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This article was published on April 30, 2013

Novell takes on Dropbox with Filr, an on-premise cloud file storage solution for large firms

Novell takes on Dropbox with Filr, an on-premise cloud file storage solution for large firms
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Novell today released Filr, a product that provides a Dropbox-like service for enterprise-level companies, with files hosted on-premises, instead of on third-party cloud architecture. The goal of Filr is to bring the functionality of Dropbox or Box to a company’s employees, without ceding control of its data.

The pitch for Filr is that employees demand certain capabilities in their day to day workflow – yes, this is the now overused ‘consumerization of IT’ – but a large slice of CIOs are simply not comfortable with allowing their sensitive information to head out the door.

TNW sat with Novell president Bob Flynn to discuss the product, which is more than simply a new service for it to vend; Filr marks the first of what the company intends to be a number of public steps to bring Novell back into the technology spotlight, and grow its revenues at the same time.


Novell is a company that can claim to be the progenitor of file and networking services, such as local area networks. The company is a touch over 30 years old, depending on how you count, placing it among an elite group of tech companies that made to a fourth decade.

The road from its storied past to today hasn’t been a smooth one of late, with Novell shrinking until it was acquired by Attachmate for $2.2 billion in 2011. CPTN Holdings – a consortium that sports Apple among other firms – bought $450 million of the company’s intellectual property.

Taken from the public markets, Novell has been busy at work, according to Flynn, rebuilding itself, sharpening its product line, and now, most recently, building anew. Filr, as I stated above, is more than a simple launch for the company; this is its coming out party.

Novell’s brand, Flynn told TNW, has taken a “major beating,” which lead to its customers “drifting away.” You have to respect that sort of candor. The company has a new message for enterprise clients: Don’t judge the firm based on its legacy brand, instead judge it purely on its technological prowess.

Filr, in Flynn’s eyes, is a good “proof point” for the company.

Standing Up

Filr is almost an odd product. In today’s market the cloud is ascendant; soon, in the eyes of many, everything will be on the cloud. Assimilation isn’t even up for debate.

However, that view isn’t share in the C-level suites of every large company. Many firms have invested heavily in their own internal hardware stack, and either do not wish to lean on the cloud of another, or cannot due to contractual and legal requirements; think HIPAA, in the latter case.

Filr therefore aims to be a compromise between management and the regular staff: Yes, you want to access your work files on all your devices, and on the go, but we don’t want to cede control of that data. Filr is designed to make both happy, sitting atwixt.

To the user, it is hard to tell that Filr isn’t based on a public cloud; it operates as if it was. Supporting iOS, Android, newer versions of BlackBerry, the Web, and sporting a desktop client and soon, a Windows 8 app, Filr has broad platform support. Here’s a shot of its Web interface in action:


It’s not beautiful, I admit. Its mobile apps are a touch prettier. Here’s a shot the company provided TNW:


Filr has a main three column interface that is pervasive across platforms: My Files, Shareed with Me, and Shared by Me. Files can be uploaded, shared, and are automatically kept in sync by Filr.

The apps themselves allow for the viewing of files within them. The iPad application – by far the most attractive Filr experience – is responsive and quick to use, allowing users to load and flip through any file they have stored, in its most recent format.

Naturally, Filr has a set of IT-focused tools to set permissions, and determine what users can and cannot do. This is designed for the enterprise, after all. So, Filr has a good feature set and an interface that could use a retouch. How does it compete in terms of price?


Filr will cost corporations $45.60 per year per user, or $3.80 per user per month. I asked about the pricing levels, and their odd numbers, but couldn’t quite parse the answer. For comparison, the middle tier of Box costs $15 per user per month, a still fair sum. Novell appears set to compete on price.

Filr has been in beta for some time, with “hundreds” of customers taking part. Response, Novell told TNW, has been strong.

Wrapping our discussion I asked what its growth targets were for the product, in terms of usership after launch. Bob noted that many of its enterprise customers were actually going to have access to the product for free under its current agreements, so it was hard to tell. I’ll be checking back in with the firm in a few months to see how things are going.

In short, Novell wants you to know that it isn’t dead yet, in the Monty Python sense. Filr is the start of what it expects to be its comeback. Market reaction will determine if it is correct. The race is on.

➤ Filr

Top Image Credit: Kiran Foster