support” access too, which I didn’t use. Instead, I opened a standard support ticket for a nasty problem with duplicated file names that SFD7 delegates have discovered while sharing a folder. I’m sure it’s not a big issue, and they will solve it eventually, but the support process is slow and cumbersome, especially when managed from Europe.
I have to say that enterprise support is probably different (The website shows different support plans with different SLAs) and there is a Knowledge-base forum which doesn’t look bad… but first impression was not that good.

Closing the circle

iStock_000023117137MediumFrom the end user POV this is a great product, I love it. My only concern is that to be considered optimal for my personal use case I must buy a second device (which I will eventually, as soon as I find a safe place to install it).

From the SMB POV this can be a fantastic solution that can cover both local File serving and Sync&share aspects without using a public service. At the end of the day it’s also much cheaper than paying a business subscription to Dropbox. It is worth a try.

From the larger enterprise POV, it could be a vertical solution capable of solving a single problem, or a much more interesting next generation file platform, but I would like to spend more time with it before judging or commenting. I’m not sure about many different aspects regarding its integration with other infrastructure components, migrations and so on.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this meeting by GestaltIT and they paid for travel and accommodation, I have not been compensated for my time and am not obliged to blog. Furthermore, the content is not reviewed, approved or edited by any other person than the Juku team.