As originally published in the American City Business Journals.
“Can’t we just use Dropbox?”
It’s a question I hear over and over again from business owners.
Can’t they just store and share their company files in that familiar blue box? Wouldn’t that make working on files from home so much simpler? Couldn’t that take the place of an expensive file server they have to maintain and replace every four or five years?
In some cases, your business will do just fine relying on Dropbox or similar off-the-shelf solutions for your file storage and sharing needs. In other cases, you really need to consider alternatives.
When Dropbox makes sense
You’ll get good value out of Dropbox if your business meets the following criteria:
- Your business is very small (fewer than 10 people)
- You don’t deal with any sort of sensitive information whatsoever, including employee, client, or vendor information
- You’re comfortable with all of your data duplicating across all devices (and have the storage capacity to do so)
- You only need the most basic security settings within your file structure
- You’ve never accidentally deleted a file and had to retrieve it
- You don’t anticipate that your staff will need any technical support
If you read through that list and think, “Yep, that’s me!” then you won’t see me trying to dissuade you from signing up for the service (though I will still encourage you to use the “for business” variety as opposed to the consumer version).
If, however, your brow furrowed more and more as you worked your way through that list of conditions, then it isn’t likely that Dropbox is a good solution for you.
And this will be the case for most of us; in a business setting, Dropbox simply does not offer the level of control or security that the average company needs.
Alternatives for when it doesn’t
If Dropbox won’t meet your needs, here are some other solutions to consider:
- Looking into proprietary offerings. Many outsourced information technology providers will offer a corporate-grade file sync-and-share solution that picks up where solutions like Dropbox, Box.com and OneDrive leave off.
- Rent a file server. If you need the full functionality of a file server but don’t want any of the responsibility, you can explore “renting” a virtual private server (VPS) from your provider.
- Go fully hosted. If you’re looking for full mobility (including your desktop, all of your files, and all of your applications) and freedom from hardware, it might be time to give a cloud environment a look. This is a large and complex undertaking, though, so don’t rush into it.
All told, finding the right fit for your business’s file sharing needs is unfortunately not as easy as choosing whatever we’re familiar with.
As more and more companies have distributed teams, and as effective communication and collaboration therefore become pivotal to success, we must be careful, thoughtful, and methodical in our searches.