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

Drew Houston, Dropbox - GigaOM RoadMap 2011

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 and Google are making big plays OneDrive and Google Drive respectively.

Lauren Hockenson contributed to this story.

 

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