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This is an exclusive interview conducted by Backup Review (here on referred as BR) with Tim Rice (here on referred as TR), President and CEO of FilesAnyWhere.com.
1) BR:Please give us some background information about your company, such as how it was founded, by who, how long you have been around, where your headquarters are, how many branch offices you have etc…
TR: FilesAnywhere was launched in 1999, one of the very first web-based file storage services. We have developed the experience, knowledge and credentials over the years to emerge as the recognized leader in this space for serious corporate remote storage and backup applications as well as personal backup for home use. We have off the shelf applications or we can customize the perfect solution for any need.
Our technical depth started to develop in 1995, when our company started. At that time, we were serving numerous Fortune 500 companies with software architecture consulting, custom transaction systems, document management systems, and other information automation and work flow systems. Companies like Citigroup, Southland Corp, BankOne, EDS, American Airlines, Hitachi and Prudential. We launched FilesAnywhere in’99 as a commercial web product, and our company has been focused on this product ever since. FilesAnywhere has maintained profitability the entire TRe, due to careful planning and conservative growth.
We have two facilities. Our primary building is located in the center of the Dallas metroplex, 20 miles west of downtown, and the main data center building is very close to downtown Dallas.
2) BR: Is your customer base mainly in US or you have substantial international presence as well?
TR: Yes and yes. The majority of our customers are here in US. They appreciate our local tech support here in Dallas. However, we also have a thriving international presence. Largest concentrations of users are in the UK, Canada, Mexico, India, Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy, with customers in many other countries.
3) BR: How many employees do you have and how big is your R&D department?
TR: Under 50 employees, but we have continuous, dedicated R&D efforts. In fact, over 50% of our entire staff is devoted to product development activities. We have an excellent pipeline between our customers and our development team. I would say about 75% of what we create is a direct result of customer suggestions and feedback. Our product team really listens, since obviously customer demand is behind the wheel. The future of our business and the entire industry depends on the directions that customers want to take.
4) BR: What are your best selling products and services and why are they selling so well?
TR: FilesAnywhere was launched with the Web Account that was our only plan. The Web Account gives users the ability to store, retrieve and share files via the world wide web, using any web browser. Being able to travel and access your files anywhere is the foundation of our service – and our name! We continued adding more and more features to this plan, along with Mac support and expanded cross-browser support. The Web-based plan now has a wealth of web-based features, including email link sharing, file content search, Version Control, File History logging, photo albums, media streaming, virtual File Views, and a lot more. We started offering Backup features and FTP connections as optional components for this plan. Then, two years ago, we introduced our WebAdvanced plan, at the TRe called our Web+remote Backup plan. This plan combined all of the great advanced features into one convenient package, sold at different storage levels. This WebAdvanced plan is now the #1 selling service. In addition to the Web features, this plan gives you 4 additional options for uploading and downloading many files at once:
Everyone should try the WebAdvanced plan once and compare it to any other service. The trial is free for 10 days, with no limitations. This plan is $8.95/month for 2GB, and you can upgrade into the hundreds of GB. You can also add SubAccount users that you control for $5/month.
Our corporate plansare the most popular among businesses and corporate teams. These plans offer a customized login page and customized main page graphics, displaying the company’s own branding. These come complete with a web-based Admin Console, so you can manage users and the disk space assigned to each. As the administrator, you can also login to any user account, so it gives you complete control of the users. You also will have your own virtual domain name set aside for your site, and you can even use a variation of your existing domain name to go to the site. Users have the ability to use the special WebAdvanced features, including FTP access, Synchronization, WebFolders for direct (Windows-integrated) access to account folders, and more. TheDedicated Serverstarts at 500 users and 100GB of file storage. The Private Site provides scalability for smaller groups, starting at only $99/month for5GB and 10 user licenses. A Private Site solution is recommended for5 to500users, but there are great benefits for companies and teams of any size. As the administrator, you can also login to all user accounts, so it gives you control of the user activity. You also get your own virtual domain name set aside for your private site, and you can even use a variation of your existing domain name to go to the site. Users benefit from Advanced features like:FTP access, SecureFTP, direct Drive Mapping to account folders using WebDAV, local folder synchronization, and scheduled PC backup jobs, all available as an advanced optionfor your Private Site users.
