Dropbox for Business review

We put Dropbox for Business through its paces to see if it really is worth paying for

Administration

What will be of most interest to the IT professional is the admin console. This can be accessed from the web app on the left-hand column.

Here, admins can view a dashboard of how many licenses are being used and usage patterns over the organisation. Members can be added and deleted as well as creating individual activity reports and password resets.

The Activity tab shows admins what their users are up to via an activity feed. This firehose of information can be filtered to show just who is sharing what, what passwords have changed, what third party apps are in use as well as what devices are accessing the storage.

Admins can set up security features such as single sign-on and two-factor authentication as well as sharing permissions inside and outside the organisation (see security and privacy).

There is also a tab to enable admins to check on the account details, how much storage is being used and billing information. Admins can also opt into early access to new features the service rolls out from time to time.

A recently-launched feature is Groups. This allows administrators to create and manage lists of members within Dropbox and give them access to specific folders. Plus, team admins can keep groups synced with Active Directory (AD) data.

One other feature that has appeared for early access users is commenting. Which will allow anyone to add feedback and discussions to files you've shared with them.

Ease of use

Dropbox appears to make it as easy as possible for the ordinary user to access their files regardless of the device. Admittedly more complex stuff (copying files between folders on business and personal accounts is trickier on a mobile device as is moving files around different cloud storage providers) can be slightly daunting.

Speed 

Out of the box, Dropbox throttles upload speeds to around 75 per cent, although this can be changed in the desktop client's preferences to a custom figure or can be switched off altogether. Download speeds can also configured as a user sees fit. Any changes made apply to both personal accounts and business ones.

With the default settings left in place, we tested uploading speeds with a variety of file types and sizes. It is important to note the conditions under which these were uploaded. According to Speedtest.net, our upload connection speed was 9.74Mbps (see result here) on a BT Infinity line. Also the time measured here is the time from when the file is moved into the Dropbox folder until the time when the blue sync icon changes into a green tick icon.

Our first upload was a 25.9MB zip file; this took 41.3 seconds. The next up was a folder with 38 images, 74.3MB in total. This folder took 1 minute 55 seconds to upload. Lastly a video (.mov) file 546.6MB in size took 14 minutes and 7 seconds to upload fully.

Security and privacy

Dropbox for Business offers organisations more control over data than the personal version. Files are stored using 256-bit AES encryption and the connection is secured using SSL.

The service also offers single sign-on capabilities via partnerships with identity providers such as Ping Identity, OneLogin, Okta, Centrify, Symplified, Auth0, Salesforce and CA Siteminder. However, organisations aren't limited to these providers and can configure their own SSO if needs be. The service will also integrate with Active Directory.

Organisations can also set up two-factor authentication, should they desire. Once enabled, Dropbox will require a six-digit security code in addition to your password whenever you sign in to Dropbox or link a new computer, phone, or tablet. The security code can be sent as a text message or via a mobile app such as Google Authenticator.

Admins are also able to delete team member's account should they leave the organisation. Once that account is deleted, it becomes inaccessible to the user. Shared links are also disabled. The service will also stop syncing to a user's computers and mobile devices. The service can also remotely wipe all files within a business account folder from any device.

An admin is able to use an account transfer feature to move these files and folders from this account to another person on the team.

File recovery/backup

Unlike the personal accounts, Dropbox for Business maintains the unlimited version history feature. This allows users to retrieve a previous version of a document; Dropbox saves multiple versions of files in the background. These can be accessed via the web app or from a context menu when access the Dropbox folder on a desktop client.

Deleted files can also be recovered by visiting the web app and clicking on the deleted items icon near the search bar. This brings up a list of files that were previously deleted. To restore a file, a user right clicks on the deleted file and can either restore the file, look at previous versions or permanently delete the file.

Third-party integration

Dropbox for Business offers administrators and users the ability to integrate a number of third party tools. As touched on earlier, the service allows access to Office 365 for file editing and creation as well as a number of SSO providers.

In addition to this, Dropbox for Business can connect with around 300,000 apps. This range from document tools, project management, communications, development and workflows as well as apps to boost security and make administrations simpler.

Pricing

Dropbox for Business starts at 11 per user per month, based on five users (so effectively that's 55 per month). The service also offers volume discounts, but customers would have to contact Dropbox's sales team to find out what discount they can get. Licenses can be reused as and when staff leave or join your company.

This article was originally published on 23/01/15 and has been updated multiple times (most recently on 27/03/15) to include new information. 

Verdict

While not the most expensive solution, Dropbox for Business is not cheap either as costs will soon mount up. The admin features should make the service ease to manage though. The service has a lot to offer organisations: file sharing, collaboration, backups and integration with third-party apps and services. It is a worthy competitor to the likes of Box, OneDrive and Google Drive.

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