Why should you use Dropbox for your business files?

[date-stamp]When you hear the word "Dropbox," 99% of us think about the file storage service, and many of us have a Dropbox account where we have stored our holiday photos and pictures of the cat. But how many of us work in companies where Dropbox is used for storing company files? Hmm, not that many. Why is this the case? Let's look at the pros and cons of using Dropbox in your business.

 

Pros

Files are available from mobile devices

There are Dropbox apps for both Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone. When employees are out travelling or on their way to a meeting, it is very handy to have access to the company file server on your mobile device. Have you ever been in a situation where you're on your way to a meeting and have forgotten that important document? This is no longer a problem with access to the company files from smartphones and tablets.

Cheap

Dropbox for Business costs 15 USD per user/month. There's a minimum number of 5 persons for a business plan, so the minimum cost for 5 employees is 75 USD/month. Compare this with the cost of a file server from Dell; a Dell PowerVault NX NAS costs 2781 USD for 2TB with disk space. Granted, such a server will last some years, but then you are also stuck with it for years. So overall, the price tag favors Dropbox for Business.

No need for hardware infrastructure and maintenance personnel for file storage

When buying your own hardware, you need more than just the machine. You also need an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), backup, power and all kinds of cables. In addition, you need personnel to handle the machine in case of a broken hard drive or similar. This all adds up, and none of this is necessary using a cloud-based file storage solution like Dropbox for Business. It is also less hassle for something that is a pretty low-tech thing. File storage is not rocket science, and should thus not be treated as such. It is off-the-shelf stuff, not a tailor-made piece of software.

Unlimited storage space

Dropbox for Business offers an unlimited amount of space. You need 9 TB? You can get it without any increase in the price. This is nice to know; in previous jobs, I have been in situations where the file server was filled up, and it took a lot of time from many people to get back to a normal state again. A full file server affects the sales people, the technical people, everyone really. The whole company where I worked grinded to a halt because of this, and it feels so unnecessary and a waste of time. When we have 16 and 32 GB of storage space on our smartphones, we expect a lot more available space in the company where we work. Nevertheless, sadly and strangely, this is not always the case. So having unlimited storage space in Dropbox for Business feels more like 2014 than running out of space (which feels very much like 2005).

SSO and Single Sign-On, no new passwords to remember!

Dropbox supports both single Sign-On and Active Directory for Business. Therefore, if you are in a Microsoft environment, you do not have to give everyone a new set of credentials when switching to Dropbox for Business; employees can use the same credentials as they do today. This way, Dropbox for Business slips in nicely in your existing authentication systems without any extra fuss.

Dropbox for Business is not a regular Dropbox account

With a normal Dropbox account, you put files in there and that's it. With a Dropbox for Business account, you can easily set up who has access to a file or folder, just like on a "normal" file server. So when looking purely at the functionality of the file storage device, comparing  local file servers with a service like Dropbox for Business, there are no differences in what is possible (unless your company has very specific demands).

 

Cons

Security

Security is the number one con with any cloud storage solution. However, what many people forget is that security is not just an issue when storing data in the cloud; it is also an issue with local (file) servers as well. It is fully possible that someone can get into your network and access files even though they are on a server in your basement. This is a fact that is often overlooked in the debate about cloud storage and cloud services in general.

 

So why don't we all use Dropbox for Business?

Well, first of all, there are competitors to Dropbox for Business :-) We have Box.comOneDrive from Microsoft, and many more. But those aside, the overwhelming majority of companies are not using a cloud storage solution in favor of a traditional file server. But why? There are clearly advantages.

One reason is that companies invested in hardware for file storage before the cloud storage wave came, and they want to use their equipment until its lifespan is reached. Another reason is that not everyone knows that the cloud storage solutions are fully up to par with local file storage (and more); they think it is for the private market only.

The trend in many areas is to have employees bring their own devices (BYOD). But the trend of Bring-Your-Own-Software (BYOS) is also on the rise, meaning employees bring the software they use at home to work as well. They have a great cloud storage service at home and expect to find the same at work. This expectation will gradually, slowly but surely, impact the adoption of cloud storage services.

Cloud storage, and Dropbox for Business, is experiencing increased adoption. 4 million businesses now use Dropbox for Business, and 200 million individual users use "normal" Dropbox. Cloud storage will, in the end, dominate the file storage market for businesses; the question is only how long it will take until cloud storage is the new normal for file storage for businesses. Will it be in 2014, or in three years? We can only guess, but my guess is closer to 2014 than in three years.