Dropbox Business Review & Rating
Dropbox Business (which begins at $12.50 per user per month, billed annually) takes the consumer document management (DM) product and adds unlimited storage, administrator tools and user management, unlimited deletion and version history, and a suite of collaboration tools. You can try the Business plan free for 30 days, though you must provide payment information (credit card or PayPal). Your plan will automatically upgrade after the trial if you don’t cancel. The Business plan costs $12.50 per user per month with a minimum of three users ($15 month-to-month). As a straight cloud storage service, Dropbox Business gives you 2 terabytes (TB) of storage but you can request more at no cost once you reach that limit.
There is also a $20 per user per month Advanced plan that gives you unlimited storage plus advanced admin controls and security features such as single sign-on (SSO) and device approvals. Finally there’s the custom quoted Enterprise plan that includes enterprise mobility management (EMM), network control, and more customized solutions.
You can share files and folders with Dropbox users regardless of whether they’re part of your Business account, but external users are limited by their plan’s storage limits. For example, a user with a free 2GB account won’t be able to accept a 3GB shared file. Finally, you can connect Dropbox Business with your personal account so you can access all of your files in one place. Overall, it’s a good product when viewed as a DM solution, but its lack of built-in editing tools makes it fall short of competitor and Editors’ Choice Zoho Docs Standard in that category. However, when viewed simply as a sophisticated cloud storage service for businesses, it rises to a level of real excellence and deserves our Editors’ Choice award in that category.
Getting Started With Dropbox Business
To create an account, you have to supply your contact details, create a password, and provide payment information, team name, company size, the number of users, and the agree to Dropbox’s Terms of Service. Once you’re done, you can start inviting people right away or go straight to your admin console. There, you’ll see some tips on using features such as inviting and managing members, accessing settings, and monitoring activity usage across your team. You can always revisit this tour by clicking the question mark at top of any page.
Dropbox Business has a simple dashboard. As an admin, you can see how many team members you have, as well as pending invites and remaining licenses (the free trial includes five). On the left-hand side of the screen, you can access activity logs, sharing settings, view your team folder, set up groups, and visit the help center. As an admin, you can restrict sharing documents and links to external users, and allow or block commenting or user requests on files.
The user dashboard shows all of your files and folders, including the team folder managed by the admin. Here, you can add files and folders, share files and folders, and send file requests. You can request files from anyone via email even if they don’t have a Dropbox account (for instance, a client or contractor who is not a part of your staff). There’s also a folder for deleted files; you can restore them at any time.
Document Sharing and Collaboration
Users can share documents in a few different ways. First, any file you place in the team folder will automatically be available to everyone on the same Business account. Second, you can share a folder or document link, as you can with Google Drive, which you can set as public (anyone with a link can access) or you can restrict it in several ways. If you don’t want a file or folder to be public, you can password-protect it, restrict it to only team members, and/or set an expiration date. You can also set editing permissions for both folders and files.
You can’t edit documents inside Dropbox; when you click the Open button on a file, you’re redirected to Microsoft Office 365 online where you have to either set up an Enterprise account or log into an existing one. This isn’t ideal especially since Box (for Business) includes free access to Microsoft’s online Office apps. (Dropbox Basic and Pro accounts also include free access.)
Alternatively, you can sign up for Dropbox Paper, which is in beta but open to all Dropbox users. With Dropbox Paper, you can create and edit documents, comment, and assign related tasks. Once you link your Business account with Dropbox Paper, you can access your Dropbox Paper documents from your Dropbox dashboard. You can insert Dropbox documents into Dropbox Paper documents but they won’t be editable. If you want to collaborate on documents, then you’re best off creating them in Dropbox Paper in the first place.
If you download the Dropbox desktop app, you can use a feature called Dropbox Badge, which extends some Dropbox features to Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files. A badge appears on any of the documents saved in your Dropbox, so you can see who is viewing or editing the file, add comments, share the file, and view file history. Dropbox also recommends using the desktop app to upload entire folders and large files since the website uploader has a 10GB limit.
Any files you mark as favorites will also be available offline, though you have to do so one by one, same as you do in Citrix ShareFile. This is a nice feature, though Evernote for Business and Google Drive for Work let you access all of your files offline.
