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Jul 30 2014

More Control, Better Collaboration: New Features in Dropbox for Business


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Following its immense success in the consumer market, cloud storage and document sharing service Dropbox has been on a quest to win over enterprise customers. With 80,000 companies subscribed to its Dropbox for Business service today, the project seems to be well underway; however, with the exception of Spotify, Foursquare and National Geographic, it failed to attract any big names. Consequently, Dropbox now aims to break that spell by adding what it claims are enterprise-grade security and collaboration features.

The story of Dropbox has always left ample room for interpretation. On the one hand, the service is extremely popular among consumers – with 300 million customers, there are now as many Dropbox users as there are U.S. citizens. On the other, the fact that hundreds of thousands of professionals and a five-digit number of businesses from all over the world rely on the company's paid services has never softened widespread security and privacy concerns. Against this backdrop, it's only logical that they should try and improve the security and collaboration feature sets in an attempt to attract more enterprise customers.

According to an entry by product chief Ilya Fushman on the Dropbox for Business blog, the key enhancements are as follows:

  • Folder owners can now exert complete control over their files by activating view-only permissions for the shared folders they've created. Properly arranged and implemented, this feature will help to prevent random changes in important documents as well as accidental deletion or unauthorized copying.
  • Users can set passwords and expiration dates in order to limit access to content behind shared links, e.g. after a project is finished.
  • An integrated full text search enables direct access to information within files without having to open up single folders or documents.
  • Document previews immediately show users a high-quality version of their Microsoft Office files – they no longer have to wait for (sometimes delayed) downloads. This feature will soon be available for Android end devices as well.
  • Project Harmony is a live collaboration tool that shows users who else is looking at their Word, Excel and PowerPoint files so that they can edit them together using an integrated instant messenger.
  • Customers may also use the Shared Folder and Document Preview APIs to integrate Dropbox with tailor-made applications for company-specific usage scenarios.

Whether or not these improvements will convince enterprise customers that Dropbox is after all a trustworthy service remains to be seen. Companies working in sensitive fields that require absolute discretion and confidentiality still might have their doubts – the recent appointment of former U.S. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a strong supporter of the NSA warrantless wiretapping programs, may not have helped the case.

For more background info, please see Jemima Kiss's report at TheGuardian.com.

 
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