New Smartphone Apps Let SMBs Access Files Online

As increasing numbers of small businesses hire employees who work from home at least part time, a new survey shows that what they miss about going into the office is easy access to data on their file servers.

The study, which was fielded by virtual file server provider Egnyte, found that 48 percent of the survey’s respondents said they miss “easily accessing files from a file server,” while only 13 percent miss seeing the boss.

In conjunction with the survey, Egnyte today also announced a product offering for small businesses dubbed Egnyte Everywhere, which lets small business users access and share files securely using Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones and iPads, as well as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android smartphones and Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerries.

Egnyte’s core products provide cloud file server functions, including storage and shared access to files remotely, along with file backup and security, to small business customers. However, as more workers operate from home offices or from their cars and other locations, the demand for smartphone apps has been burgeoning.

Smartphone File Access — There’s an App for That

“With smartphones, and now the iPad, becoming primary communications tools for business users, it is critical that files not only be easily accessed from a desktop or a laptop, but also from these increasingly popular mobile devices,” Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, said in a statement emailed to Small Business Computing.

The company’s newest offering, Egnyte Everywhere, provides native smartphone apps for iPhones and iPads. Other mobile devices are supported via browser.

Demand for iPhone and iPad access to Egnyte’s cloud server service surprised even Jain. “With the advent of the iPad, the demand for an app has taken off like crazy,” Jain told Small Business Computing, explaining why Egnyte decided to add smartphone support.

Egnyte Everywhere lets administrators manage users and folder permissions, and also enables users to access both shared and private folders, the company said in a statement.

The mobile offering is free but requires that customers sign up for at least one of Egnyte’s standard file access plans, according to a company spokesperson.

Those plans start at $14.99 per month, which provides for one “power user,” who can access the file store and perform administrative tasks from a desktop computer, and for 20 “standard users,” who can only access the file store via the Web. That offering provides 20 GB of online storage and supports backup of two computers.

A mid-level plan, meanwhile, costs $29.99 per month, and supports five power users and 100 standard users. It provides 150 GB of storage and backs up 100 computers.

A high-end plan, for $99.99 per month, provides the customer with support for 25 power users and 1,000 standard users. That option also provides 1 TB of online storage and will back up 50 computers.

A Small Business Platform

Dan Pardi, CEO and founder of Dan’s Plan, a lifestyle site he started in 2007 to provide weight-focused health counseling, is a satisfied Egnyte customer.

After initially trying to keep document versions straight in a strictly email-based production flow, it was too ungainly, even in a company with only three employees. Pardi eventually tried Egnyte after a friend suggested it.

“We have all of our documents in one place, all online … they [Egnyte] really filled a need,” Pardi told Small Business Computing. “It’s not just a backup system. It’s the platform that we work from,” he added.

Pardi particularly likes the support for iPhones and iPads in Egnyte Everywhere.

“That’s how I access my documents from a smartphone,” he said, adding that he has both devices. “I do most of my reading on the iPad,” Pardi added.

Small Business Survey Stats

Although Pardi did not participate in the Egnyte survey, he does share something in common with many of the survey’s respondents. His company has a Facebook page.

With a little tongue in cheek, Egnyte’s survey found that, by far, the most popular app that Egnyte customers use is Facebook, with a total of 41 percent citing it as “the most addictive or procrastinating app” that they use.

Another interesting aspect of the survey is that, when asked how many smartphone apps they typically use on the road, fully half said they run between two and five. In contrast, nine percent only use a single app, while ten percent use between 11 and 15. And some 28 percent don’t use any apps at all.

The survey was conducted online between June 8, 2010 and June 15, 2010, and had more than 600 mobile business professionals as respondents, according to survey firm Zoomerang.

You can download the complete survey as a PDF file.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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