File-sharing maven Dropbox has started beta-testing what could be the single most important addition to the business edition of its product since it first appeared: Integration with Active Directory.
The new Active Directory connector, released in beta to "select customers," is part of a package of newly introduced features aimed at keeping Dropbox a useful choice to businesses that may not want the massive overhead of Box or similar items.
Other features rolled out in the update go hand in hand with Active Directory, as they also emphasize ease of deployment and management. A tiered admin role feature allows user teams in Dropbox to have multiple administrators, each with their own distinct kinds of management privileges, and the Dropbox installer can now be deployed throughout an enterprise via Group Policy or another deployment system.
Dropbox's strategy with enterprises has been to introduce enterprise features selectively and to choose the features likely to have the most immediate utility. Plus, those features tend to be deployed in a one-size-fits-all manner. With the new admin roles feature, for instance, the privileges available to each role are hardwired into the roles and can't be changed.
For a company that needs extremely granular behaviors, that's not ideal. But Dropbox aims to capture markets more interested in simply getting things up and running, either because of their size or because Dropbox has already been present as a shadow IT item. Dropbox's strategy is to offer the most useful features upfront, preconfigured with common (if inflexible) defaults, and leave the more advanced items in the Dropbox for Business API.
Box, however, continues to offer the truly high-end features: the ability to encrypt storage with one's own keys, for instance, and a developer edition aimed at capturing the startups that have tended to favor ad hoc solutions like Dropbox.