Using dropbox at work

With the arrival of the iPads, we’ve been changing many of our processes in order to put information on the fingertips of our senior mgmt team. Our key app right now is Dropbox and we convert most of the files to pdf.

Dropbox is a great little tool, as it enables us to update files on the fly. As it stands right now though, it is not suitable for wide corporate use for 3 reasons.

The first reason is that it doesn’t have a central admin point. For example, I can share folders with my contacts, and my contacts can share folders with others. Ideally, you need a service where access management is controlled centrally. If an employee leaves, we don’t want him/her to be able to access confidential data.

The second reason is that you cannot save the dropbox folder on the company network. To bypass the access mgmt control issue, my original plan was to set up a pc with dropbox and save the dropbox folder in one of our network drives. That would allow our colleagues to save files directly in specific folders (within the dropbox folder, saved in our network). This problem was solved by writing a simple sync script in python that synchronises various folders and files from our network with the dropbox folder which is located on a single machine. This solution turned up to be a better solution in the end as I managed to pick up a lot of files from their original network locations and sync them with the local dropbox folder, meaning that most of my colleagues kept saving their files as normal and minutes later these files would appear on the various ipads. A simple python script allowed us to avoid installing dropbox on every pc and creating an administrative nightmare for ourselves!

The third reason is that, due to the way dropbox saves files in a remote cloud, we don’t quite control our files. This can be addressed with a corporate company-owned dropbox server.

By having a single pc with drobox installed and a python script that syncs the files every couple of minutes, we created a practical configuration that allows our senior mgmt team to access the files they need on their ipads, without having to install dropbox on various machines, create accounts, share folders and create an admin nightmare for ourselves. – Or “How on earth did we do this before”?

I first heard about this service on SparkFun’s blog.

Dropbox has a very simple concept: it allows you to seamlessly share files with many computers and users. It’s easier to use than a USB key. Installation is a breeze; the software works integrates with windows and the web interface (when you need it) is extremely easy to navigate! 🙂

You get 2GB worth of free space – which is very handy if you want to send files to friends or move them from one PC to another.

No more emailing files, spreadsheets, documents, photos, pcb designs etc to myself!

I installed it on my machines and recommended it to my friends – every machine should have this gem installed!