Virtual File Transfer Appliance for Small Business

Accellion Inc. on Monday released a virtualized version of its namesake file transfer appliance, which is designed to help IT departments securely manage the transmission of large files that workers typically now send as e-mail attachments.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor's products previously came as on-premises devices, with a midrange A500 model costing US$12,000, according to Paula Skokowski, vice president of marketing at Accellion.

In contrast, the AV500 virtual appliance costs $6,750 per year for 100 Web-based users, with support and maintenance included. Lower-end versions of the virtualized technology start at $2,000 annually, Skokowski said. She added that thus far, Accellion has sold three of the virtual appliances.

The virtual appliance software runs on any standard x86-based desktop or server system that is equipped with VMware Inc.'s virtualization technology. Accellion said the new offering is aimed at small and midsize businesses that currently rely on file transfer protocol (FTP) software or e-mail attachments, or even instant messages to send files.

Founded in 1999, Accellion competes in the managed file transfer market, which offers alternatives that are meant to be easier to use as well as more secure than the traditional approaches.

FTP can be technically tricky for some users, for instance. And Gartner Inc. said in a report issued in July that although it's possible to securely send files via FTP using Secure Sockets Layer encryption, FTP still lacks key automation and guaranteed-reliability features.

Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that 40% of the companies currently using e-mail to send files as attachments will move to other technologies by 2010.

Accellion claims to have more than 300 enterprise customers for its on-premises appliance models, with an aggregate total of more than 1 million end users. Its customer base includes many media, advertising and engineering companies, where it's common for employees to send large files to clients and colleagues.

One of Accellion's options enables its software to work entirely in the background, stripping out e-mail attachments from messages and storing the files on a virtual or physical appliance, and then giving the intended recipients secure links to the appropriate files.

At the high end, Accellion competes with vendors such as Tumbleweed Communications Corp. and Sterling Commerce Inc. Among smaller businesses and home users, companies like Accellion also face increasing competition from Web-hosted services, many of which let users send files that are 500MB or larger for free.

The most popular of the Web-hosted services for business users is operated by YouSendIt Inc. But Skokowski claimed that Accellion's virtual appliance offers "very attractive pricing" compared with YouSendIt's service, while providing better security and regulatory compliance.

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