Autotask Workplace Review
Powerful enterprise file sync and share provider for businesses of any size, looking for increased mobility and better security than consumer-grade file sync and share solutions can offer.
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When a business has grown to a certain size and the first employees start trickling in, a traditional consumer-grade file sync and share solution simply doesn’t cut the muster anymore. While Dropbox is the perfect fit for freelancers or small agencies looking to quickly share files and folders with clients, it doesn’t meet the requirements of many small to medium-sized businesses, which have five people and more under their wing.
A growing business needs to make sure its most sensitive and confidential files remain in total control of the company. With consumer-grade file sharing tools it is – most of the time – an all-or-nothing approach: once a folder is shared, the person who it’s shared with has total control over the content.
Files can be deleted by accident, re-shared with unauthorized third-parties and employees, or simply edited by the wrong people.
Enterprise level sync and sharing solutions, such as Autotask Workplace Soonr, presented in this review, put you back in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t matter if you’re supervising the IT-department of a company, or you’re the CFO of a fortune 500 enterprise, or director of a digital marketing agency.
The market for EFSS (enterprise file sync and share) solutions has become very crowded, and each market player has advantages and disadvantages, which should be considered before making the plunge into sending company files off to the cloud.
In this Autotask Workplace Soonr review, we’ll dissect who this product is for, why it is useful and cover specific features, functions and benefits. So you can decide if it is a useful addition to your business productivity arsenal.
Autotask Workplace/Soonr is a file syncing and sharing (or business cloud storage) solution that provides enterprise-ready security and collaboration enablement.
What does that mean?
Unlike competitors (such as Dropbox and OneDrive), Autotask Workplace offers integrated Mobile Document Management (MDM) and device security. Admins can add or remove employees from accessing the Autotask cloud, making sure data remains under company control when a device is lost or stolen—or an employee leaves the company.
We recommend Autotask Workplace for SMBs with five employees or more, although in some occasions it can make sense with less people in a team as well, like an agency that deals with very large files (CAD, Photoshop or video files). Autotask adapts to a businesses’ needs, making adding or removing people from a virtually shared environment a swift experience.
If you expect AWP Soonr to be a full-blown project management software, consider looking elsewhere, because it is not. While you can add comments to files and folders, it lacks task and deadline creation for projects.
Here’s a closer look at Autotask Workplace Soonr’s actual features and capabilities:
In today’s world, security is more important than ever before, because of hackers, theft and data loss.
1. On-the-road access to files and documents
If you’re on the road to meet clients or attend a meeting, make sure all the necessary files are at your fingertips.
2. Share files securely with external users
Sending contracts, presentation or spreadsheets to clients and coworkers is common practice these days. The traditional way of sending emails is just risky and cumbersome.
3. Out-of-network document access
Accessing documents, even if you’re not inside the company’s network, can be difficult at times.
4. Relying on VPN or FTP for remote access
VPN and FTP aren’t very user friendly and may be unreliable, especially when dealing with large files.
To understand why Autotask Workplace’s pricing is actually pretty good, one needs to dive into why other vendors seem to offer so much more storage, for example Egnyte. The majority of vendors with extremely generous storage quota put certain limitations on:
- file size (ranging from 2GB to 10GB)
- amount of files that can be synced (some limitations start to kick in after 100K files, some after 3M depending on the plan)
- file versions (services that offer loads of storage usually count file versions against that quota, you can either limit the versions created of a file which is not ideal, or upgrade to a much more expensive plan)
Now, Autotask Soonr may fall a little bit short on the standard included storage amount of 50GB per user per month, but they won’t hit you with the above mentioned restrictions. That being said, here are the plans and pricing for Autotask:
1-year plan $ 13.75 / month
$165.00 billed every year
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1-year plan $ 12.83 / month
$154.00 billed every year
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1-year plan $ 11.92 / month
$143.00 billed every year
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So, how much does it cost?
