When it comes to flexible storage solutions, nothing has made more of an impact than Dropbox. Having the privilege of watching many different companies and industries extract (or rather not extract) value from technology, I learnt long ago that you can’t argue with easy. People are screaming out for simplicity and Dropbox delivers that. With a few simple clicks you can save your files in a regular folder structure and make them immediately accessible to whomever and on whatever device you want. Like most of the new ‘apposphere’, you install it at home, work, your phone, tablet, partner’s computer and away you go.
There’s no doubt that from a convenience and simplicity perspective Dropbox wins hands down, but there are some risks and long term reasons why Dropbox will quickly reach its limitations and quickly cost you, rather than save you time.
No.1 Data Sprawl
The typical evolution of Dropbox in a business starts when someone wants to access their work files at home or on their IPAD – they then begin to share their new found convenience with their colleague and very quickly from there, ease of use takes over and within months it’s evolved into a core business tool. When this occurs, the main side effect is data sprawl, more commonly known as “I can’t find anything!!!”
By making your company’s data so personally accessible to your team, you’re giving everyone shared and equal access to arrange your file structure and save files as their logic (or lack of). Before you know it, your team members have innocently created a folder in their own honour and are now happily duplicating proposals, templates, your financials, procedures in their own (according to them) perfectly organised logical structure. Because their personal logic is exactly that – personal – nobody else can find the file they are looking for, so they create their own and very quickly you’ve got an abyss of files which nobody knows what or where anything important is.
Now this has always been a problem with file servers, but a server has more controls and less perceived entitlement by the user. With Dropbox, the files are saved in their own computers, meaning people naturally feel an added level of comfort to go ahead and ‘personalise’ it how they see fit. Great for them, not so great for the rest of the team.
This is why companies use document management systems to achieve scale and the logic works like this: Instead of saving information by location or folders (prone to chaos), information is organised, tagged and catalogued based on things like subject matter, author, date etc…
The Benefit? Finding your file in less than 3 seconds.
The best comparison I can make is similar to your itunes music library. You may not remember the name of the song, but by searching based on the information you do know, such as the genre or album name, you’ll quickly find what you are looking for. In a document management system, you define your own categories for your company’s information such as the client it’s related to, the team and the topic. When information is ‘tagged’ by these key identifiers, it’s very easy to find, search and filter to find what you want very quickly in a shared logic environment.
The most obvious document management system is SharePoint which is a component of the Office 365 suite which is your email, files, Office license (word, excel etc), and a video conferencing/screen sharing tool. You still have the local storage flexibility of Dropbox via One Drive, but your company’s policies and shared logic extend to all connected devices. You get the best of both worlds to truly enhance your productivity in a scalable way with less risk.
So what are the other ways Dropbox limits business?
No.2 Limited Backup
In our experience, 80% of file loss is a result of corruption, deletion or accidental overwrite. In this scenario, you can have as many replicated copies of an infected or overwritten file as you like, but you’re gone if you need to get that file from a week ago when you last know it was working.
No.3 Data Leak
If like every other business owner you have sensitive information, I’m assuming you’re not ok with your entire company server sitting on each of your team’s laptops, home and work computers – all of which sit outside of your companies security and password policies.
How about the old laptop your sales manager gave to his friend when he upgraded? Or the laptop accidently left at an industry event that has fallen into someone’s hands? Sure, we’d have work files on any laptop in this scenario but unlikely a copy of the entire sales team’s storage.
No.4 No Password Policy
Following on from data leak – Has your operations manager got the same password he’s had for the last two years which is coincidentally his 2 year old’s name? Dropbox lacks any controls over password management which could be to your businesses detriment.
No.5 Data Duplication
This can become a real minefield. All of a sudden your computers are running slow and some are out of space because you now have a full copy of your company’s files on your laptop.
It all sounds a bit doom and gloom doesn’t it. But all you really need to know is that Dropbox is great in certain instances like managing your personal files at home. However from a business perspective, it has some serious shortcomings. If you’re currently lost in the Dropbox abyss, get in touch. If you’re not quite there, but some of what we have said today is resonating with you, contact us today. There is a better way!
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