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What Dropbox for Business has to offer admins and users

Dropbox has enhanced Dropbox for Business to address concerns about data security and to support more robust centralized administration.

Many workers use the consumer version of Dropbox to conduct business, sidestepping

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sometimes-rigid IT requirements that are in place to protect sensitive data. But Dropbox for Business seeks to strike a balance between productivity and security, appeasing both IT and users.

For users, Dropbox for Business is similar to the consumer version. Workers can easily store and share files in a central location, then access those files at any time from multiple devices. Dropbox for Business also gives users unlimited version history and storage capacity, so a file can be recovered from any point in time once it has been saved to the Dropbox share. Best of all, administrators get a centralized system for tracking, managing and integrating Dropbox users into their existing directories.

Dropbox for Business was formerly known as Dropbox for Teams, the company's first business-focused service, released in November 2011. Dropbox for Teams provided centralized billing and administrative control, and expanded phone support and storage capacity. For the most part, the product was tailored to small teams of users and was fairly limited in scope. Dropbox later introduced improvements to the service, such as allowing administrators to see which users had implemented two-step verification, but the tool's concept never fully caught on in the enterprise.

Boosting Dropbox for Business security

In February 2013, Dropbox launched a redesigned administrative console with new sharing options for managing Dropbox for Teams users, giving IT better visibility and control over the service. Dropbox then renamed it Dropbox for Business. The new service includes more administrative capabilities, such as support for Active Directory and single sign-on (SSO).

Administrators with security concerns about Dropbox (and its well-publicized security breaches of the past) can sleep a little easier knowing that Dropbox has also taken some steps to secure data. It now encrypts all stored files using 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard protection and uses the Secure Sockets Layer protocol to provide a secure tunnel for transferring data.

Administrators can take advantage of third-party tools to provide additional encryption, and Dropbox continues to support a two-step verification process beyond just passwords. To store data, Dropbox uses Amazon's Simple Storage Service, which supports its own security platform, has a highly available and reliable infrastructure, and provides automatic replication across multiple data centers.

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SSO support lets users access all their business apps by signing in only once to a central identity provider, such as Active Directory. As a result, once users log in, they do not need to enter a separate username and password to access Dropbox for Business. SSO integration also provides administrators with additional capabilities through systems they're already familiar with; Dropbox for Business is integrated with identity management products such as Okta, OneLogin, Centrify, Symplified and Ping Identity.

At the heart of Dropbox for Business is the admin console, a Web-based application that centralizes a number of management operations. IT administrators can add or remove users, reset passwords, control administrative capabilities and monitor the activity of their business users. In addition, they can track licensing, manage billing, set up shared folders, ensure two-step user verification and generate comprehensive reports.

The latest features in Dropbox for Business

In November 2013, Dropbox announced new and updated Dropbox for Business features for users and admins, though some features are not yet available as of this writing.

One feature gives users the ability to access their work and personal Dropbox accounts from a single interface, keeping the data from each account separate. They will be able to access both business and personal files with a few simple clicks. A new notifications bar lets users view alerts from both accounts or filter alerts to see those from only one account. Administrators can also control whether users are allowed to enable the dual-account option, but cannot control users' access to their personal data.

To keep the IT side happy, Dropbox for Business has a number of new management features. For example, administrators can now track how files are shared inside and outside the organization by either viewing a running log or by downloading a report that details the activity. Plus, Dropbox for Business lets admins control shared folder permissions and restrict members from sharing outside the team.

Another new Dropbox for Business feature is remote wipe, which lets administrators remotely delete the Dropbox folder from a computer, smartphone or tablet if it has been lost or stolen, or if someone leaves the company. An administrator can wipe a single device or all of a user's registered devices at one time. In addition, users can wipe their own devices via the Dropbox website. Another popular new administrative feature is the ability to transfer files from one user to another. This can be useful if a user moves to a different team or leaves the company.

Dropbox for Business has come a long way in appeasing IT's concerns about security and manageability, although it lacks a comprehensive set of collaboration tools such as those in Google Docs. Still, Dropbox is already integrated with HipChat, 1Password, CloudOn, Asana and a number of other products and services. It has a simple pricing structure for all business customers -- $15 per user per month, with a minimum of five users.

This was first published in January 2014

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