Huddle goes back to enterprise basics and strengthens external sharing controls

It's a fine line between good user experience and enterprise robustness. Huddle constantly tiptoes along this line.

Alastair Mitchell and Andy McLoughlin

Huddle co-founders Alastair Mitchell, left, and Andy McLoughlin.

Credit: Huddle

File synchronization and sharing vendor Huddle is today announcing enhanced security for external collaboration. While only a moderately interesting announcement in and of itself, it comes at an interesting time for the broader enterprise file sharing and sync (EFSS) space.

Gartner's recent report indicated a difficult road ahead for the myriad vendors in the space and pronounced that many players simply would not exist in the future. Too many players battling in a largely undifferentiated product space and for a significant but not unlimited market makes for some interesting tensions.

Add to that the fact that there is a perennial dance between those vendors who have been enterprise-focused since the get-go, and those who have moved into the enterprise space from a consumer origin, and you have room for lots of carnage.

Huddle, while denouncing the EFSS moniker, is essentially in the space -- and while it calls itself a cloud collaboration service, essentially it's the same thing. Huddle does have an interesting origin, having been founded in the U.K. and gaining significant traction in that market before making a move to the U.S.

Indeed, one of Huddle's earliest inflection points came when it was selected as a whole-of-government provider to the U.K. public sector. Since then, it has picked up a range of customers on both sides of the Atlantic -- from a claimed 80% of the Fortune 500 to companies such as Kia Motors, Williams Lea, Driscoll's, Unilever and P&G.

Of course, as I mentioned, it is a busy space, and Huddle does battle with the publicly listed (formerly a consumer-focused play but now moved upmarket), Dropbox (still privately held but unlikely to remain that way for long and a strong consumer play trying to make it in the grownup enterprise world), Egnyte (which uses hybrid deployment as its differentiator), and other vendors such as Citrix Sharefile, Accellion, and the big boys Google and Microsoft. So anything one of these vendors does gets observed within the context of a far greater story.

And so the announcement of a seemingly minor security update is cause for interest. In this case, Huddle is making its "Unified Authentication Portal" a generally available product. With the change, account managers can apply authentication and security policies such as single sign-on (SSO) across Huddle's web, desktop and mobile apps in one step, hopefully simplifying the process of keeping content secure. Coupled with more granular permissions control and additional mobile security features, enterprises now have even greater control over internal and external access to content in Huddle.

Of course, there is a risk in making a big song and dance about functionality that many top-tier customers would regard as basic features. This is a problem not only for Huddle, but also its competitors that need to be constantly talking about their "enterprise-ready" products while also making a fuss about deeper functional releases.

Huddle admits these security concerns from its users and prospects. "Security is a top concern for most enterprises; however, this is especially true of professional services firms who are collaborating with internal and external stakeholders on a regular basis," said Stuart Cochran, the CTO of Huddle. "In our latest release, we've doubled down on our commitment to being the industry's most secure cloud-collaboration platform, making it even easier to keep data secure regardless of who has access. This is especially important, particularly when the success of an engagement depends on efficient collaboration and communications between internal teams, the clients and other external partners."

This is an important level of functionality for larger customers, but it is unlikely to fundamentally alter the difficult dynamics around the EFSS market -- there are too many vendors fighting too many battles in what is, essentially, an undifferentiated commodity race. I'm not sure whether the answer will come in the form of failed vendors, market consolidation or both.

Either way, the next few years are going to be fascinating to watch.

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