Dropbox for Business delivers groups for tighter teamwork

Dropbox's new feature makes it easier to bestow permissions to teams of users; Active Directory integration to come soon

business men women team group outdoors laptop
Credit: Corbis

Not long after revving up its business offering with a new API set, Dropbox is rolling out another enterprise feature: groups. In a blog post this morning, Dropbox described how "any team can use groups to create and manage lists of members within Dropbox and easily give them access to specific folders."

Groups allows Dropbox admins to create and manage lists of team members, as well as create access controls for everyone in the group. Permissions also propagate: If a folder is shared with a given group and a member added to the group, the new member automatically receives access to the shared folder. Individual users can also be designated as owners of a group, allowing more than one person at a time to manage group membership if needed.

Dropbox for Business groups feature screenshot Dropbox

Dropbox groups allows you to create organizational units for multiple users, with permissions that persist with the group.

Dropbox has been adding this kind of granular functionality, a requirement in most business settings, to its product gradually as it's reached out to business users. At one point, its auditing functionality, for instance, wasn't detailed enough to use well in an enterprise setting, especially when compared to competitor Box. But over time, Dropbox has polished its product to be more business-savvy in both the big and little details.

An early test of groups was rolled out for Dropbox for Business customers late last year. Dropbox's API for groups, which provides such connectivity, is also attracting the interest of identity management and DLP companies like Okta, Ping Identity, and Microsoft (by way of Windows Azure).

By contrast, Box has been concentrating on developing high-end and industrial-strength feature sets and use cases. Its Enterprise Key Management offering allows users to encrypt Box content with their own keys, and the company has made overtures toward industry verticals to further expand its reach. Dropbox has shied away from such moves, if only because its business model -- and its appeal -- comes from small businesses on up, rather than from enterprises on down.

One key piece still missing from Dropbox's groups offering is integration with LDAP and Active Directory, to synchronize settings between Dropbox and those systems. Dropbox promises this will be launched "in the next few months."

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