Now, the pricing table gives you a pretty decent idea but lets look at an example:
Josh owns a digital marketing agency, he operates a small team of 6 people, so including him this makes 7 people in total. Additionally, they run a Windows 2008 Server where they host important files from the company cloud. Those files need to be synced as well. So, how many “users” or “licenses” does Josh have to purchase?
Josh has to purchase 7+1 licenses (one additional license for the server). If he wants each person on the team to be able to create and sync projects individually.
8 x $13 = $107 per month.
Purchasing 8 licenses would give him 450GB of total storage.
Now, each user would get 50GB of storage, but Autotask lets users re-allocate storage quota, so that Anne from accounting who only needs 5GB of her 50GB can redistribute the remaining 45GB to John, who’s dealing with larger Photoshop and other media files.
While this pricing is not the easiest to understand it certainly has a lot of advantages considering that the average user only needs a couple of gigabyte syncing space. In theory, Josh could even purchase less licenses if he assumed joint usage of one account for one department, for example.
If Josh needs more storage he can purchase more gigabytes in 100GB increments.
Date Founded: 2001
Customer Base: 150,000 Businesses
A lot of organizations interested in EFSS come from industries such as:
In this Autotask Worplace review, we’ll look at specific cases to see if this particular solution meets the security criterias, especially when transferring sensitive data or when subjected to regulatory restrictions such as HIPAA—where a detailed audit trail of file access is required.
Autotask was founded in 2001 and positioned itself as an IT services company, offering complete IT business management solutions such as endpoint management, ticketing systems and recently, file sync and sharing as a standalone solution. They’ve were acquired in 2014 by the private equity firm, Vista Equity Partners.
The company is now led by CEO Mark Cattini.
- Autotask offers out of the box industry compliance with jurisdictional data centers; SOC 2 Type Report and HIPAA compliance, with data centers in the US, CA, and EU. Autotask also has a host of crucial security features such as 2-factor authentication, individual device approval, and removal, role-based access control per user (content or device)
- Support for iOS, Android and Windows systems, offline access and selective syncing features allow for detailed control of what gets synced and who has access to shared folders. With the remote wipe feature, admins can delete data from lost or stolen devices, to prevent the leakage of crucial company information
- Autotask Workplace Soonr integrates real-time continuous backup, allowing users to add any file or folder from their devices to the backup stack for additional protection, in case of a disaster
- Autotask Soonr is tightly integrated with Google Docs and Office 365, providing the ability to edit documents in your favorite environment from any device. Users can lock files while editing them online to avoid conflicting copies
- Despite the rich set of features when it comes to managing user access privileges (view-only, full access, edit-only, etc.), it still lacks DRM, where an administrator can revoke the right to downloaded documents once it is moved outside syncing folders
- While Autotask Workplace provides a web-enabled commenting system for files and folders, it lacks tagging and metadata features to help organize content via the web, and the search feature works on a file name basis only
- Autotask has still not developed an API for folder management, folder creation or content listing. Those need to be managed via the Soonr app or web client. Microsoft Azure and SAML 2.0 integration are on their way sometime this year
Security is a major concern for businesses. The risks are all too real – every day we hear about organizations getting breached (Target, Home Depot, Sears, Michaels and many more). This often means loss of confidential information like social security numbers, credit cards and customer data.
Businesses need to ask themselves what impact a breach (either internal or external) will have on them, customers, clients and bottom lines.
A 2013 survey by the Enterprise Strategy Group, found that over 50% of businesses and organizations are concerned about data loss or theft due to a successful outside attack on an FSS service provider, 48% fear the risks of accidental data breaches caused by employees, either by accident or deliberate malcontent.
Autotask Workplace Soonr provides companies with a host of security features and certificates. All hardware is owned and managed by Autotask and they offer clients Geo-redundant, tier 3, SSAE16 audited data centers (two per region). Their data centers are setup using RAID6 and a mirrored backed up with replication.
Contrary to consumer-grade cloud storage services, Autotask does not rely on a shared hosting environment, but uses modular clustered server farms for service load-balancing and scalability.
