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Dropbox app integration could be 'nightmare' for IT

Dropbox Chooser gives users more access to their data. For IT pros, this new Dropbox app integration service gives more reasons to worry.

Personal cloud storage and file-sharing services remain technology non grata in IT departments. Unfortunately for IT, they're getting a whole lot easier for employees to use.

Dropbox is a lot like Apple. They aren't selling to IT.
Matt KoshtIT manager

The latest example comes from Dropbox, whose new Chooser service lets users access their data from other Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. The danger of cloud storage and file-sharing services extending into other apps is that it takes away even more of IT's control over corporate data, said Kristine Kao, storage analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, a research firm based in Milford, Mass.

"This could be a nightmare for IT," she said.

Dropbox app integration joins crowded field

The new Dropbox app integration service is similar to Box OneCloud, a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that let other productivity apps access and edit documents stored in Box's cloud. Each company's goal is to use this integration to become the preferred file system for all Web-based applications, Kao said. Other major vendors are also getting into the mix; Google Drive, for example, combines cloud storage and file sharing with the Google Docs productivity suite and, just this week, added Gmail integration as well.

In announcing Chooser, Dropbox highlighted Asana, a cloud-based project management application that lets users attach files from their Dropbox accounts with one click. One SaaS application company, HelloFax, was able to build out this Dropbox integration in a single day.

"[Dropbox]'s simpleness is one of the things IT hates so much about it, but it's also why people love to use it," said Matt Kosht, an IT manager at a Michigan utility company.

Beyond Dropbox app integration concerns

IT's aversion to Dropbox has more to do with security, control and downtime than any specific features the service lacks, Kosht said. To address those concerns, he said he'd welcome the following changes by Dropbox: allowing IT departments to control the encryption keys; improving corporate directory integration; giving IT the ability to recover employees' data if they leave the company; and adding some sort of policy enforcement mechanism.

To keep employees from using Dropbox and similar consumer-oriented services, organizations need to provide enterprise-friendly alternatives, said Roshan Popal, director of information technology at Cigital Inc., a software security firm in Dulles, Va.

More on enterprise Dropbox integration

Using Dropbox for corporate file sharing

Should IT drop Dropbox?

Enterprise alternatives to Dropbox

Popal and his company went with a product from Accellion because he wanted control over the data, specifically by storing it behind the firewall in an on-premises appliance. He said he would consider Dropbox if and only if it made an on-premises version. Otherwise, there's too much risk, he said.

"Cloud security isn't there yet," he added.

A Dropbox Inc. spokesperson said the company has no plans for an on-premises version, because it would limit the features and functionalities the company could offer customers.

Dropbox's enterprise play

Dropbox surpassed the 100 million-user milestone this year, and yet most Dropbox application users remain solidly on the consumer side. "Dropbox knows there are inroads to be made in enterprises, and they are trying to make the right decision with what features and functions to add," Kao said. "The enterprise alternatives have evolved slower than users and IT want."

The Dropbox for Teams product, aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses, offers IT departments several favorable features, including two-factor authentication, and data encryption in transit and at rest. There's also Active Directory integration, but it requires a third-party product from Okta or OneLogin.

"Dropbox is a lot like Apple in many ways," Kosht said. "They aren't selling to an IT department. We're just the annoying thing that gets in the way, even though both are more IT-friendly than they let on."

Twenty-eight percent of organizations have already established corporate accounts for cloud storage and file-sharing services, and that number could approach 50% over the next year, according to a November survey by Enterprise Strategy Group. There' s no easy way to determine how many employees use these services in an unauthorized capacity, and that's the biggest problem for slow-to-react IT departments, Kao said.

"If the alternative isn't as easy to use as Dropbox, employees are just going to keep using Dropbox," she said.

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What feature would you most like to see Dropbox add?
the source code extraction of it is possible :)
i don't think its very secure to use it
AD integration and more controls.
the dropbox should have tighter it control and should be active directory intergrated to better manage the resource
encryption security and secure access is foremost from an accountants point of view....which every business has....or should have...
Even if they do this, until they can assure us that the data will NEVER be copied or moved without our express written consent, they will never be an option for us.
better controls
Most enterprise IT have been disablers and not enablers over the past 10 years when it comes to file sharing with external people and supporting mobile workers with remote file issues. The productivity gains from applications like dropbox have been tremendous. This is still one of the best and simplest collaboration / mobile worker backup solutions on the market. Enterprise IT should embrace the technology and educate users how to use it. I have countless examples over the years where field workers have lost data due to laptops not being backed up. PA's have had to share documents quickly to mobile devices during a presentation. Drop Box has provided countless simple solutions keep it up dropbox.

And I have worked in enterprise IT for the last 15 years!!!
I would like logon access password in addition to the Windows/etc. User passord, on a per-foldr basis.
Dropbox is an excellent solution. Like Google Maps, I need an in-house appliance that allows me to secure and customize it for my organization. If that also provided more granular IT controls...that would be a "good day" solution ;)
Good points on Dropbox as a consumer apps and not much on the corporate/enterprise solution.
It's up to IT Managers to take the plunge or not.
IT control is to measure at least load and traffic,security,... as it's an application not being managed by internal IT it's also a matter of services providing to the users. who's repsonsible for data availability
Its a nightmare for data security policies
IT has to embrace the cloud, but not by abdicating. Oxygen cloud has proven IT can provide cloud with control. It already has several dozen large enterprise IT shops deploying cloud drives to end users using enterprise IT infrastructure, including on-premise storage. Oxygen is a new model for enterprise cloud. Take a look at Oxygen Cloud to see the future.
Stronger data security is key (pun intended) to any ubiquitous-like data storage application...its very design makes this difficult to do. Kudos to Dropbox if they can evolve adhering to this concept and making data security a stronger reality in subsequent releases.
IT doesn't need to control it (unless there are governance issues) but it does need the assurance of it being secure.
It looks that Dropbox offer data protection features to their customer. From highlevel view point, it fulfill the basic preventive requirement. However we do not have idea of their IT infrastructure and operation.
Seems service provider do not have right doing the custodian of data. How about data owner? They do not know who's try to access his data. No log or alert will be provide from DropBox, Right?
this is a good app, but how to defend document lost or copy from unknown person. especially higher secured control tech to protected important document are needed.
Terms and conditions not written by a 4 year old would be a step in the right direction to corporate acceptability
With the company policy already integrated into AD, a better interaction with AD will enforce most of the data security needed.
Data security issue against small biz R&D team.
On-premise with security is the preferred option for control and compliance
The Dropbox client needs to be more secure