G2 Crowd, a specialist in crowdsourced software reviews, recently used its database to determine the highest-rated business applications and crowned an e-signature tool called SignNow as its champion.

The startup has about 100,000 reviews on file, and each one is validated by a human to ensure its authenticity, Chief Research Officer Michael Fauscette said.

G2’s business model is to compile the reviews and sell them as trend reports along the lines of those from analyst firms such as Gartner and International Data Corp. (IDC), he explained. He’s got special insight, having spent a decade at IDC. Gartner, for its part, apparently sees the value in such models, as last year they acquired G2’s rival Capterra.

Fauscette joined G2 in February 2016 and soon noticed a trend in which top applications are rarely from name-brand corporations. All but one of the 25 products in the current G2 research are from companies thought of as technology titans. The biggest in the current report are Coursera, Box, DocuSign, Dropbox, GitHub, Slack, SurveyMonkey, and WordPress. The exception is Microsoft’s Visual Studio, ranked 20th on the list.

SEE: Startup G2 Crowd is Yelp for business software

TechRepublic asked Fauscette to provide reports about the security and storage markets. His staff at G2, based in Chicago, provided an endpoint security report showing Malwarebytes, Avast Endpoint Protection, Druva inSync, and Webroot Endpoint Protection as the top results for 2016. In storage, G2 provided a report on backup software indicating EMC Avamar and NetApp Backup & Recovery as the second- and third-ranked products, with a relative unknown–Code 42’s CrashPlan–in the top spot.

“Obviously as an analyst I’m excited about the opportunity to have a really large data set collected almost continuously,” Fasucette observed. He cited an example of the kind of data G2 can connect. “Customers using security software are commonly also working with CRM, ERP, e-commerce platforms, or mobile devices. Customers using storage software are commonly also working with relational databases, VDI, or IaaS. Storage software users also are usually using team collaboration and project management tools,” he said.

Fauscette added that reviewers are asked three dozen specific questions about each product, and that G2’s verification team investigates reviewer information such as LinkedIn profiles and more to ensure authenticity. Vendors can supply information for their product’s landing page and can request to be reviewed, but are forbidden from paying for positive reviews. G2 has precedent for banning companies that try gaming the system, he said.

The company compiles reviews into periodic data reports. As such, reviewers are asked not just to rank how good a piece of software is, but also provide information such as ranking the purchasing process, installation, documentation, maintenance, and so on. G2’s plans include adding review categories of services, but not of hardware, Fauscette explained.

SEE: G2 Crowd – disrupting the Gartner quadrant model (ZDNet)

Ethan Dicks, an IT contractor in Columbus, Ohio, said he hadn’t heard of G2 but feels the service would be more useful at smaller companies and less so at larger ones.

In his current role at a chemical company, managers stick with what works. “They have made strategic decisions for the big stuff and in the position I’m in we’re using open source. Internally, there is so much inertia that the opinions of people outside the company are going to have no sway in the process that we go through,” Dicks explained.

But would he be open to trying it elsewhere? “In a different environment, absolutely,” he said.