Encryption is certainly one of the most important features companies are looking for, especially when moving from consumer-grade services like OneDrive or Dropbox. Autotask Workplace encrypts files in transit and at rest– using 256-bit AES-encryption.
To further separate between teams, users and files, there is a unique rotating encryption key for each individual file. None of the keys are stored in the clear, instead, they are encrypted with a master key and a connection is established with VeriSign certificate-based server authentication.
So there is no risk the user agent will cooperate with any server other than Autotask Workplace Soonr. One of Autotask’s strengths, in our opinion, is the ability to control access permissions and setup device policies on a global scale. When a new employee joins the company, policies can be applied to that user automatically and customized further if need be.
Here is a list of admin and security features that may be relevant to a company:
- Create, edit, disable and delete Members, Connections, Groups and other Admins
- Conjure AD for importing Users and Groups
- Convey to full Members the right to create connections
- Control the ability of Members to create private backups
- Review, assign and manage storage quota among members
- Set and enforce password policies
- Establish Session Policies: used to control the life-cycle of login sessions
- Configure mobile device & data policies for access and usage
- Configure mobile device approval and device wipe policies
- Remote wipe specific computer or mobile devices
- Configure integration points with third-party apps such as Salesforce, Google Docs, and Office 365
This is only an abstract of the security features offered by Autotask. If you’d like to learn more, download their security white-paper where all the details are listed. While certainly impressive, there are other vendors (such as Egnyte), which have a similar security concepts.
File synchronization is the process where one (or multiple) files and folders are made available across a number of devices. In the most basic sense, this happens through transferring seed files and folders to the cloud, from where it will be distributed to target endpoints upon request.
Autotask Workplace’s core file syncing mechanism works similarly to consumer-grade cloud storage solutions: once the client is installed on the target machine (this can be a desktop, smartphone, laptop or server), a folder is made available to the user that works as a central syncing hub.
Autotask creates a synchronization folder where folders and files can be added. Those files are shared across all connected devices, however, folders can be excluded from sync to save space.
Individual folders are synced to each user that a project is shared with no matter what device is used.
Mobile devices are supported as well. Files can be favorited for offline access.
Any files or folders created inside that folder are transferred to Autotask Workplace’s cloud, so they can be distributed to a team and other computers that the file or folder was shared with.
Contrary to other file sync and share vendors, Autotask does not limit the amount of files or the file sizes that can be synced, making this solution ideal for companies and organizations that deal with large files.
We’ve seen this solution work well with architecture firms and media agencies, who frequently need to distribute large files across several computers, multiple offices and teams.
One of the major issues when dealing with synced data is what actually gets synced to endpoints.
Imagine a company with 20 employees, all working from a centralized server with over 200GB of files and folders. Now, if a new employee joins the company, is she supposed to sync all that data to her singular computer? On the one hand, it would take quite a while, and also fill up her hard drive fast.
That’s where “selective sync” comes into play. Most consumer-grade file syncing solutions allow selective syncing of files AFTER digging into menus and settings, if you’re lucky, you will find options to drill down to sub-folders.
What we liked about Autotask is that admins can set how the client reacts when new projects are available:
When new projects are created, they can automatically be synced to personal devices, but Autotask Workplace can be set to ask before doing anything or manually sync everything. Then you can drill down into the sub-folder level for selective synchronization.
Why is selective syncing useful?
We’ve helped and worked with a few law firms who consider selective sync essential in their daily work: at any one time they might work with dozens of case files simultaneously and their associates need to move fast between a court and the firm.
Having access to case files at all times is crucial, however, closed case files are not needed. That’s why they can be “un-synced”, which makes work more effective and efficient. Yet, if a reference from an older case is needed, employees can simply sync those files back.
One important thing to note is that once somebody deletes a folder from the synchronization folder, it will be deleted from the hard drive, however, Autotask Workplace Soonr still keeps a copy of that folder in the cloud.
Files and folders can only be permanently deleted from the web interface.
