One of the ways to write a successful blog post is to give it a catchy title that will get the audience attention. If there is anything that I’m certain of is that most of the people reading this article will have come here to read my views and arguments about how Dropbox is bad, how enterprises need to block it and how alternate industry solutions are going to destroy it; well I’m sorry to say you might be disappointed. While the main objective of this post is to give you my view of Dropbox in the enterprise, I actually don’t have a major problem with it, and believe there are use cases where it makes sense.
In 2007 when Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi founded Dropbox they started what could be considered a data revolution where not only was your data available on your laptop, but on pretty much every other device that you owned. I remember getting a beta invite for Dropbox from Douglas Brown at an AppSense technical conference and very quickly began to utilize the product as an easy way to not only synchronize my data between devices, but to share it with other users. Dropbox did for data what Apple did for the smartphone – make it simple.
While Dropbox didn’t suffer too much from a consumer stance with this mistake, the issue sent shockwaves through the enterprise raising concerns with users storing company content in the public cloud, bringing to light topics such as compliance and generally questioning the merits of cloud data. While enterprise usage of Dropbox was generally ignored before, CIOs all of a sudden had to consider the potentially serious ramifications that the usage of these services could bring to their organizations.
Someone once said that one man’s failure is another mans success and this was certainly the case with Dropbox as a rash of organizations raced to provide solutions which offered “safe” alternates for the enterprise. Products from secure virtual drives to on-premise versions of Dropbox began to appear, many with taglines such as “Dropbox for the Enterprise” or “Secure Cloud Storage”, capitalizing on a mistake made by a pioneer in the business. When I first saw these tools emerging I couldn’t help but ask myself why; why try to create a competing product with one that is already entrenched in the world of cloud data and without question the industry leaders. Above all else, I couldn’t understand why software vendors simply wouldn’t embrace the service that Dropbox have created, building value around it by providing features that make it more enterprise friendly.
Is Dropbox for every enterprise? This is a question that you might be asking at this point but really, it’s the wrong question to ask. The real question is whether cloud data storage is for everyone and where it is, is Dropbox enterprise grade enough for them. Nobody can question the infrastructure that Dropbox have available – there are rarely ever failures with their service, its fast, realiable and the client support is exceptional. So the question really comes down to how safe is your data…
When considering the question above, ask yourself this, how safe is your data anywhere. If you choose to use someone else other than Dropbox, your data is simply in a different datacenter, or depending on the providers downstream service, might even be in the same one. Sure the various providers will encrypt such data but they still have the keys or the ability to get them at the end of the day. Where you store your data comes down to who you entrust the keys with.
So in closing I would like to say this: For organizations where cloud data storage is viable, don’t base your providers decision on whether or not you trust them but consider whether its possible for you to own the keys to the lock and for them to store the box. Don’t buy into a product that promises to be the “Dropbox of the enterprise” when all it does is simply create yet another store for your data but instead, embrace the various services available and use them as extensions to your own environment instead.
Thanks for reading and as always, i’m interested to hear your thoughts. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.