In addition to a desktop app, Dropbox also has mobile apps for Android and iOS. All of these mobile apps sync with your online account. The mobile apps let you create files and folders and share them. It also includes another important mobile capability, namely document scanning using your phone, either from your existing camera roll or by taking a photo and transforming it into a document. Dropbox does a good job of outlining whatever document you’re trying to scan, be it as small as a business card or a full-sized page. It straightens the image up (even in the case of the mildly crumpled receipt we threw at it during testing), and it allows you to capture up to 10 pages at a time, which you can save to any Dropbox folder either as a PDF or a PNG file. As with other documents in the Dropbox system, you can add comments to it or @mention someone to notify her that she should take a look.
Dropbox Business is excellent in regards to sharing or annoting documents in this fashion as long as you’re still working with the mobile app. You can add a signature to the document if you have Adobe Acrobat installed or you can do so directly from the app. You can also annotate the image with a date or custom text.
The only miss is with help text, which only has a brief mention of how to do text recognition, and that entry was mostly useless information. We even contacted tech support for more information (without informing them that we were press) and they simply asked for more information and then never replied after we gave it to them. The reason for the query is that the mobile app has a search field implying that you can do a text search on a scanned document you’ve saved in PDF. However, searching for the word “chocolate” on a two-page document that specifically concerned chocolate yielded zero results. As far as we can tell then, users should consider the mobile scanning feature more as an image capture mechanism rather than a tool for optical character recognition (OCR). If a big stack of documents needing OCR is in your future, then you’d be better off with one of the Editors’ Choice winners in our mobile scanning app roundup, Abbyy FineScanner or Evernote Scannable.
Other capabilities were similarly muddled, such as sharing. You can email a scanned document to someone or create a link you can share across almost anything, but you’ll spend some frustrating minutes finding these features in the interface. Once you’ve found them, though, Dropbox’s mobile scanning is a decent enough tool, though full OCR would be a much sought-after addition in future versions.
Integration and Security
Dropbox has been in the cloud storage game for a long time and has a significant API presence for custom integrations. In fact, Dropbox support has been ubiquitous among some of the most popular apps from companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Slack. It is also one of the most accessible APIs, supporting a wide variety of approachable programming languages. This translates directly to meeting future business requirements in addition to today’s process and collaboration needs.
On the data security side, Dropbox maintains ISO 27001 and ISO 27018 certifications. It also maintains SOC1, SOC2, and SOC3 assurances. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance is not active by default and requires a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your organization prior to complying. Activity audit logs are also available to administrators, which can be helpful for maintaining Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) compliance. Dropbox touts these regulatory success and attributes them largely to its investment in proprietary data centers. Unlike Jungle Disk, for example, which simply offers its software solution on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Rackspace Managed Cloud storage infrastructure, Dropbox has invested in its own data centers. That gives it more direct control of data safety and potential regulatory compliance issues than competitors who leave that to third parties.
Dropbox has not yet produced a user encryption key management feature so any keys are under the control of Dropbox. They have, however, put in very tight controls on what data is available to technicians for troubleshooting purposes and only when it’s absolutely required. It’s not complete privacy but they have worked hard to ensure that their trust is earned. While this may not be enough to qualify for FedRAMP, it’s most likely good enough for many cases.
Dropbox also supports several two-factor and multifactor authentication (MFA) strategies that include the use of a SMS text message that delivers a separate code to the user’s mobile device, Google Authenticator, Duo Mobile, Amazon AWS MFA, or Windows Authenticator. Dropbox strongly recommends that users take advantage of these features because they add a nice layer of safety around sensitive data.
Almost a One-Stop Shop
Dropbox offers a lot of help should you run into issues, including a PDF guide, self-guided support, a searchable Help center and support via live chat, email, and phone (Monday to Friday, 8AM to 8AM EST). For phone support, you have to generate a pin code, which you can do directly from the main help page.
With a simple user interface (UI), unlimited storage and file retrieval, and vast user permissions, Dropbox Business helps your team collaborate more efficiently. However, in order to edit files online, you have to get a separate Microsoft 365 account, which can raise costs, or use Dropbox Paper, which isn’t fully integrated. For the best document management software, look to Editors’ Choice Zoho Docs Standard. But for an all-purpose, business class cloud storage and file sharing solution, Dropbox Business is an excellent solution and fully deserves the PCMag Editors’ Choice designation.