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Dropbox Mixes Business with Pleasure in Data Access

Dropbox Mixes Business with Pleasure in Data Access
By Barry Levine

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CEO Drew Houston said Dropbox was trying to build "a different kind of enterprise software" that accomplishes companies' conflicting goals -- "whether to lock down all the information or keep your employees happy." He said Dropbox recognizes that companies want control over storage of their materials, while individuals want control over their files.
 

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Online storage and sharing service Dropbox is getting more serious about business. The company, which has been focused on the consumer market, announced updates Wednesday to its Dropbox for Business service.

The enhanced business-oriented service adds the ability to keep personal files separate from business ones, but have access to both from anywhere and from the same app. A personal Dropbox can now be connected to Dropbox for Business on all registered devices, showing up as two folders linked to either the business or personal account.

Each will be labeled as business or personal, and each will come with its own password, contacts, setting and files. Though linked, the separate folders will not have automatic synchronization. The company said on its Web site that this arrangement is "like having your house keys and your company's key-card on one keychain and with you at all times."

'Different Kind of Enterprise Software'

The update also enhances security for the online storage of files, including IT's ability to administer, monitor and remove what files are maintained by employees. With remote wipe, admins can now delete a Dropbox folder from a device if needed, and account transfer allows files from a de-authorized user to be moved into another's user's account.

Drew Houston, Dropbox founder and chief executive, told The New York Times that his company is trying to build "a different kind of enterprise software" that attempts to accomplish companies' conflicting goals -- "whether to lock down all the information or keep your employees happy." He added that it is essential companies feel they have control over the storage, whereabouts and use of their own materials, while individual users want control over their files.

Users can also browse the files in both the business and consumer areas from a single list. Additionally, there is some automatic routing of file types, such as when photos are uploaded from a camera and immediately show up under the personal Photos tab.

Four Million Businesses

Pricing is $795 annually for five employees, plus $125 for each additional one. By comparison, Google Apps for business is $120 per person per year.

Dropbox is being used in about 4 million businesses, according to the company, but those accounts are often personal ones being used at work. Key competitor Box, which has been more focused on businesses, reports that it has 20 million customers in 180,000 companies. But Box has been more targeted toward IT departments, while Dropbox now is targeting users who want the service both at home and for work.

Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that Dropbox's target for its upgraded service is still mostly small- and medium-size businesses, since "the big guys are already catered to." He added that the smaller businesses just want a service they can quickly and easily use, which means that Dropbox and others will need to keep innovating if they are to avoid becoming a price-based commodity.
 

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