Dropbox aims to please IT by dividing up business, personal accounts

Summary:This not simply a new Dropbox for Business, but a new Dropbox altogether, according to one exec at the popular cloud storage company.

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Many Dropbox users might soon be adding a new “Dropbox” to their desktops.

That is because the popular cloud storage service is expanding the number of Dropbox users a single person can have to a grand total of two: one for personal use (standard Dropbox) and one for Dropbox for Business accounts.

After more than a year in the works and following the launch of select beta testing groups in January, the new access option was announced for general availability during an invite-only media event in San Francisco on Wednesday morning.

Ilya Fushman, chief of the Dropbox for Business team , explained to ZDNet via telephone on Monday that this is not simply a “new Dropbox for Business, but a new Dropbox” itself.

The upgrade, designed to particularly cater to corporate users and their IT administrators, is a major step as the Bay Area company is reportedly preparing itself for a Wall Street debut at some point this year.

Getting more competitive with everyone from Google to Box, Dropbox has been bolstering its business product portfolio for a few years now, taking a big leap last year with a rebrand from “Teams” to “Business” while also tacking on features such as single sign-on support.

Fushman clarified how the new Dropbox operates, which at a high level, he explained, is “clearly two Dropboxes.” Users must sign into both accounts, each with their own set of passwords, contacts, and more. But on the back-end, these accounts are linked so that users can access both corporate and personal content from the same devices and apps seamlessly.

End users might have more trouble wrapping their heads around the idea of having two Dropbox accounts, a strategy more reminiscent of Google Apps versus Evernote, which offers a single account per person , allowing IT authority over designated folders and content.

To those who might immediately criticize the hassle of having to maintain another account (let alone another password), Fushman assured that this actually makes finding files easier.

“Just like you’re not using two phones anymore, you don’t want two separate sets of solutions,” Fushman remarked, adding that this approach is designed to "mirror the way we live our lives" in which there is not a hard separation between work and home anymore.

It’s actually easier to understand in practice, especially when looking at the work and personal Dropbox folders side-by-side on the desktop. Visually, it’s just another way of organizing digital content. For actions and events (i.e. when someone shares a document), those notifications can be filtered on the drop-down menu either by personal or work affiliations, or simply all together in a single stream.

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But the trio of new security features that come with this revamp suggest that the real focus here is satisfying IT demands. Fushman acknowledged as much by highlighting a demand from companies that want to both please their employees while also maintaining their data is secure.

More than four million unique businesses are already using Dropbox in some form, from the small business level up to 95 percent of the Fortune 500.

Thus, the following new functions are basic, but ultimately necessary (if not overdue in this day and age of cyber security):

  • Remote wipe: IT admins can wipe the corporate accounts clean in the case of loss/theft of a laptop/mobile device
  • Account transfer: IT can transfer ownership of online files/folders to another employee upon another's departure to continue the flow of business
  • Audit logs: Tracking where information flows inside and outside the organization

Again, these features have already been announced to some customers before and deployed in beta for a few months new. Some customers already onboard include Spotify, Zendesk, and National Geographic.

Now all Dropbox for Business customers will have access starting today at no extra cost, included in the existing annual and monthly plans.

Screenshots via Dropbox

Topics: Cloud, Apps, Collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, Software

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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