Egnyte pushes beyond storage into document protection

Egnyte has gotten as creative as it could as an online storage company. You could store your files on Egnyte in the cloud, on prem or with a competing storage service if you liked, but the company recognized that storage can only take you so far. Today it announced some new approaches designed to expand beyond that original storage vision.

“As a pure-play stand-alone strategy, storage will become aggressively more commoditized,” company founder and CEO Vineet Jain told TechCrunch.

This is consistent with what Box CEO Aaron Levie has been saying for some time. He has positioned his company as a content management in the cloud vendor, calling storage a means to an end, not a business in itself.

Understanding that it had to expand beyond storage, Egnyte began to study ways to commercialize the data it collects as documents move through its system beyond pure report writing. “You can’t sell analytics just for the sake of it,” Jain said. “It’s just a dashboard [with data]. If you can’t take action, it’s not that interesting.”

They learned that one of the fundamental problems customers face involves the fact they are using multiple storage and content management options. When documents move between services and systems, the compliance and access rules they have applied to documents and folders might not move with them.

Egnyte responded to this issue by announcing Egnyte Protect today, part of an overall longer-term vision to use data-driven document protection that follows a folder or document across services. In the first piece, IT can configure the access rules and Protect enforces them.

“Protect will assess rules to protect content from wrong-doing and make sure the right people have access to the right content at the right time,” Jain explained.

Egnyte is not the first company to create compliance tools, but what makes it stand out a bit in a crowded market, is that it works across on-prem and cloud services giving companies this protection across a hybrid environment. What’s more, IT gets near real-time alerts should an unauthorized person try to access a restricted document.

The access control piece is just the first step on a product upgrade roadmap that includes selective encryption, a pretty neat idea that lets you apply encryption to certain documents as they move across storage and content management systems. They are also planning a data residency module, which lets you set rules about where a file can reside in terms of cloud versus on-prem or actual geographical borders in cases where laws require certain data stay in-country. Finally, they are planning a data retention module that lets system administrators apply a lifecycle management component to the documents defining if and when a document should be deleted.

Each of these is applying good old-fashioned document management in a hybrid context. With this move, Egnyte wants to expand beyond storage, and while storage will still be part of its overall package, it won’t be the center of its product strategy any longer.

Egnyte has raised $62.5 million since it launched in 2007, which when compared to Box and Dropbox is quite modest. Jain says that’s by design. He has kept investment and employee count — they have around 300 right now — deliberately low. He has made it clear that he wants to go public at some point, having been talking about it for a couple of years, and indeed mentioned it again in our conversation about today’s announcement. He suggested it would likely happen in the next 18-24 months, a timeline that’s far enough out that anything could happen.

For now, he wouldn’t rule out going out for more private money if he needs it, and he indicated that expanding the product set could require him to hire more sales and marketing staff before an IPO.