Cloud Competition Heating Up, Carbonite Rolls Out File-Sync Software

1/22/13Follow @curtwoodward

Carbonite has long been known for one thing: Backing up your computer files. And for the customer, that means mostly staying out of your face.

If everything goes right, Carbonite’s software sits in the background, making copies of your valuable documents, photos, and other digital goodies. They’re uploaded to Carbonite’s servers, and there they sit, waiting in case your machine crashes.

Simple is good, right? Well, it turns out that in a world suddenly stuffed to the gills with “cloud” services for online file storage, Carbonite could risk getting lost in its customers’ minds.

“It’s so simple and it’s so quiet, it’s like having car insurance almost,” CEO Dave Friend says. “At the end of the year, you haven’t had an accident and you say, ‘Jesus, I wonder if I could do without that?’”

Boston-based Carbonite, which went public in 2011 (NASDAQ: CARB), is hoping to solve some of that stealthy conundrum with a new focus on software applications. The first of its new apps, called Currents, is showing up in a “beta” release today.

Currents finds copies of recently accessed files on a computer or other connected device and saves a copy on an online server. The files are then accessible on other devices that have the Currents app, and any changes get incorporated back into the original copy. Users can also send files to other people, let them make changes, and mark them up with notes and commentary.

If those features sound familiar, there’s good reason. Many professional software products are incorporating these kinds of online sharing and group-editing capabilities, including offerings from major public companies like Microsoft and Google, along with heavily funded private companies like Box and Dropbox. SugarSync, a smaller company, combines file-sharing features with digital backup similar to Carbonite.

In short, Carbonite’s territory is getting more crowded, and it’s probably not going to be enough to just offer file backup forever. And that means doing one of the things that’s traditionally the hardest for an established company—innovating.

To get over that hill, Carbonite has set up a small team of developers and designers, called Carbonite Labs, that works on new projects out of the company’s headquarters. Friend, the company’s co-founder and a veteran tech executive, moved his office to the same floor … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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