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Dropbox for Business security explained: is it enterprise ready?

John E Dunn | June 24, 2016
Dropbox now offers enterprise features but they need better separation from its Business service

Dropbox wants to move from business to enterprise class. Nobody could accuse it of not aiming high

In less than a decade, Dropbox has made the journey from being just the best known brand of a wave of cloud consumer file storage firms to a plausible enterprise business service. It's still rare for startups to race so dramatically from pure consumer to high end without losing something in the process but today the firm remains a curious mixture of both often very different sectors under one banner.

dropbox

The company launched Dropbox for Business in 2013 (more a relaunch of Dropbox for Teams which appeared in 2011), followed in 2015 by the ambitious Dropbox for Enterprise, both attempts to chase a market offering big margins but difficult sales calls. The firm's own figures claim that among its 500 million accounts, it is used by 8 million businesses worldwide, 150,000 of which have subscribed to Dropbox Business.  More generally, one in three UK Internet users use Dropbox and around three quarters of the firm's customers are non-US.  

"There is a perception that we're a consumer company and not an enterprise one," Dropbox's EMEA head of trust Mark Crosbie told Computerworld UK. Judging from the new Enterprise service, that is now a pretty misleading view. Somehow, on the quiet, Dropbox has turned into a business service.

As to the view that it competes with old-style USB sticks, Crosbie raises the obvious point that USB sticks are simply a way to carry around files, lacking collaboration, synchronisation and external sharing.

"As you start to scale and have bigger forms of collaboration all of a sudden that solution doesn't scale and the overall security posture starts to fail."

What do businesses use Dropbox for?

At the simplest end of the scale, file and data storage, large file exchange, synching across desktop and mobile devices, work collaboration. At the other end, deeper integration with systems such as Office 365 and the extension of all of file access to external collaborators with compliant admin and data security. In many cases, Dropbox-like services are simply a more secure and practical solution to running a file server or handing out USB sticks and also come with the added benefit of automatic and continues file backup that can be restored by the employee rather than the IT team.

Rivals might point out that such features are not unique to Dropbox although the latter does claim extremely high availability and synching performance as a selling point.

Who uses Dropbox Business? Sectors where it has gained a particular following include media agencies, advertising, manufacturing (blueprints), and architectural firms. There are also sector-specific packages such as Dropbox for Education. Collaboration is a big driver. "That tends to be the beachhead for Dropbox," admits Crosbie.

 

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