Mobile working has become a crucial part of our professional lives. But businesses of all sizes face the same difficulties: secure access to all of their data, anytime, anywhere. This problem is even greater for those working in teams where collaboration on a multitude of documents is an essential part of their activities. Digital nomads need a solution that adapts to them and not vice versa. There can be no obstacles?platform incompatibility and poor user interface are not acceptable. BusinessComputingWorld spoke to Filip Tack, CEO of Nomadesk, about the challenges of file sharing and document collaboration. Interview by Christian Harris.

BCW: Tell us a little about your day to day job.
FT: As CEO of Nomadesk, I wear many hats managing Nomadesk’s executive team and being responsible for the company’s strategic planning and long-range business plans. In any given day, I am guiding our amazing team to continually meet our product roadmap objectives, helping with the company’s marketing, creative campaign initiatives and brand development, supporting our business development efforts by helping close large OEM deals and, of course, working on the company’s overall corporate financing goals. I also manage the global affiliate partnership program to broaden Nomadesk sales around the world.

BCW: What challenges do you face on a regular basis?
FT: So, as a new company with an innovative technology, the challenge is to build a brand and create channels to broaden the distribution and adoption of your product in the marketplace. First, you have to identify and articulate the problem your technology solves and then you have to give people a strong reason why they should trust that you are the company to solve their problem. In the case of Nomadesk, we are helping people manage, share, synchronise, backup and store their critical data. We use a 256-bit encryption system, which is as secure as Fort Knox, and offer TheftGuard to protect users from losing data due to theft. Telling our story about our products features and benefits is key.

BCW: How do you overcome those challenges?
FT: We have an aggressive OEM strategy to build a channel of trusted telecom companies and hardware manufacturers to bring our product to their established customer base. We are also using public relations, online advertising and social media marketing to reach SMBs with our product message.

BCW: Cloud computing (or SaaS) isn’t yet a mainstream technology. How are you educating potential customers of its benefits?
FT: We are targeting market influencers such as journalists, analysts and bloggers to help us in this effort, and we are also leveraging existing product to embed our technology to take it to a larger audience.

BCW: How can a file sharing and document collaboration solution such as Nomadesk help to increase the productivity of a mobile workforce?
FT: We have created the easiest, most secure way to collaborate, backup and store critical data from the office or on the road. Our easy installation, ability to work both online and offline, and low $15 per month flat rate to create a virtual file server that has unlimited storage and gives access to an unlimited number of team members puts our product in a class of its own.

Our product is drag, drop simple and does not require a change in behaviour from how you normally save files. We also offer customer service through phone and live chat for customers who need to retrieve old files or report a stolen computer. Because we offer offline access to files, users are not dependent on an internet connection to continue working on files. This is a very big differentiator for Nomadesk.

Our newest release of the online Nomadesk Dashboard or File Manger brings the full Nomadesk experience to the Web and adds improved and exciting new features. The new online Dashboard is built around a new technology framework (AJAX) that allowed us to combine dynamic content, responsive controls and a professional UI while maintaining a secure and easy to use Web site. This framework also allows us to easily add new features and services and respond faster to customer feedback. Customers asked for image previews, so we added it.

We also learned that customers would like to upload multiple files at once with a simple drag and drop. We have made the system faster, with easier navigation. In addition, Nomadesk TheftGuard not only protects your data in case your computer is lost or stolen but now also allows you to see the approximate location where the last connection originated from on GoogleMaps.

BCW: Nomadesk is a SaaS solution built specifically for small businesses, nomadic professionals and virtual teams. What are the main advantages of your service compared to the raft of other document sharing services on the market?
FT: So the key differentiators when using Nomadesk are: Files are always available no matter if you are online or offline; all Files on a Nomadesk Virtual Fileserver are password protected and 256-bit encrypted; Nomadesk TheftGuard allows you to remotely shred your Files and locate your device on GoogleMaps; fast and automatic synchronisation of your Files without user intervention; integration in the operating system (through Windows Explorer or Mac Finder); no change in behaviour required?save files to virtual drive as you would your hard drive; unlimited storage and team members.

BCW: Microsoft Office Live Workspace is a big player in this market. Can you compete?
FT: Absolutely. While Microsoft Office Live Workspace is still offering a free beta, there are limitations associated with their product. There are storage limits, team member limits, and the ability to only work on files when you have an Internet connection. They also don’t offer TheftGuard, or automatic synchronisation.

BCW: Does your solution take into consideration compatibility across the major platforms, mobility, flexibility and constant access to data?
FT: Yes!

BCW: Nomadesk’s TheftGuard feature caught my eye. Tell me more.
FT: Nomadesk TheftGuard allows users, in case of theft or loss, to remotely shred the data on their computer. This feature is also accessible through the iPhone mobile extension, making it more secure and mobile. So each Nomadesk dashboard has a unique TheftGuard id. Stolen or lost computers can be quickly reported by email or by mobile phone via an iPhone application, whereupon the Fileserver data on the specific computer is automatically removed. This means that data is safe even if a thief has the user’s computer and Nomadesk password. Once the computer is recovered or replaced, data can quickly be restored.

BCW: Another stand-out feature is the ability for users to spot their stolen or misplaced device on Google Maps. How does that work?
FT: Nomadesk TheftGuard not only protects your data in case your computer is lost or stolen but now also allows you to see the approximate location where the last connection originated from. This is done through retrieving the location of the IP address. This IP address is compared against a huge database of know IP addresses and their location. The result is a latitude and longitude which is plotted on the Map. The accuracy varies from country to country but can be within 25 miles from the actual location. For example, in the U.S. 84% is resolved within 25 miles of the actual city. As more and more devices are being equipped with GPS, GPRS or 3G modems, future versions of TheftGuard will be able to more accurately retrieve the location of the device.

BCW: Are there any technical considerations my team needs to consider when deciding to implement a document sharing service?
FT: First, the non-technical questions are: Does it have both online and offline access, it is secure, what are the synchronisation capabilities, does it integrate with all platforms, can it offer protection even when I have misplaced or had my laptop or mobile devices get stolen? The technical considerations involve security and dependability. One should not depend on a 100% availability of the network. Furthermore, data should be treated with utmost security meaning encryption on the wire and encryption on the desktop also. We have solved this by creating a virtual drive which is fully encrypted and also available offline.

BCW: What developments can we see in this space in the next 12 months?
FT: We are currently executing on several OEM and reseller agreements. We are expecting to disclose those before the end of 2009. We also continue to enhance our product with new features to capture more users and make the user experience easier, more intuitive and faster. Lastly, we are embarking on exciting sweepstakes and promotions targeted at the Digital Nomad to build brand awareness.

BCW: Do you have anything to add?
FT: We have a very loyal following of customers, with a very low churn rate. We are targeting small- to medium-sized business teams with individuals who work remotely, telecommute, or often working from the field, including small teams within bigger companies. These teams require ease and efficiency in collaborating, sharing, editing and synchronising documents. They also require protection of very sensitive data and backup.

With team members choosing to review documents at different times and from different locations, Nomadesk provides mobile users, sometimes referred to as ‘nomadic professionals’ or ‘digital nomads’ with easy and secure data sharing, unlimited storage and double backup of confidential files at the most affordable price. The industries to which the Nomadesk customers belong are very diverse, with predominance in IT Consultancy, Legal Services and Management Consulting.