A quick note on a new report that Dropbox will be melding accounts for business and personal users.
Between tinkering with its ToS and “tools for administrators” to come, the biggest public cloud of them all hasn’t been afraid of changes of late. It’s also showing a bit of confusing direction when it comes to its (much smaller pool) of business customers. As the Engadget report states:
“[S]oon, you'll be able to switch between business and personal files without having to constantly sign in and out. The tool really only applies to those who use Dropbox for Business, as it will give them simultaneous access to corporate-controlled files and their own documents. Naturally, the ability to manage two accounts from one place will extend to your smartphone and tablet as well as the desktop.”
This might make Dropbox more tolerable for Business users that want some measure of control, visibility and shared storage but it’s still a far cry from what an enterprise customer would expect. Users being able to “opt out” from company visibility isn’t a requirement on any RFP I’ve ever seen.
The change will also likely confuse end users. They must now connect a personal Dropbox with their renamed “Work Dropbox” on the Web. They’re lured with an additional 15GB of extra space for their trouble but the fine print spells out an offer that only exists for as long as the two remain connected. Adding insult to injury, camera uploads going to the old folder will stop syncing and need to be relinked to the Personal folder. Any pictures that are work related will need to be moved. Oh yeah, and most importantly: instead of one Dropbox, teams users will now have two.
If that wasn’t enough, Sys Admins have to deal with auto-updating “userland” software that will be changing file system paths on end user workstations. As it appears, their old Dropbox folder will automatically rename to “Dropbox (Team Name)” and they’ll find they have a new “Dropbox (Personal)” folder at the same level.
While I agree with focusing on Business I think Drew and team are departing from one of the early bets that made Dropbox successful. Users just want one place to put all of their stuff. Dropbox was one folder everywhere. Now, it’s two folders that behave differently.
In our file protection talks with business owners and analysts at Gartner and 451 Research, we’ve shared concerns that Dropbox could be at the cusp of an awesome service that, a few missteps or lost usability later, goes by the wayside (think MySpace). It’d have a long way to go, but the convergence of folders could open up privacy or usability headaches. All of this as Box, Google Drive and OneDrive are doing their best to lure everyone with their own variance of storage and sharing.
From a user perspective, we still advocate tools that keep security and control of stuff shared in the cloud in your hands. Then, it’s both easy and safe to bounce between clouds, folders, iPads or wherever.