While that opens up market opportunities for a myriad of vendors, it's a veritable Pandora's Box for corporate IT grappling with ensuring that data leakage doesn't become the order of the day in the age of BYOD, or bring your own device. Ultimately, it has everything to do with creating information ubiquity, making data available to employees no matter where they are or what device they're using.
"This is a really interesting space because it overlaps so many adjacent areas that there isn't a category yet," says Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "The whole consumerization and mobilization of the workforce is what's driving this market ... the second driver is multiple people sharing that one copy of the truth versus having to email it between each other. It's not really true collaboration if everyone is working on a separate version of a file."
ESG is in the midst of studying the subject and future reports are forthcoming. In the meantime, the IT consultancy did produce a December 2011 report entitled "Online File Sharing and Collaboration in the Enterprise." It found that end users are "looking to tackle issues like data sharing, portability and access from multiple intelligent endpoint devices, creating a conundrum for IT as it needs to balance business enablement, ease of access, and collaborative capacity with the need to maintain control and security of information assets."
That's precisely what's driving the online file-sharing and collaboration segment of software-as-a-service, says McClure.
"This market is coming from the consumer workforce into the enterprise because enterprise IT is solving the challenge of collaboration with solutions like Microsoft SharePoint," she says. "But those solutions aren't Web-enabled so the challenge is, as more consumer devices make their way into the enterprise, a lot of people are solving this sharing between devices and one file between each other on their own."
Though new vendors are coming to the fore, the market itself isn't new, explains Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc.
"It's new in the sense that we're seeing different players coming into the space and tweaking the services that they offer ... everyone's trying to reinvent the wheel," he says. "All of these solutions tend to roll in the same general direction.
"In businesses that are active users of information technology, information represents the crown jewels for a lot of companies, literally and figuratively."
Next: Secure Collaboration Tools to Protect Data