Review: Dropbox for Business improves, but still lags behind the competition

Dropbox's service upgrade for business users addresses major limitations with more detailed reporting and the ability to use both personal and business accounts on the same device

Back when I reviewed Dropbox and its competitors for business use, I found one limitation of Dropbox to be a major pain: A single Dropbox account could only be either a business account or a personal account. That made it difficult to accidentally mix personal and business files (a good thing), but it was hugely inconvenient for users who didn't want to toggle accounts on the same machine.

Dropbox has addressed that issue, with new Dropbox for Business features that address these concerns. For one, you can have your personal and work Dropboxes side by side on the same system. You still need to make some decisions about how to use specific accounts, but it's a better solution overall than being forced to use one account for everything. Plus, Dropbox has added slightly more granular reporting and auditing features. Though they're not as complete as the reporting and auditing tools found in Box and other competitors, they're useful.

When you use a Dropbox business and personal account on the same system, the files for each account are stored in separate folders. The personal Dropbox folder bears your name; the work Dropbox is labeled with your company's name. If you come to Dropbox for Business with an existing personal account, you can either transfer it and make it your business account or you can spin up a fresh business account, although you have to change the email on your current personal account to do this as a way to preserve a link to the identity of the invited person.

All of the previous features familiar to existing Dropbox for Business users are still here, including administrative logging (more on that below) and file transfer from one business user to the other. None of those actions will affect a personal Dropbox on the same machine, either. One new feature, remote wipe, lets you unlink a device and forcibly delete all Dropbox account files from the device the next time it attempts to sync.

Another big complaint I had about Dropbox, in both its business and end-user incarnations, was the lack of anything like a proper activity auditing feature. You could see who had signed on from what devices, but you couldn't see what they were uploading, changing, sharing, or deleting.

The new revision of Dropbox -- both personal and business accounts -- fixes all that by providing you with an Events page. The history of just about every single action in your Dropbox account is logged there, and it can be filtered by folder or date or even consumed as an XML feed. You can't download this data as a CSV file, as you can the data provided in the business-level account's Activity page, which details sign-ons, password changes, and device linkings for that account.

One other minor issue: Camera uploads go to a personal Dropbox only. It would be nice to have the administrative option to allow camera uploads to the business account, but I imagine that would take some reworking of the client.

These are incremental upgrades to Dropbox, but they're useful. Dropbox for Business still has a way to go to catch up with the likes of Box, but it's certainly on the right path.

This story, "Review: Dropbox for Business improves, but still lags behind the competition," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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