Review: Box beats Dropbox -- and all the rest -- for business

Box trumps Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix ShareFile, EMC Syncplicity, and OwnCloud with rich mix of file sync, file sharing, user management, deep reporting, and enterprise integration

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"Do not defy data gravity" is the motto that appears on Egnyte's home page. By this the company means it doesn't always make sense to shove every file up into the cloud, and to that end its services are designed to allow files to live in the right place -- cloud or on premise -- depending on their size and sensitivity.

Egnyte's services are split into three tiers: Office, Business, and Enterprise. The lowest tier, for teams of five to 24 users, costs $8 per user per month and offers a batch of basic features along with a whopping 1TB of storage and a 2.5GB maximum file size. Go up a tier to Business (25 to 100 users, $15 per user per month) and those limits are 2TB and 5GB; you also get Outlook integration and custom branding options along with the standard desktop sync and FTP. The Enterprise level requires that you call for a price quote, but it has no limit on the number of users, starts at 3TB of storage, ups max file size to 10GB, and provides auditing and reporting and integration with third-party enterprise apps.

Egnyte's Web client is so good that you might not even use the local desktop app. Not only files but entire folders can be dragged, dropped, and uploaded into your Egnyte account, and entire folders can even be downloaded as zip archives. One-click sharing lets you provide a public or invite-only link to any object or folder. Shares can be set to expire after a certain period of time or a certain number of downloads.

While you can preview a great many file types right in your browser, the way this works is occasionally quirky. Some document types are converted to PDF for online viewing, but the conversion process doesn't always render complexly formatted documents properly. The most problematic documents were (what else?) DOCX files from Microsoft Word.

The desktop client app could be best described as a "pull" client rather than a "push" one. Set it up and point it at a folder somewhere on your system, and the contents of selected folders in your Egnyte account are pulled into that folder. A separate tool, Map Drive, lets you add the Egnyte file repository as if it were a locally mounted drive. (I actually preferred using Map Drive over the default Egnyte desktop client.)

If there's any one feature that shows the general level of elegance and intelligence at work in Egnyte, it's the user-import feature, where you can add users en masse by simply uploading a CSV. Egnyte even provides a sample CSV so you don't have to guess at the format. CSV import is then processed in the background, and you're notified by email when it's done. Any errors in the import are returned to you by way of an annotated copy of the CSV you uploaded, so you can fix them quickly. It's all remarkably painless.

The number of integrations with third-party enterprise and Web apps is small, but well chosen. The Storage Sync option runs on a number of VMware virtual machines as a virtual appliance and synchronizes files between a local file store and a cloud-based one. Similar sync options are available for NetApp, Netgear, and Salesforce. Files can also be imported from Google Drive or sent to a DocuSign account for signing.

What's wrong with Egnyte? Two details come to mind. One, there's no completely free usage tier, although that's fairly common with services aimed at corporate customers. (You get a 15-day free trial of the basic Office tier, though.) Two, the selection of enterprise-level options is limited compared to Box or Syncplicity. However, the options offered are good ones that most businesses are likely to employ.

Egnyte's Web client is slick enough that you might not use the desktop client at all. Just keep in mind that the in-browser document preview doesn't always render complex documents properly.
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