Blog Post

Dropbox: Ok, now we’re really serious about the enterprise and collaboration

Dropbox has rewritten its popular namesake file-share application to be more enterprise friendly. The goal here to reassure businesses that Dropbox for Business is indeed to be trusted with corporate content and, oh by the way, get more companies to buy it as a result.

“We rebuilt all of Dropbox to give everyone two Dropboxes; one personal with your password your contacts, and a second company Dropbox accessible to you but managed by company. But you don’t want it to be klugey and hard to go back and forth. Most of us have one phone so we had to reengineer our interfaces,” said Ilya Fushman, director of product, mobile and business for the San Francisco-based company, ahead of an event in the city designed to highlight the new features.

Before, if Jane Doe had her personal Dropbox on her device and wanted to sign into the old Dropbox for Business, she really couldn’t do so without some sort of hack. The revamped Dropbox solves that problem by letting Doe, the individual, have that personal account and Doe, the employee, have an IT-managed business account accessible from the same device.

dropbox for business wipeAnd now, if Doe loses her device, corporate data can be wiped clean remotely. If she quits, IT can reassign business content to another authorized user — a key demand for Dropbox for Business up till now. Oh, and the new business version also gives IT a view into who opened what documents when. Such auditing is crucial to many companies.

dropbox for business dual accountWith the old setup, the difficulty of accessing both personal and work Dropbox from one device meant users often synched work documents with their personal accounts. That sets up the sort of data leakage scenario that gives IT fits. In theory, the easy coexistence of accounts from one device will alleviate that problem. In addition, segregating content on the business accounts means that third-party vendors — like NCrypted Cloud and BoxCryptor — can focus on layering additional security on that data.

If much of this sounds familiar it’s because these administrative capabilities are what Box and other would-be Dropbox-for-the-enterprise companies already offer. Box, for example, has offered remote wipe via partnerships with Good Technology and MobileIron for some time. What those vendors may not have is Dropbox’s gigantic name recognition among consumers. That brand already made the older Dropbox for Business an easy sell into small businesses, said Jim Turner, president of Hilltop Consultants, a managed service provider. End users want Dropbox and their bosses sign off on it because it’s a well-known name backed by a trusted partner, he said.

The company also announced a collaboration tool called “Project Harmony,” designed to let two users work on the same file. Deployed within native apps, starting with Microsoft Office for both Mac and PC, Dropbox pops up a small notification window that tells the user how many people and who are actually working on the file at the same time. The feature also includes a chat system, and live refresh so users can quickly update documents. It is due later this year.

Dropbox now claims 275 million (!) users, and that it is used in 97 percent of Fortune 500 accounts, but still does not break out paying customers. The company really needs to make it easier for people who bring Dropbox in from home to upgrade to a paid business account without sacrificing ease of use. This is just another step in that road.

Dropbox for all its resources, still may have a tough row to hoe in business accounts where Microsoft(s msft) and Google(s goog) are making big plays OneDrive and Google Drive respectively.

Lauren Hockenson contributed to this story.


10 Responses to “Dropbox: Ok, now we’re really serious about the enterprise and collaboration”

  1. Those features are nice to have and indeed even necessary when convincing enterprises to use your file sharing service, but I wonder if it’s lipstick on a pig. The hacks and data breaches of Dropbox are not news to anyone. I’d have to seriously think twice before using it to transfer sensitive customer information or proprietary company data. Love it for my own personal use of sending photos to my mom though. CertainSafe is taking a different approach with its proprietary MicroTokenization technology that takes a file, breaks it up and tokenizes the separate components, then scatters those across multiple machines. This makes a hacker gaining access to your file virtually impossible.

  2. Ben Kepes

    I disagree – if they were REALLY serious about the enteprise, the announcements wouldn’t have blurred the business stuff with all the excitement about Carousel and Mailbox (two services that aren’t available to business customers). Dropbox is drawn towards the enterprise, but feels a tension because, at heart, it’s a consumer company..

  3. Larry Hawes

    Good write-up, Barb. I have a question on something you wrote:

    “With the old setup, the difficulty of accessing both personal and work Dropbox from one device meant users often synched work documents with their personal accounts. That sets up the sort of data leakage scenario that give IT fits. In theory, the easy coexistence of accounts from one device will alleviate that problem.”

    How? What is to prevent a user from moving (or copying and pasting) a file from a business account to a personal one? Sure, an admin can see that activity in the audit log of the business account, but that’s too late to prevent information leakage. And, as far as I know, the admin has no ability to wipe the file from the user’s personal account.

    Dropbox made some good steps toward better serving large businesses today, but they have a long way to go before they will satisfy buyers in the IT department.

    • @larry my understanding is that you would need a third party product like one of those mentioned in the story — layered atop Dropbox to prevent copy and paste. I think even dropbox would agree this is a first step toward segregating personal and business data. The audit tools will track this but no controls to prevent copy and paste.

      What do you see in the field re. adoption of dropbox for business BY businesses?

      • Larry Hawes

        @barb Thanks for the clarification, as I have not talked to Dropbox myself. I really wish they would spend some of the money they have raised and acquire NCrypted Cloud, BoxCryptor or some other similar company that could quickly improve data security in Dropbox.

        Perhaps more importantly, Dropbox needs to buy a detailed policy layer that will enable admins to define what actions are and are not permissible with specific content types and even individual files. They’ve started building some of that, but are so far behind competitors in the EFFS space that they need to buy and integrate to catch up.

        I was at the AIIM conference last week. Every attendee representing an end-user organization that I spoke with and listened to said they were actively trying to eradicate Dropbox from their company. Granted, this is a small, biased sample, but their remarks echo what I’ve heard from most large, commercial organizations. Dropbox is viewed as a threat, not an opportunity by information management professionals.

  4. Thomas

    This all sounds great but what client side encryption does Dropbox offer it’s enterprise clients? Is there end point encryption offered as well for the end user?

  5. Great article. With these new business features it just makes adopting Dropbox in the enterprise a no brainer. How many people would kill to be able to use Dropbox (not something like Dropbox) I can’t even count. Also for the extremely sensitive organization data, like you said, IT dpts. can always turn to persistent encryption like nCrypted Cloud. Thanks for article!