In November of 2010, Summit Services, Inc, made the transition to Cloud Computing with great success. As a result, we got rid of our in-house Server unit completely! To help accomplish outsourcing our server to the Cloud, there were two services we considered, including Egnyte.com and Google Docs. Even though we are using Google Apps for Business for our Email, Contacts, and Calendar, we chose Egnyte.com as our “Cloud File Server” over Google Docs for several reasons. Here’s why Egnyte.com got our business:
Egnyte: The Egnyte.com “Cloud File Server” service operates just like an in-house server. All users can access files from a central location and permission levels can be set from the Egnyte website. If the same file is opened by two people at the same time, users will be notified. Additionally, files are accessed directly from Egnyte. They do not need to be downloaded or saved to the local hard drive. Files also can be saved directly back to Egnyte.com after editing.
Google: A limitation of Google Apps is that each User Account is unique. What this means is that information in each user’s account cannot be automatically shared between accounts. This includes documents and contacts*. “Internal” company email addresses are shared- meaning that everyone who works at the company can see the other employees’ emails. Everything else (e.g.,- customers, vendors, etc) is not. The result is that Google Docs is not really a “central” location for file storage and sharing (like a server would be). If I save new documents to Google Docs, other users cannot use them unless I manually share them. Additionally, there is no central administration for user permissions around documents and folders
*For this same reason, Google Apps, by itself, cannot offer a “Central Database” of customers/vendors. This is where the “Apps” come in.
Mapping a Network Drive
Both Egnyte.com and Google Docs can be mapped to your computer. A mapped drive shows up as a drive letter (eg- E:\) on your computer. This enables you to access files just like you would with an in-house server or files saved on your local hard-drive. Here’s the difference:
Egnyte: Egnyte.com offers proprietary software (eg- made by Egnyte) to map a drive, and is included with the service. Additionally, my experience during testing was much better with Egnyte, including connection speed, latency, intuitiveness (eg- figuring out how to use it), and not losing the connection.
Google: To map a drive with Google Docs, a 3rd-Party service like Gladinet.com must be used. While there is a free version of the Gladinet software, a paid license for the Professional version is required for use with Google Apps for Business.
Both Egnyte.com and Google Docs can be accessed through a browser, however, the Egnyte layout was more usable as it offered a “Folder List” on the left side of the screen, much like MS Windows® does.
Space and Pricing Plans
Egnyte.com offers 1TB of space for $44.99/mo. This plan includes up to 10 Power Users (access to Website and thru mapped Drive) and up to 250 Standard Users (Web Only). Google Docs does offer more storage. However, once again, space cannot be shared among users. Each user account in Google is unique. This also makes Google more expensive, since you would have to buy storage for each individual user.
A Note About Google Apps for Business
As I mentioned, we are using Google Apps for Business for Email, Contacts, and Calendar. At $50 per user/per year, the cost is incredibly cheap. We have a lot more control over our email system, and it’s very easy to understand. (My experience with Exchange Server was very different and complicated.) What’s more, we didn’t have to give up using Microsoft® Outlook. We’ve been using the Google Apps Sync for Outlook with great success. To overcome the sharing issues with Google Apps mentioned above, we added an app for the Customer Database. We are currently using Insightly and PipelineDeals.com with great success – and both can sync with Google Apps.
For sure, the Cloud is not perfect. There are lots of variables that can and do go wrong from time to time, such as internet connection, different feature limitations, etc. Also, browser-based software can be limited in functionality (though our experience that it is improving), and I have yet to find a service with absolutely every feature I want.
That said, since moving to the Cloud, we have not looked back. Our experience remains great – both with Egnyte.com and with the Cloud in general. We reduced our technology costs, management of IT is much simpler now, and our systems are better connected (they can sync with each other). The result is we are more productive and effective with our clients.