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Thursday, 14 November 2013 08:16

Dropbox for business becomes useful

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Dropbox is by now a mature, well established provider of cloud storage to millions of people around the globe. It provides an excellent service, yet its business offering was always paltry, simply charging business users storage to the company account with no significant functions offered to central administrators. Fortunately, that is about to change with a revamp coming that finally makes Dropbox useful for business.

At present, Dropbox users with a personal and business account have to make a choice: which one will they use on their computer, or tablet or phone? Today Dropbox announced they are fixing this imminently. Starting soon, the Dropbox app will allow users to record multiple credentials and accounts, and it will present the files and folders of both. The usual features like selective sync still apply. Dropbox confirmed this will be the case for the mobile apps as well as the computer apps. Users will no longer need to choose one or the other, or to bring all their personal files into their work account, with the freedom to work with multiple accounts simultaneously.

Additionally, and finally, Dropbox for business is being bolstered with new features. The first release of Dropbox for business was nothing more than a large amount of space shared by a bunch of what were still essentially individual accounts, the only difference being the company picked up the tab. If a user left the administrator had no access to their files via the console, and still needed to manage Dropbox on the individual computer level. Over time Dropbox made subtle incremental refinements to Dropbox for business but it still lacked any ability for an administrator to control or audit Dropbox usage, particularly in the event of staff turnover. This is about to change!

The next release of the Dropbox for business console will provide three new features:

1. Sharing audit logs. This feature allows an administrator to monitor all files being shared outside the organisation, and by whom. This is an important defence against information leakage.

2. Remote wipe. Laptop stolen or lost? Employee resigned or, worse, gone rogue? Now administrators can remotely wipe the Dropbox account and files and folders on a specified user's phone and/or computer. When this option is used Dropbox will immediately cease syncing with the device in question and the software will, when able, given it needs to be connected to the Internet, delete the content on the device. In addition, remote wipe will automatically apply when an administrator unlinks a device from the account. The console will show the status of all remote wipes in progress.

3. Account transfer. Employee leaving? Previously, it was a nuisance to manage Dropbox. You would need to log in to the user's computer, as that user, move their files to a portable drive or server file share, and then hand them to another user, if they were to begin looking after those files. In its next release, Dropbox for business allows administrators to effectively and easily reassign one user's files and folders to another user. They will simply appear in the new user's hierarchy - without disrupting any of their existing content. Account transfer will kick in when removing a user, prompting the administrator to assign the files to another person. A choice doesn't have to be made at this point; the user can still be removed and Dropbox will hold onto the files allowing them to be assigned to another person at a later date still.

These are good, positive changes which bolster the utility of Dropbox as a business tool, not simply a tool for individuals.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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