5) BR: What makes your company and its services different from others?
TR: I can tell you, but our customers identify this for us, everyday. So many of our new customers are switching from other services, and they routinely give us really glowing compliments about FilesAnywhere. We hear lots of horror stories about the other guys’. Most of the complaints about the other services, and by contrast, the compliments about FilesAnywhere, are in the areas of stability, performance, features, and customer service. To best answer your question, I just have to show you a few of these direct feedbacks from our customers. We received these just in the last couple of months. Feel free to email us and we’ll forward you the original emails:
See what I mean?
6) BR: One of the biggest concerns of online backup users is data security and privacy. How have you addressed these issues?
TR: Our main Datacenter is state-of-the-art in both security and design. Extensive, meticulously implemented security measures have been applied at the FilesAnywhere Data Center to ensure the security of our customers’ data. We have a dedicated Information Security Team with engineers trained and specialized in data security. They are experts in security methodology, threat avoidance, detection, and response. We use a combination of hardware firewalls, in addition to software running on server equipment that monitors security (IDS, virus, logs, system status). We have checklists that servers pass for deployment to ensure security standards are met. Updates are made regularly to all threat protection software.
Specifically for backups, our desktop application includes an option for file-level encryption. Encryption occurs before the files are transmitted, so all of the files backed up using this option are fully encrypted from the moment they leave the local computer, and no person in the world can access the content of the files unless they have the password. The 128-bit algorithm is virtually unbreakable. In other words, it would take millions of years to try every possible combination of bits in a 128-bit key. Use the security option “Blowfish 128-bit encryption” in the Advanced tab when defining your backup. Encryption is then done on the client PC, so everything transmitted and stored is completely encrypted.
7) BR: What kind of growth rate have you been experiencing? And what is your expected growth rate for the next few years?
TR: All we can do is speculate about our future growth. I have seen statistics on the growth of numbers of offsite backup users, based on some models, but nobody knows, really. What we do know is that our monthly revenue rate over last year has been are you sitting down?… 224% over the previous year.
If you apply an acceleration model to this, or look at regression-based earnings, it is phenomenal. I think it is fairly well established in our history, and the way things are headed in the industry, that we are safe to say a doubling each year for the next two to five years, in revenues, in users, in storage consumed.
BR: How has the online backup business evolved in the last few years, and how do you see it further evolving?
TR: Pretty simple formula, really. Businesses and home users alike have mostly caught up and they are at an appropriate level of bandwidth to support advanced web applications and, for the most part, offsite backup. Yes, they could always have better bandwidth. But dialup is a fading memory, and business as well as home users, are now realizing the benefits of moving to the premium DSL and cable offerings, or improved T1 services in the case of small businesses.
Clearly, the trend is accelerating toward offsite backup protection. With the bell curve moved to broadband, and the increased recognition of the need for frequent offsite copy backups – outside the office, beyond having a few old tapes or CDs at your house – this industry now has public awareness, and the demand will continue to increase at an accelerated pace. I think customers will eventually realize a couple of things, which we already know:
BR: Whom do you consider your main competitors?
TR: You know, it may be surprising to you, but I consider our main competitor to be the desktop USB drive. And this is not much of a competitor, once the facts are known. Most people think a 2nd Harddrive or a DVD burn will provide all they need, in terms of protection from disaster. There are 4 major flaws in this thinking:
With FilesAnywhere, the files you backup are also the very latest files you have, which you can use for sharing with others or remote access at any location and remember the updates to the backup are done automatically, so the files available anywhere can always be the latest files.
