Today’s example of a company setting out to compete with the big names in online file synchronization and sharing is Bitrix, a company that, while headquartered in Virginia, has the vast majority of its employees and focus in Russia. Bitrix itself is an established vendor that has a number of solutions across enterprise social networking, mobile portal, CRM and collaboration. Given this product spread then it’s not surprising to hear that Bitrix’ take on sync and shared mashes up a bunch of formerly disparate offerings into one platform.
So what’s the gist of the Bitrix offering, and how are they differentiation.
- Bitrix has a free plan that covers both individual and business/group drives. Their freemium to paid boundary is higher than competitors and hence they’re pushing the “get more for free” marketing card
- Unlike other vendors that tend to dictate the tools users use to create files (for example, Google Drive works best with Google Docs, and OneDrive plays most nicely with Microsoft Office), Bitrix users can use any editing or creation tool
- Taking a leaf from the WhatsApp book, Bitrix allows users to send instant messages to co-workers and collaborators, as well as participating in group chat, making phone and video calls and other collaboration models
- Bitrix is encrypted and can be used either on-premises or in the public cloud
So essentially Bitrix is trying to deliver a fully converged solution that covers off a bunch of different functional areas to customers. Frankly however, I’m not buying it. Most of what Bitrix offers can be had by a customer that fully commits to the Google or Microsoft suites – and for SMB customers that do so, the fact that they’re arguably a little constrained in terms of editing platforms isn’t a big deal.
The telephony aspects are interesting – but with Microsoft embedding Skype in many of its solutions, and Google’s (admittedly somewhat orphaned) Voice product, even that opportunity is limited.
Unfortunately for Bitrix, while this space is far from being a zero-sum game, it’s hard for second or third tier vendors to get much mindshare. That’s not to say that Bitrix doesn’t have an opportunity – I liken them to Zoho, a company that has a suite of web-based products (from email to work processing, from CRM to accounting) and that, at one time, was competitive or even better than Google Apps. But Zoho has never really got escape velocity and while it probably has a reasonably successful business, it’s unlikely to scale that up significantly.
Of course there is the fact that not everyone needs to be a Google, or a Dropbox, or a Box. If a vendor has modest ambitions, it is feasible to meet them in a crowded marketplace. I’d put Bitrix in this category – nice product, quite useful for its intended audience, but not something we’re going to see market domination from any time soon.