Dropbox for Business finally delivers enterprise-grade file sharing

Dropbox introduced new security features and its new collaboration platform, Project Harmony, as Dropbox for Business.

Dropbox has added new security and collaboration features to transform the cloud-based file-sharing tool -- widely perceived as a consumer option -- into an enterprise-grade platform for corporate use.

As part of the move, the company has rebranded its Dropbox for Teams file-sharing service as Dropbox for Business.

Cloud-based file-sharing tools like Dropbox have been a go-to option for many employees because of the attachment limitations on many corporate email platforms -- like Outlook. "So many people have been using Dropbox for work outside of IT control, and that's scary," said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Mokena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc. "But [Dropbox] has been helping them get files onto mobile devices and [to share] large files outside of their company when email won't work, so Dropbox for Business with security controls is critically important."

Dropbox is easing the transition to an enterprise service for users by enabling a dual-persona approach, which allows employees to access both their personal and work Dropbox accounts at the same time. This is also a winning combination for IT teams, who will have visibility and control over Dropbox used for "businesses personas," the company said.

Dropbox for Business: Project Harmony for collaboration, new security features

Dropbox for Business will now offer a more granular, cloud-based administrative console and security capabilities for IT, such as remote wipe for mobile devices, account transferring for business continuity, and sharing and user activity audit logging -- including visibility into where users are signing in from, if passwords are changed, and how long employees are in their business Dropbox [accounts], said Ilya Fushman, head of product, business and mobile at Dropbox.

"Dropbox has been used to share large files and photos both at home and at work, but we got a lot of [feedback] from IT admins from many different kinds of organizations asking for security controls and an administrative layer on top of Dropbox so they could have better control and manage their corporate data," he said.

Employees will be able to access both their personal and work Dropbox accounts from any device. At the same time, companies can retrieve corporate data from users or transfer it to another employee because corporate accounts operate separately on the back end and are only tied together on the user interface. IT can make adjustments to limit and monitor sharing to ensure that corporate data isn’t leaking into other accounts.  But users should also be able to maintain control over their personal data, Fushman said. "To do this, we had to essentially rebuild Dropbox," he said. "We had to rework how sharing and identity work to support this idea of having a personal and work Dropbox that could be accessed at the same time, but still be totally separate. Personal Dropbox [accounts] are only accessible to individuals, while work Dropbox [accounts] are managed by the company, with the admin features IT has been wanting for a long time."

The San Francisco-based company has also integrated with several identity management companies -- including Okta, OneLogin and Centrify -- to provide single sign-on and allow enterprises to easily provision business Dropbox accounts and then de-provision access if necessary, Fushman said. The revamped platform will also support Active Directory, which will help reflect Dropbox's new focus on the entire enterprise, rather than supporting specific business teams within companies.

More news on Dropbox for Business

What Dropbox for Business has to offer admins and users

Dropbox for Business makes enterprise file sharing move

Business-grade Dropbox features for skeptical IT admins

Dropbox also introduced Project Harmony, a new platform that manages access to shared files. With this platform, users will be able to see who is working on a file. It can either prevent multiple users from making simultaneous changes to files, or allow them to work together in real time. The platform will also embed real-time communication capabilities inside existing business applications, starting with Microsoft Office, the company said in a blog post. Project Harmony will be available later this year, according to Dropbox.

"It's not just about sharing documents and having a place to store files," Nemertes' Lazar said. "It's also about the conversation and workflow that happens around those projects. Context is important, and the ability for two or more people to work on the same project in real time is the ultimate killer app," he said.

Dropbox for Business could give enterprise collaboration adoption a boost

File-sharing tools are important supplements to enterprise-grade collaboration tools -- such as IBM's SharePoint, Nemertes' Lazar said. But many enterprises struggle with user adoption.

Many enterprises have employees who are already very familiar with using Dropbox -- at least for personal use, so many enterprises who subscribe to Dropbox for Business may find employees ready to adopt it at work, unlike other enterprise-grade collaboration platforms that often fail to win over users, said Melanie Turek, vice president of research for Mountain View, Calif.-based Frost & Sullivan Inc.

"If a company has not yet deployed an enterprise-grade file-sharing application, adopting [Dropbox for Business] could essentially be a non-transition for many organizations," she said. And at $15 per user, per month, cost also won't be a barrier to adoption for Dropbox for Businesses, she said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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