If you have a large amounts of files that need to be synced, Autotask uses a feature called LAN sync, where files will be synced quickly across computers located in the same network. Which helps to quickly launch new employees, by giving them access to crucial files.
File sharing is the essence of any enterprise file sync and share product. It enables companies to work in a more effective way, by distributing files across any number of people. Businesses dealing with large files will have experienced a host of problems such as:
- How to send large files via email to clients
- How to make sure company staff is working with the correct version of a file
- How to manage updates to larger projects when more people are involved
- How to manage large projects and files across three or more offices
All of the scenarios outlined above require file sharing. With Autotask Workplace, there are two basic ways to share files from a project:
Public Link Creation
Creating a public link for a project allows sharing a file or folder with clients or co-workers who are not a part of a core team (meaning, they don’t have an account with Autotask Workplace).
This feature is specifically made for sending a quick file or contract to clients via email. Autotask doesn’t limit the size of a file or folder, so any file can be sent. We’ve tested this successfully with 5GB raw video files and large Photoshop files.
When creating a public link, Autotask Soonr gives the user plenty of security options and even allows clients the ability to upload or modify files from a public link. If the “Enable Upload” check box is ticked, a client will be presented with an interface that allows her to see the folder structure and upload or download files.
To further enhance security, choose a personalized file or folder password, select how many times a file can be downloaded and delete the public link after a specific date. Public links can be created from the web interface, within the standard file/folder structure of the operating system (via the context menu), or from a mobile app.
One neat feature we haven’t seen in a lot of other EFSS solutions is the ability to convert a file into the PDF format (this applies to presentations, documents, spreadsheet and even Photoshop.psd files.)
Private Share Room
You can also share a file or folder with your team (meaning, all the people with a AWP Soonr license that are connected as team members). We’ll go further into detail on this feature in the ‘Collaboration’ section of this review.
For any enterprise, an EFSS vendor needs to bring a variety of access types to the table, so that it can integrate into the company’s work flow and current file hierarchy.
While web and mobile access is fairly standard these days, you need to make sure an EFSS solution can also come up with integrations for WebDAV or other protocols. Determine which access types are critical for your company, then choose a provider accordingly.
Autotask Workplace provides a variety of file access types:
Any file or folder can be accessed via the web panel if logged in with a corresponding username and password.
In fact, you can manage an entire team via the web interface, such as granting or revoking access rights, deleting, adding or modifying files and moving files to sub-folders. File search is available, though it only searches for file names, which limits the scope of searches.
We would have liked to see metadata search or file tagging.
Users can preview files via the web application and Autotask handles a lot of file types well. We were a bit sad to see that Photoshop files could not show a rendered preview, and we hope to see that feature in future additions to the software.
Office, PDF and image files are rendered well, but no surprise here. That’s what most corporations will use it for.
Local access via file sync
Autotask can sync files to a computer from the cloud, so they can be edited, viewed or deleted offline. Any changed file or folder is uploaded to the cloud and will be made visible to everybody who the folder or file is currently being shared with.
All synced files can be accessed via a mobile device. Through favoriting, files can be made available for offline edit on a mobile phone and uploaded/synced once a network connection is available.
The Soonr Workplace Mobile App for iOS and Android can create a new:
- Scribble (annotation)
- Document (Word)
- Spreadsheet (Excel)
- Presentation (PowerPoint)
- Note (text)
To be saved into the Soonr cloud and synchronized with all of your devices.
If you need to access personal cloud folders on a computer, but don’t want to or cannot sync files locally, connect through WebDAV protocol allowing a connection to Autotask Workplace Soonr as a drive.
Keep in mind, that WebDAV is a fairly outdated protocol and we do not recommend using it in a productive business environment.
Collaboration is at the heart of any enterprise file sync and share software. Autotask Workplace Soonr is no exception. As seen in previous chapters, Autotask uses several collaboration methods.
In this chapter, we’ll tackle team collaboration. In the ‘File Sharing’ chapter, we’ve seen how to collaborate with external people via the “Share public link” feature.
