Dropbox Debuts a Streamlined IT Management Experience

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted July 27, 2016

Dropboxis dead simple to use if you're a consumer. If you're an IT administrator#151;or a small business owner who wants to manage and secure her company's content on Dropbox—things can get a little more complex.

Today, the San Francisco-based cloud file sync and share pioneer took the wraps off AdminX, both an internal initiative and a product development group aimed at raising the Dropbox IT administration experience up to "the bar set by the consumer app," said Ross Piper, vice president of Enterprise Strategy at Dropbox, during a recent interview.

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Apart from its head start in mobile productivity—a race that has gripped the tech industry —Dropbox owes much of its popularity to its intuitive app. After signing up with Dropbox, synching and sharing files with colleagues and across devices typically takes just a few taps or clicks, thanks to a guided, user-focused experience. And the approach has worked.

At last count, Dropbox has attracted a half-billion people to its platform, creating a staggering 3.3 billion connections among them. Businesses, both big and small are onboard, too. Dropbox counts Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), The Washington Post, Nasdaq, Spotify, and several other well-known brands among its 200,000 business customers.

That same ease of use—a hallmark of the consumer-facing app—is making its way to IT professionals and managers who configure and manage Dropbox for their organizations.

AdminX Simplifies Dropbox Management

Dropbox was never particularly difficult to use, asserts George O'Brien, product lead for Dropbox Business and Dropbox Enterprise. Indeed, every feature and setting was clearly labeled and generally easy to find, a far cry from the IT management consoles of yore that bury vital functionality in a seemingly bottomless pit of menus and submenus or, of course, carpal tunnel-inducing command line interfaces.

Nonetheless, as Dropbox bulked up its business-oriented feature set, administrators faced a growing array of options. While they were easy to find and use, it meant spending a more time in the admin dashboard seeking solutions to their cloud collaboration requirements than it did enacting them.

Small business IT management: Dropbox AdminX

Dropbox's answer is AdminX, a new product-design philosophy that blends the visibility and control that IT demands with intuitive and streamlined controls that even a novice could use.

AdminX is to the administrator experience what UX is to user experience. Bringing together UX and design vets from Facebook, Google and Splunk, Dropbox created a group tasked with resetting expectations of what it means to manage IT systems, or at least in this case, a cloud-enabled collaboration platform with enterprise-grade functionality.

Enterprise Caliber, Consumer Ease

The first and most evident change is how the Admin Console is organized. The AdminX team went about "reorganizing stuff so your categories make sense," O'Brien told Small Business Computing. Instead of a long list of settings, options are now contextually gathered into functions that help people complete related tasks, like setting up account security, in one fell swoop.

Also new is a file event logging feature that offers managers a more detailed view of users' file-level actions (edits, deletions, etc.) in, again, an easy-to-use format. A new company-managed groups feature centralizes group creation and management, and it provides businesses with more control over how they organize their teams in Dropbox.

The company is also rolling out a new device management capability that helps businesses improve data security by setting limits on the number of devices that can sync data. "Our redesigned admin console gives customers of all sizes the security and control capabilities that customers like NASDAQ, News Corp, and Silicon Labs demand with the design polish of our consumer product," said O'Brien.

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Finally, a new Team Folder feature allows businesses to create a secure place where departments and groups to work together. IT pros can manage a Dropbox Team Folder's content sync settings so that projects containing large files don't end up eating away at valuable hard drive space. The Team Folder Manager offers a centralized view of all the content within a team folder, while granular permissions let companies manage team-folder membership and limit access to select folders and subfolders.

"The new Team Folder and Team Folder Manager give small- and medium-sized companies a single hub for their content, with the same Dropbox sharing and collaboration features they already love," O'Brien added. "The feedback during our private beta has been fantastic, and we think these features are going to make it even easier for customers to run their businesses on Dropbox."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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