Other offsite backup services obviously compete with FilesAnywhere. The ones we know of simply cannot match the level of features, reliability, or customer service that come standard with all FilesAnywhere plans.
Xdrive has been our chief competitor for years, simply due to the marketing presence they have. But once customers really examine the differences between us and them, try both services, we have absolutely nothing to worry about. FilesAnywhere really shines, the service sells itself.
BR: Large companies such as Microsoft and major telco’s have started offering online backup business. Do you fear them? How do you plan to compete against such formidable adversaries?
TR: Sorry, not formidable in the least, at least not for FilesAnywhere. Much of the same answer from above about Google applies here. These larger companies will actually help in increasing public awareness about offsite backup protection, at the consumer level. They will help the market grow for this kind of service. As consumers, and businesses, become more aware of the availability of the web-based file storage services, a large number will start trying out different providers, to see who is doing it best, and who is offering the features they need.
We have everything to gain by this increased attention– I believe the demand for our service will actually increase as a result of this publicity.
BR: There has been quite a bit of M&A activity in the industry lately (such as xdrive being acquired by AOL, Microsoft acquiring Foldershare and LiveVault by Iron Mountain). What is your your exist strategy? (being acquired, IPO, etc…)
TR: Although it has not been publicly announced, until now – earlier this year, Mark Cuban became an owner in the company. As many of your readers already know, Mark Cuban is famous for turning broadcast.com into one of the greatest Internet success stories of all-TRe, ulTRately selling to Yahoo for over $5 Billion. Mark knows a great product when he sees one and he is extremely excited about the future of FilesAnywhere.com. Mark is the opposite of a silent investor, as you might imagine! He takes an active interest in our operations, and has already been a fountainhead of product strategies, ideas and critical thinking. Mark brings the insight, foresight, recognition, and resources to FilesAnywhere that will be instrumental to our continued success in the years ahead; resources including a team of experts that are already hard at work with our current staff, carefully planning future service capabilities.
BR: Are there any new products/services you are developing that will soon be available?
TR: Well, I am excited to announce these brand new features, just released this month:
FilesAnywhere Online Document Viewer
BR: What is your opinion about Google entering the online backup business? Do you feel that Google will dominate the market?
TR: What is a Google? I’ve never heard of that.
This alternative approach leads to having an interface with many options. But, the benefit is that we don’t leave the advanced user behind, wishing for a more powerful product. The big guys will do this, to the exclusion of the advanced user.
BR: What is your annual revenue?
TR: Since we are not a public company, we don’t disclose the details. Suffice it to say it is at least a seven-digit number ok, for all you doubters: 7 digits to the left of the decimal point, without the commas, without the dollar sign, and yes, it is a large positive number. We have not had a down quarter. Our sales continue to increase each and every quarter, since inception, and we have been profit-positive for a long TRe. I must say that we pride ourselves on operating within our means. Do you know how many file storage companies ran themselves into the ground since 2000? I lost count. It is a bit frightening how their ad and expense budgets got so out of control – but not with us.
You may have noticed our lack of advertising. We don’t advertise because our customers find us on blogs and search engines like IceRocket.com. Or they get our name through a shared link from FilesAnywhere, from their buddy at work, or at a barbeque. With marketing that effective, why pay for it? It takes a long TRe, but the grapevine has always paid off for us, and will continue to be our most influential, cost-efficient form of marketing.
BR: How does your proprietary technology compare to the proprietary technology of main competitors?
TR: We can say confidently that no other comparable service today provides the wide array of standard features that are available with our plans. We custom-design and custom-develop all of our unique features. Features like: GroupShare folders with Full-Access/Create-Update/Read- Only permissions down to the user/folder level, the new Online Document Viewer, inbound email attachments that route to specific folders in your account, content-based Advanced File Search, file/folder Keyword indexing, sending out Dropbox and FileShare links with a thumbnail page and usage notifications, Checkin/Checkout with file history tracking, Photo Albums and virtual File Views, drag-and-drop remote files to a web-based Selection Basket, branded Private Sites, the list goes on.