Now, we’ll take a closer look at collaboration within a company. It doesn’t matter if the organization has only one office, where people collaborate in the same building or office space, or if employees are spread across different continents.
To start sharing a project, you can either pick a folder from a computer inside the synced folder via the context menu or through the web or mobile client. The controls and security features are the same, no matter the method.
However, if a project is shared via desktop, you need to give access to that folder using the web interface. We found this a bit confusing and would have liked to see a seamless integration of project sharing across all access points.
Web sharing gives powerful admin controls over a shared folder, so controlling who sees what’s inside a folder is very intuitive. You can choose between the following options:
- Full access – an invited team member can do virtually anything with the contents of the folder.
- Create and Modify – an invited person can create new sub-projects and modify files.
- Modify – a user can modify files but not create new folders.
- Read-only – an invited user can read the contents of a folder but not write anything in it.
Additionally, the admin can set if an invited user can re-share folders and create public links, which is disabled by default.
This is feature is what sets Autotask apart from other solutions, like Dropbox, where it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Inviting users to a folder means giving them the right to re-share it to whoever they want.
When collaborating with a lot of users inside the same project, it soon becomes very difficult to oversee who is currently editing a file and determine what the correct version is. Therefore, a feature we particularly liked, was file locking during the editing process.
Once a file is locked, nobody on the team can edit it, until the admin unlocks it. The locking feature provides clarity and saves time when sifting through files, even cooler, files can be locked from either the web interface or desktop app.
All locked files are marked with a lock symbol.
Should someone in a team save or delete a file incorrectly, Autotask’s versioning feature comes into play, since it stores an unlimited amount of file versions for a period of six months.
Autotask Workplace has a built-in commenting system, which lets users share thoughts and status reports while attaching them directly to a project or file–comment notifications can be sent via email or text message.
One particular question we see a lot is:
Do I need to sync everything that I have to the cloud?
The simple answer is no. When a project is created, Autotask Workplace will ask the user if the project should be synced to all computers and devices or not.
Furthermore, a user can control which specific devices will be synced to a folder. For example, you’re working on three different machines:
- Office workstation
- Business computer
- Personal laptop
Of course, transferring business files to a personal laptop will take a huge toll on a PC’s tiny hard drive, so you can only pick and choose the most important documents to carry locally—which is where selective syncing saves the day.
When reviewing an EFSS vendor, we look at the types and variety of integrations for document editing, since large corporations are dealing with thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of documents. Which is why providing mobile editing and easy access to those documents is a crucial feature in any legit EFSS service.
Autotask provides file editing via a web browser and its mobile app (more on that in our ‘Mobile Access’ section). You can choose between editing documents via:
- Google Docs
- Office 365
Or just open an app on your personal device. File edits are saved and made instantly visible to all members of the project. After a file is saved, a new version is created, you can now revert to any state of that file within the last six months.
Mobility is a crucial part in how businesses work in today’s world.
According to an ESNA research report, more than 20% of the global workforce telecommute, thanks to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Needless to say, users these days want to carry all their critical files with them at all times.
Access to a PowerPoint presentation at the airport has many benefits. Changes can be done instantly and synced to a global team, as the sales people collaboratively work on a client presentation, no matter where in the world they are.
Autotask Workplace takes mobile device management security seriously, presenting a frictionless mobile experience through their Android, iOS and Blackberry apps. Users can access shared projects, files and folders through the mobile app– as if navigating the same files on a desktop computer.
While the mobile apps do work well, we found them a bit clunky at times and the most interesting features are usually hidden by the UI. But with practice, one should be able to find all related editing tools. For example, highlighting or drawing something inside a document or presentation is easy and intuitive, as you can see in this demonstration:
One of the major risks companies face when a device is stolen or lost, is the exposition of crucial data to unauthorized third-parties. A lot of EFSS solutions have introduced the “Remote Wipe” feature, where an admin can delete all related files remotely, without having to access the physical device.
