Dropbox For Business Gives Control Freaks What They Want

Dropbox announced a slew of updates that offer more control over shared work files and new tools for app developers.

The changes allow for more fine-tuned access control over who can view or edit documents, and for how long, as well as improved search and new APIs, so app makers can interact with shared Dropbox For Business docs.

These are welcome changes for the 80,000 paying companies on Dropbox’s client list. And they may help quell critics who have been complaining about Dropbox’s lack of attention to security and administration.

Locking Down The Box


Last April, Dropbox rattled the business cloud-storage world when it expanded its popular personal service into the work world. It made sense on the surface. Individuals were using its online file storage in their personal lives. In the era of “bring your own device” to work, of course they’d want to use it in their jobs too.

Since then, the outstanding issue for Dropbox has been security. Critics pointed out that sensitive business information is not the same as cat photos or dinner recipes. Sharing has to be locked down and managed better at work. The system also needs to be simple and easy to use, as otherwise employees will ignore or bypass it.

The company finally answered that call today, announcing view-only permissions that let users determine who can view or edit files within the shared folders they created. They can also set passwords and expiration dates on shared links. These changes should please IT managers and bosses, while full-text search should make the whole workforce happy. Now workers can search keywords contained in documents, not just file names. 

See also: Dropbox Gets Down To Business

Today, Dropbox also announces new tools for app makers: APIs for Shared Folders and Document Previews, so outside developers can build Dropbox for Business functionality into their apps, or enable document previewing through these apps. With this, the company could be tipping its hand about turning its work-oriented cloud service into an actual enterprise platform.

Timing Is Everything

The new changes follow others introduced this year, including Project Harmony, its new collaboration with Microsoft Office. But, since its debut last year, the elephant in the room has been security. 

Why Dropbox took so long to bolster that isn’t clear. The company says it has been working on these features for 16 months in total. That’s a pretty lengthy development cycle. 

See also: Amazon Courts Companies With New Work Storage Service

The timing is interesting—particularly since it slides in just before the beginning of the last quarter of the financial year, and the company is reportedly hoping to go public sometime this year. So it’s no shock if the company seems gung ho about courting customers even harder now. 

So far, Dropbox has attracted 80,000 paying businesses, which seems like an okay start. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to its consumer cloud-storage service, which is 300 million users strong. Its client list also accounts for a mere sliver of the millions of U.S. companies that do business today.

Whether these changes will be enough to attract more customers will be up to the companies to decide. But at least admins can preview some of these features by joining the early access program

Feature image by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite; screenshot courtesy of Dropbox.

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