BR: Do you have any marketing plans to secure more customers? Could you tell us any of your promotional plans?
TR: Really, the only promo plans we have are to announce some of the items we are mentioning here in this article as press releases, to distribute this public knowledge to some other media outlets. We are also planning to release some very interesting capabilities for business partners to integrate the FilesAnywhere service into their own branded applications.
BR: What is the most regrettable mistake that you or your company made in the past? How would you handle that mistake if you got a second chance?
TR: Our most regrettable mistake is that we did not turn to experienced investors sooner. Instead, we always tried to do everything ourselves. Given Mark Cuban’s current involvement, if we had Mark on board in 1999, Larry Ellison would break a sweat hearing FilesAnywhere’s name today.
BR: In the future, say five years from now, do you think the cost of online backup will remain as today or will it go significantly cheaper (For example to backup a 1 MB file)?
TR: Of course, it will always become cheaper over TRe, as storage capacities of the drives grow. The individual hard drives we use in our RAID arrays were just 17GB when we started FilesAnywhere and are now more than 300GB, occupying the same physical rack space, and faster than ever. We have passed on these savings to our customers in several waves, giving more disk storage space to all our existing customers and the new plans each TRe.
BR: How many subscribers do you have? What is the amount of file you backed up in your servers?
TR: FilesAnywhere isnow a very popular service, to put it mildly. We’ve enrolled over 1 million individual users to date. Home users and individuals really appreciate the ability to save files from work and access them anywhere, or backup their home PC files automatically. Small business users, CPA’s, attorney offices and like service professionals number in the thousands. We had a record surge in these new users after the recent weather disasters, with offsite backup getting more attention than ever before, especially among small companies who have no other protection than a second hard drive in the office.
On the corporate side, we serve hundreds of very large organizations for the irongoing remote file storage and collaboration needs. Our largest corporate customers include: BNSF Railroad, Dupont, Ernst & Young, Fox broadcasting, GE, Greyhound, Hensel Phelps, Hewitt, Intel, Liz Claiborne, Keller Williams, Morgan Stanley, Nestle, PepsiCo, Philips, Quaker, Sanyo, Shell, Standard & Poor’s, Texas Instruments, TRe Inc., Wedbush, the State of Alaska, the State of New Mexico, and many more.
I mention these three categories because there is not one demographic we are suited to. We have our greatest numbers on the professional and business side of the spectrum, but our service really caters to all types of users, and our sales figures in all three markets mentioned here reflect this.
BR: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing your company today? And what are your biggest accomplishments so far?
TR: Honestly? The cost of power has been one recent challenge. Power costs and associated data center costs have risen drastically over the last year or two. Another challenge has been the turnover rate of equipment. We put our â€œoldâ€ hardware out of service all the TRe, replacing everything with the largest drives, the fastest processors, the latest switches, etc. The problem is, old now means last year! We are a bit obsessed with performance, like a lot of things. Our engineers make an ugly face when we talk about compromising anything having to do performance they always win those arguments. We know by now that customers do actually feel the difference between a 7200rpm drive and a 15000rpm drive. Also, from a cost perspective it makes sense to not just add the latest hardware but to phase out hardware that is 1-2 years old with the new hardware, because our customers demand the best performance and they will stay with FilesAnywhere if we continue to exceed performance expectations.
That said, we have also learned to operate in a very cost-efficient way this affords us the latest hardware. For example, we own, install, deploy, service and upgrade all of our own storage and server hardware, as opposed to paying some other company a large margin to do this for us. It would not make business sense for our customers to pay us to pay someone else, when we are supposed to be the specialists! You would be surprised how many of the larger backup companies actually outsource their own storage. We provide the service; we own and operate the equipment. This keeps costs low and performance high.
BR: What are the key competing technologies and what are some of the advantages you offer over the competition?
