Ricoh launched a beta of its quanp service last week for consumers in the U.S., and said hundreds are participating. The service lets users upload and share files from a desktop client using a Web GUI that represents each file in a 3D layout.
Sho Harada, senior manager for Ricoh's U.S. team, said the beta test will be hosted at the company's existing data center in Japan. "But if all goes well with the beta, we will decide whether or not to move to the U.S.," he said. He declined to disclose the number of customers using the service in Japan.
Although Ricoh deals primarily with printing and paper documents, Harada said it's not that much of a stretch to get into online data storage.
"We are used to handling customer documents and workflow," he said. "Recently, that information has been moving to the Web and electronic formats."
Harada said Ricoh is focused on basic functionality with the beta test, but in order to better compete, "we may add more features like mobile access."
Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Balaouras said corporate IT people should be aware of these products even if they're not targeted for enterprise use. "IT might not even know end users in the organization are using [services like this]," she said. "Anything Web 2.0 is a data leakage risk, from blogs to wikis to social networking sites. I'm not sure [IT] can or should stop it as much as [try] to keep the risk to an acceptable level with training and awareness. You don't want to limit productivity."
Traditional storage vendors are also marketing similar services. Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Upline crashed and burned, but EMC Corp. last year bought Pi Corp., which was in stealth with a file-sharing service similar to Ricoh's. EMC has combined Pi and its online backup Mozy product in its Decho subsidiary.
A Decho spokesperson said in an email to SearchSMBStorage.com that the overall strategy for Decho hasn't changed. "The future direction is to help people protect, manage and enrich their digital information," according to the spokesperson, who declined further comment on the company's product roadmap.
Despite the competitive offerings still proliferating in the space, Balaouras said there's still room for EMC. "[The other services] are definitely there first," said Balaouras. "But with Decho, I think their angle is that they've already got your data [through Mozy]."