Dropbox For Business Targets Enterprise IT

Dropbox makes a play for the enterprise with new admin controls and plans for collaboration tools.
Dropbox: 7 Apps To Add On
Dropbox: 7 Apps To Add On
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At a press event last week, file storage and sharing service Dropbox unveiled a new version of Dropbox for Business designed to give IT departments more control and visibility over storage and sharing.

The update lets users maintain two separate Dropbox accounts: one to store personal photos and documents, and another for business use and company-owned data. Users can access both via mobile or desktop. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said the new version will alleviate problems that have long plagued many IT departments, such as employees saving company documents to their personal Dropbox accounts.

The new Dropbox for Business includes three updates that give IT more control over designated folders and content: remote wipe, account transfer, and sharing audit logs.

The remote wipe feature lets both admins and users delete the Dropbox folder from a device if it is lost or stolen. Admins can also remote-wipe to delete a user's work Dropbox folder from all devices if he or she leaves the company.

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In cases where an employee leaves a team, admins can transfer that account to another team member to continue workflows. Admins can use this option either immediately or after the user has been removed, the company said.

The last addition -- the sharing audit logs -- tracks how data is shared inside and outside the company. Admins can monitor shared folder and link creation as well as changes that employees make to shared folder and shared link permissions. Some of these features already rolled out in beta to select businesses.

Other changes to the new version of Dropbox for Business include updates to its desktop and mobile apps, notifications, APIs, admin console, and sharing controls.

With its business version, Dropbox enters a highly competitive market where rivals Box, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and others have already made their marks. Dropbox's consumer offering has around 275 million users who save about 1 billion files to the service every day, the company says.

Dropbox for Business launched in beta in November and retails for $15 per user per month for a minimum of five users.

Dropbox adds collaboration tools
Dropbox also offered a sneak peek into a set of collaboration tools it calls Project Harmony, which the company plans to release later this year.

Project Harmony works inside Microsoft Office tools such as PowerPoint and Excel to improve collaboration in documents and prevent situations in which two people are working on two versions of the same file, Houston said.

"A bunch of us have had this experience: You spend the afternoon in a file putting all the final touches on something and making it perfect, only to find out that someone 20 feet away from you was doing the exact same thing," Houston said during the press event. "You have this awful collision -- in Dropbox we call them 'Conflicts.' "

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Houston noted the popularity of Dropbox's green checkmarks that indicate that a file is up-to-date. Project Harmony will move these checkmarks into a Microsoft Office document so you know you're working on the most up-to-date version.

You'll also see a pop-up alert when another user opens the file you're working on. Mouse over it to see if anyone else is in the file, and click their name to start a conversation, which is saved inside the document for future reference. When you click to save your changes in the document, Dropbox syncs them and updates the file automatically for all users.

Dropbox plans to add these collaboration features to Microsoft Office tools first, but others will follow.

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