Dropbox's buffed-up business offering is better, but far from best

Revamped Dropbox for Business is closer to being a real business solution, but still has a few pieces missing -- and a higher price tag

Last year Dropbox faced stiff competition in the business file-sharing space from a slew of other vendors. The company pumped up its business-level offering, adding a smattering of controls and auditing functions, but it still fell short against its competition in a few ways.

Now Dropbox has unleashed a new wave of enterprise features and strengthened the case for itself as a business solution compared to products like Box.

The good: Some of the new features are items that should have been available in any business-level version of Dropbox all along -- remote wipe, for instance, which allows the Dropbox folder on a given device to be deleted automatically the next time it attempts to make a connection. Another good one is account transfer, which allows a business-level Dropbox account to be switched between team members, thus allowing a Dropbox account to be moved between a succession of people as folks enter or leave a company. Auditing logs can also be shared with various team members now.

The bad: Quite a bit is still missing. For instance, audit logs have a limited level of granularity; they track the likes of log-ins and administrative actions, but they don't give you details about what files were uploaded or accessed. For a corporate environment, where tracking access to specific assets is a key issue, this is crucial -- doubly so, given that Dropbox doesn't have any external digital rights management functionality. And user-manageable file encryption that lets users supplies their own keys still isn't baked into Dropbox, not even on the business-tier version of the product.

Pricing has also edged up for business users. In November 2013, the cost was $795 per year for five users, and $125 for each additional user-year. Now it's a flat $15 per user per month, albeit with a minimum of five users. That means the annual cost for a basic five-user setup is now $900, and the cost of a given user over the course of a year is now $180. That said, this means Dropxbox's business-tier pricing is now on a par with Box's. And while Box has a minimum of only three users for the business plan, it also has sterner storage limits (1TB vs. Dropbox's no-limit offering).

Over time, other companies have stepped in to layer services and add functionality atop Dropbox. Sookasa, for instance, provides HIPAA and FERPA compliance via encryption that travels with the file even when it's offline. Xen.do adds full text search for the contents of files, not just their titles. Some of that goes toward making Dropbox more like the enterprise file-sharing solution it aspires to be. But in the end what Dropbox adds natively, under the hood, will make the most difference.

This article, "Dropbox's buffed-up business offering is better, but far from best," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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