Monday, June 25, 2012
Interview with Chris Hopen, TappIn
In recent years, cloud-based storage has become extremely popular, allowing users to store files to the cloud, and access those files from anywhere. However, what do you do if you already have lots of storage, want to access that storage from your mobile device or the web, but need better control over access to that storage (such as in an enterprise), and don't want to keep paying monthly for that cloud storage? One option is to take advantage of the software of Seattle-based TappIn (www.tappin.com), which develops software which takes any storage, and make it behave much like a cloud-based storage service. We caught up with Chris Hopen, the firm's President, to learn more about the company, its recent link with Network Attached Storage (NAS) provider QNAP, and life under new owner GlobalSCAPE. (A version of this interview was also run on our sister site, TexasTechpulse.com)
What is TappIn?
Chris Hopen: At its core, TappIn is really a software-as-a-service-based offering that allows you to access and share content from any place that you need. We started out early on allowing people to access and share their home content securely, from a NAS device in your home, or a Mac, or Windows PC. We then branched out and now are embedding the solution inside other people's storage devices, and at the same time, providing access to content in other locations. It has lots of the functionality and capability of a cloud storage solution, but is focused on providing you with safe and secure access to content you use every single day, whether that is business or professional content.
If you are familiar with PCAnywhere, or GoToMyPC, what we do is we install software on a device, content source, or we have a connecter that uses public APIs to a content source. For example, for cloud storage solutions, you'll see a series of connector announcements and releases for us through the remainder of the year. The core service interfaces with our application, which includes a web application, mobile applications for phones and tablets, and browser based applications, which provide a way to access your content. What we provide is secure access to that content, without any synching, copying, or replicating it anywhere else. That's kind of a unique piece of what we do, taking your existing storage which you've already bought and paid for, and serve it very much like the cloud. That allows access for consumers, and also allows them to share that with whomever you choose to do so. That could be photos, your streaming music library, your iTunes library, your Android phone, we don't necessarily care where your content is, we want to let it roam with you no matter where you are, and no matter what device you have.
Is this something installed on your PC or installed on your device?
Chris Hopen: Setup is really easy. You can do this on your iPhone, or on Android, or on Windows phone. In general, if you have one of these, you can go to our website, enter your email address, and get an invitation. That invitation, once you click through, lets you set a password, and takes you to an install page where you'll find Mac, Windows, or Linux downloads and installers. You install any of them on one of your PCs, and choose what content you want to make available, and once you do that you can sign in using your web browser or mobile app and access your content. You can pull it up on your phone, streaming your music, and even share those from your mobile device or browser. Even if you just have an external UBS drive or SATA drive, it works with those, and if you have a file server in a small office, you can even make folders available as a remote file share. You can then access that content for use for presentations, or to send to people, whatever it is.
You mentioned cloud based services, why would a user use your software, instead of going with the cloud?
Chris Hopen: One of the big reasons is the control. There are lots of businesses, especially folks like lawyers and banks, who are in regulated industries. They don't want to be putting their content into the general cloud service offerings. That's one reason. Another is the cost. Lots of people have lots of free storage, and they're going to Fry's and getting 2TB for only $129. You can make a one time purchase, and still have the same access and sharing of your files, and you never have to sync or push anything into the cloud.
The other nice thing, is you don't have to consume large amounts of bandwidth putting everything you own into the cloud. You can just make it available. I know I have hundreds and hundreds of gigs worth of personal photos and video, and to put all of that into the cloud would be a pretty expensive proposition. We don't necessarily try to compete or try to compete with cloud backup or cloud storage, however. Cloud storage is yet another place to store your content, and we embrace that as we do storage that might be in your PC, or inside yoru Mac, or on your NAS device, wherever it exists.
How did the acquisition by GlobalScape come about?Chris Hopen: Historically, if you look at the company, we were focused on direct-to-consumer. I would say that was a phase for us, more than strategic thing, and it's not that we are going away from the consumer use case. You'll see some announcements that solidify our focus and investment in direct-to-consumer. However, we just won't be reaching that part of the market through direct sales ourselves, and we'll be going through some significant partnerships to do that. With GlobalScape itself, one of the attractive things for GlobalScape was the security benefits to a business or enterprise type customer.
We were already leaning that direction, and GlobalScape also saw that. They have 15,000 enterprise customers, which is their main focus. Although they do sell to consumers and individuals, they have lots of focus on enterprise customers around the globe. What they had heard directly from their customers, is they wanted something like Dropbox, like Box.net, but which would allow them to control the content. We had released an offering with them, which is selling very well, which is a service edition of TappIn, which lays over their existing enterprise file server transfer product. It's sold to banks, financial institutions, and a number of others within their customer base. It provides them with a secure, mobility solution what does not require them to move their content to the cloud, leverages their investment in bandwidth, and leverages their investment in storage and servers. We felt like a big part of the market was really around those enterprises, whether regulated or not, who wanted to maintain control of their content and information access. Our solution, the mobility, and control, plus allowing them to leverage their existing investment in storage is very compelling.
Can you talk a little bit about the strategy behind your relationship with QNAP, which you just announced?Chris Hopen: The way to think about it, is QNAP sells many different types of devices. They sell mostly to small and medium sized business, and wanted a secure access solution for those customers. What we've done, is we've taken similar technology to what we put on a Mac or Windows machine, and created a separate package that installs on QNAP solutions, which allows QNAP customers to purchase and buy access for as many users as they want to share that NAS. Users can file up an iOS App, Android, Windows 7 Phone, or web to access and share content on those NAS devices, from wherever they happen to be in the world.
Do you expect you'll be announcing more of these types of relationships, now that you're part of GlobalScape?
Chris Hopen: We were doing a lot of that before. We have a large relationship we can't talk about, but we're doing lots of those types of deals, because it's something that everyone feels that we are the market leader in, in terms of being able to allow people to securely access their content no matter where it exists in the world. We've got a footprint with the consumer, whether that's at home, at Costco, or Fry's, or Best Buy, or through a distribution or reseller channel like QNAP. It doesn't matter. What we want to do, is to create a compelling solution that allows people to have instant, safe access to their content, and access and share any time with anyone they choose.
What do your operations look like in Seattle, and are you growing after the acquisition?
Chris Hopen: We're now bigger. We've added another 25 percent or so since then, with about a dozen or so full time equivalents. Over the many years we've been in business, we've also leveraged contracts, and we have quite a few here who are local, and many who are remote, as well. GlobalSCAPE has roughly around 85 to 90 people between San Antonio and Seattle, and we do expect to see more growth here in the Seattle office.