Dropbox file sharing: New security, integration features for businesses

Dropbox for Business is now offering new security features around shared folders and links and new integration for a more seamless Dropbox file sharing experience.

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Dropbox is trying to make its file sharing services safer for enterprises. Dropbox for Business has added more security and control settings for Dropbox file sharing, as well as expanded integration options so employees can collaborate more securely and efficiently with familiar tools.

The new Dropbox security features include read-only permissions for shared folders, and passwords and expirations for shared links. The popular cloud-based file sharing provider launched Dropbox for Business last spring, introducing security and administrative features for Dropbox file sharing, much to the relief of corporate IT teams. The initial Dropbox for Business features included access management features and a "dual persona" capability that allows individuals to separate personal and corporate data.

Dropbox file sharing security bolstered by permissions, passwords and expiration features

The latest Dropbox for Business updates its focus on protecting shared folders and links. The view-only permission feature will allow the creators of a shared folder to identify and control which team members can view or edit files within the folder. The new password and expiration feature will allow users to offer temporary access to individuals, a helpful function for a company working with partners or consultants, according to a blog post by Ilya Fushman, head of product, business and mobility at Dropbox.

The company's recent efforts will help make Dropbox a more acceptable collaboration offering to businesses and their IT teams. "Many [enterprises] use [Dropbox already] for business in lieu of corporate tools," said Terri McClure, senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Inc. "There is certainly a market segment that will … move to adopt Dropbox for Business to get corporate data back under corporate management … that is the biggest win here."

Appen, a Sydney, Australia-based language, search and social technology company uses Sharepoint within some of its business units for document collaboration, but Dropbox has become popular within the company. "Our policy is to use the best tool for the job," said Stephen Norris, vice president of operations and language resources at Appen. "Since we're a widely geographically distributed company … with a business development team that travels a lot … that means tools which are reliable, easy to set up and [will] just work. [So] we are using Dropbox for file sharing and data movement."

About 90 Appen employees were using Dropbox before Dropbox for Business was introduced. Since the company adopted Dropbox's enterprise version, that number has grown to 110, and the company's users are enjoying the separation between their personal and professional accounts, Norris said.

Corporate use of Dropbox for Business is growing because users appreciate the simplicity and speed the service offers for sharing large files. Norris said he will use the new security features to gain more insight and control over whom users can share files with, a feature that is essential for the expanding Dropbox's use throughout the entire organization.

The read-only function could encourage new use cases for large enterprises, like content distribution to ensure employees have the most recent corporate materials, ESG's McClure said. The secure external sharing will also be helpful for companies that frequently work with clients or contractors. "Some users were hesitant to share public links, but password protection and link expiration, [which is] also very important, makes a big difference."

While the new security features will help IT feel more comfortable with Dropbox use, the provider will need to expand on these features if its wants to reach every industry, McClure said. "These [features] will certainly help, but Dropbox will need to go the extra steps to get certified for the specific verticals -- FINRA[Financial Industry Regulatory Authority], for example," he said.

"It's really about what Dropbox wants to be and the engineering choices they are going to make to address the enterprise, but my guess is they are going to walk the fine line between consumer and enterprise in the way that Google has," said Rob Koplowitz, vice president at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. "You can't be everything to everybody."Dropbox file sharing integration with business apps

Dropbox also introduced the Shared Folder API and the Document Preview API, which will allow developers to extend Dropbox's shared folders and document previews into business applications for a more seamless collaboration experience. "Users can view their Dropbox files without having to switch between windows … [and] get the same great sharing experience whether they're in Dropbox or a third-party app," Dropbox's Fushman said.

Norris plans to integrate Dropbox with Appen's fieldwork recording applications so file synchronization statuses can be monitored and reported centrally. "We have upwards of 60 different fieldwork systems … that move data between computers in different countries … deployed at a time, and monitoring them all can be difficult," he said.

The ability to integrate into legacy environments will be an important feature as Dropbox continues to pursue the enterprise market, ESG's McClure said. "Integration and the ability to participate in application modernization exercises -- as well as new application ecosystems -- are high on the priority list for larger enterprises," he said.

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

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