Autotask is no exception. In the admin panel, simply select the device you’d like to delete and it will no longer have access to shared and synced folders.
A feature we haven’t seen in other enterprise file sync and share vendors, is the ability to access a computer’s file via mobile device. To enjoy this benefit, it specifically needs to be enable in the Soonr app.
This feature comes in handy if an important file has been forgotten at the office, but it’s needed for an off-site presentation. As seen in the security section, users can set up a plethora of security policies (on mobile devices) such as:
- Disable document editing per mobile device in a team
- Enforce authentication when using a mobile device
- Disallow mobile file exportation for enhanced security of sensitive files
Overall, from an end user’s perspective, we found the mobile experience pleasing. It works like you would expect any consumer-grade app to work.
Which makes it very likely a workforce will adopt it quickly and even prefer it to alternatives such as Dropbox (because of the advanced editing capabilities). For admins, we found the security and device policy features a little buried in context menus, where they can be easily overlooked.
There tends to be a lot of confusion in the consumer cloud storage space about the difference between a file syncing and cloud backup service. Here at Cloudwards.net, we always stress that file syncing is not backup.
Now, there are a few services that do both, syncing and backup, a trends that’s slowly being adopted by enterprise vendors as well. That’s why we were happy to find a dedicated cloud backup feature inside the Autotask Workplace Soonr app, which allowed us to pick any file or folder and shove it in a separate backup stack.
While that backup will count towards an overall quota, it is completely independent from your synced projects and should be treated that way. We recommend setting it up for your most crucial business files, so that your business can get up and running again, after a hard drive failure or similar catastrophe.
In the settings menu, it’s possible to select when to sync and backup (or do both), depending on the Internet or network connection in use. When the only available access point is the airport’s weak Wi-Fi, backups can be disabled and you can choose to only sync crucial project files.
Both backup and sync speeds performed great in our tests. We pitted Autotask against the following major cloud storage services:
Here are our results:
We tested with large files and thousands of smaller ones, to determine how Autotask handles variable file sizes and types.
If you were expecting a backup app of Crashplan or IDrive caliber, be ready for disappointment. While certain files or folders can excluded, there are no scheduling features or the ability to create backup sets for certain content types, that are backed up more frequently.
Once a business or organization is growing, keeping track of who has access to files and data on the company’s servers becomes hard. Enterprises keep adding and removing employee access to files on a global scale, so there has to be a way to control the access trail of data.
Autotask Workplace allows admins to create custom reports by Event Type, furthermore, reports can be generated by devices and users alike.
This comes in handy if a company needs to let go of an employee and check on which files that person had access to in the last week or month. Admins can also see which files have been shared, accessed, edited and sort them by date or user– so nothing gets lost.
This provides an admin with ultimate control over company data and reports can be archived for internal monitoring purposes.
If you’ve stuck with us through this 5,000 word review, congratulations! You now not only know what is important when choosing an EFSS solution, but also have a good overview of how Autotask Workplace Soonr helps an organization or business with file syncing across multiple devices and mobile teams.
We would like to stress the dangers of using consumer-grade cloud file syncing solutions in a large organization. While they may be cheaper, consumer-grade services come with security risks, such as a lack of encryption and little control over sharing permissions.
Autotask Workplace can help an organization grow by providing secure and easy ways to add users, team members, control permissions and create new projects. While Autotask allows for in-depth technical control, no IT department is needed to manage the app.
We think they’ve done a good job of building a comprehensive solution with the enterprise-level end user in mind. The iOS apps certainly got the most love from Autotask’s developers, as it offers a much better experience and more features in comparison to the Android app.
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If you’re looking for a project management software that can set deadlines on specific files and folders, assign tasks to people in an organization, provide reminders for missed deadlines– consider looking elsewhere.
For the majority of average businesses, the commenting features provided by Autotask are enough.
There are a lot of Enterprise File Sync and Share vendors on the market today. Autotask Workplace is certainly one of the services leading the pack, along with:
If you’re interested, schedule a personal demo for your business with us today.