Dropbox lowers the wall between personal and business accounts

New version of file-sharing software makes play for enterprise by offering greater IT control, more end-user flexibility

Dropbox is taking another shot at the enterprise with a completely redesigned version of its service that allows end users to see separate containers for personal and work content on the same device simultaneously and gives more control to IT administrators over corporate files, including real-time monitoring of where files are traveling.

Dropbox has had a business product since 2012, and earlier this year it rolled out some new features for administrators.

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But the update announced today required some major back-end work, so the company is positioning it as the "relaunch" of Dropbox for Business. As CEO Drew Houston explained to the press at an event in Dropbox's San Francisco headquarters, "We rebuilt the foundation of Dropbox because nobody has done this before. Nobody has built a product that both users love and IT loves."

Dropbox lowers the wall between personal and business accounts
Credit: Dropbox

End users are the main beneficiaries of the update. Previously, Dropbox users could only be logged into one Dropbox account at a time -- if their company gave them a work-only Dropbox (administered by IT), they couldn't access their personal Dropbox folder from the same app. The upcoming release fixes that: Users will be able to see both their personal and work Dropbox accounts within the app at the same time, or toggle between them (see the screenshot to the right for how this will look on a mobile device).

IT will still be able to monitor and control the flow of files to the business account, and will be able to restrict company-owned devices so that users can only see their company (not personal) Dropbox folder.

To get this feature, the user will have to join her personal Dropbox account to her work one; she can also detach them at any time. Single sign-on can be achieved through Active Directory Federation Services or third-party tools like Okta.

Dropbox also announced three new features for IT administrators on Dropbox for Business:

  • Remote wipe. When an employee is removed from a Dropbox for Business account, IT can now wipe all files stored in the Dropbox for Business folder on the device. Personal files will remain.
  • Account transfer. When an employee leaves the company, an IT administrator will be able to transfer access to all files in that person's work Dropbox to a new employee.
  • More detailed reports on sharing. IT administrators will get more visibility into shared files in Dropbox for Business including the ability to see exactlywho has accessed files, even if they're outside the team. Admins will also be able to download CSV files of log activity to analyze them.

Even with these tools, Dropbox still trails behind many enterprise-oriented collaboration tools like Box -- which has a more robust development platform and is introducing features for real-time collaboration, an area that Dropbox said it's not targeting at this time.

But by gradually adding the features that IT departments demand, Dropbox is hoping to eliminate the need for these enterprise-focused providers in most companies. Chances are, your company's employees are using Dropbox already, so why make them switch? That question is getting harder and harder to answer.

Matt Rosoff is the editorial director of CITEworld. Read Matt's bio

This article was originally published on CITEworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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