TR: In terms of technologies and features, they are too numerous to mention here. Please see this link for a round-up of current features.
Bottom line: signup for the free 10-day trial account with no limits. Then you can compare the features first hand mentioned above with the competition.
BR: Can you tell us about your servers? Where they are located, how many backups you perform, if server room is controlled for humidity, temperature and what kind of backup generation system you use?
TR: How much TRe do you have? The main 60,000 square-foot Datacenter is really cutting-edge, in terms of its structure, its security and upTRe stability safeguards. This facility is one of the only Datacenters I have heard of rated to withstand an F5 grade tornado. It sits on a triple-redundant power grid, and has battery backups, diesel generators, advanced micro- particulate smoke detection, and other advanced monitoring features.
Yes, we backup our customers’ backups. The backups we do for our standard plans are only for disaster recovery purposes. Customers can create their own multiple-version backups using the software we provide, or using the Version History feature through the web interface.
BR: Any other news about FilesAnywhere you care to share?
TR: Sure, I would love to tell your readers about the newest features that were just released. The FilesAnywhere Online Document Viewer is not found anywhere else. Now you can simply login and click on any file in your FilesAnywhere account, and the entire content invisible directly, immediately, in your web browser with NO DOWNLOAD! It also includes page thumbnails, zooming, printing, and sharing. You can email a FileShare link to any person (no signup required) and they can also view the files using the Online Viewer!
This feature really is ground-breaking. It’s fast, easy to use, and addresses a huge need, when it comes to sharing files to anyone, without worrying if they have the application installed to read it. We are the first and only file storage service to have this feature.
It comes standard with all multi-user accounts, so for $5/month you get 1 SubAccount user that you can give to anyone, plus you both get the Online Viewer feature. Files opened in the Online Viewer are read-only; no edits can be done in the viewer, but you can double-click to download the file and make changes to it in your local application.
The Viewer supports ALL the Microsoft Office formats and PDF! This feature will have a tremendous impact, since all Microsoft Office types are supported, and no software is needed. Here is the file format lineup for the FilesAnywhere Online Viewer…
Documents in the viewer are actually printed pages – very clear page images. And the speed – oh, the speed. Simply awesome. We ran tests with a complex Word documents with hundreds of pages – you can open the entire document in5seconds, and go directly to any page in the document within roughly the same tree it takes as if the document was local on your computer about ONE SECOND! These speed tests were done using a cable modem connection from home.
Users can index their entire account in one click. The server images all pages in all documents in very short order – usually within just a few minutes. After that, all documents load in the Viewer pretty much instantly. Thumbnails appear in a neat list for all pages and it is very easy to move around inside the document, all 100% online, using any web browser. The Viewer looks very much like any standard document viewer with thumbnails on the left, only no files to download, no software to run locally, so you can literally take your documents anywhere now and share them worry-free with anyone. This is the whole idea behind portable document formats, only now you have a portable format AND a file sharing platform AND a file storage platform, all in one online package, with no software on your computer except your web browser. The future is now!
The release of this feature arrived together with our brand new EmailFilesAnywhere feature. EmailFilesAnywhere allows approved senders to send files via email attachments directly to your account. By default, senders have to be on an exclusive opt-in list that you create in your FilesAnywhere profile. If you want to receive files from anybody, the emailed files will be directed to an online File Inbox. Anti-spam is built-in, if you decide to allow the File Inbox. What is ground-breaking about this feature is the ability to drop files into specific folders directly from emails. A special Subject Line keyword allows email from approved senders to automatically be directed to specific folders in your FilesAnywhere account. This ad-hoc “file forwarding” is incredibly versatile â€“ from your email program you can quickly copy files directly to your FilesAnywhere account folders by forwarding the email. This feature is standard with all our WebAdvanced plans, starting at $8.95/month for 2GB of storage.
Tim Rice is President and CEO of FilesAnywhere.com.
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