Sharp is looking to tempt 'small and midsized' businesses (SMBs) away from Dropbox and other consumer cloud storage services with a platform of its own that lets employees upload, share and collaborate on files.

The service called Cloud Portal Office allows businesses to take out subscriptions for individual employees from Sharp's channel partners when needed. The basic package offers 10GB storage space for around £12 per user per month, which can be upgraded to 50GB at an additional cost.

Once subscriptions are ordered, a nominated IT administrator within the organisation can set up account passwords and distribute login information. Users can then create and upload files and folders from within a browser, or alternatively download Sharp's sync software (Mac or PC) that installs a folder on a machine that continuously downloads the latest file versions.

Files uploaded to Sharp's cloud are automatically virus checked, and the company says that customer data is stored on (and never leaves) Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Dublin-based servers. Other features include Optical Character Recognition (OCR) that takes place is in the cloud and invite-only collaboration that tracks user activity and history via an audit trail.

Hardware integration

Cloud Portal Office will be integrated in a range of Sharp hardware products, including its interactive whiteboards and multi-function printers (MFPs), allowing employees to print from and scan to Sharp's cloud.

But despite its office-toting title, the service won't let employees edit files directly from a PC or mobile device - as Microsoft's Office365 and SkyDrive app does - they'll have to open them in a third-party app to do that.

Chris Hale, Product Marketing Manager of Software Solutions at Sharp UK, told TRPro that integrating the service will help Sharp's channel partners shift hardware by selling to a wider audience.

He said: "Across the print industry the channel can see declining margins with pressure on prices on the hardware side, including price per print and cost per copy. What we're trying to do is offer our channel partners a timely way of expanding their revenue streams beyond the environment they're working in."

On why Sharp has launched Cloud Portal Office, Hale added: "We realised that this was an area that compliments our existing product areas, and I think that ensuring data will not leave the EU removes some of SMBs' concerns after events related to the NSA and GHCQ."