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Yesterday I received a call from someone who contacted me based on a recommendation from one of my clients.  Seems the subject of Dropbox had come up in one of their meetings.  This client was looking for a way to share project assets with an array of people –  some would be their employees, others would be their vendors, their advertising agency, and their media partners.  What’s more, there would be an ongoing set of different projects, and with each change in projects, there would also be a different set of related people.

After a lot of discussion, the folks in the meeting had reached the conclusion that this service might best fit their needs because Dropbox:

  • Allows sharing of files or folders with any member of a group.
  • Stores documents in the cloud and links can be sent to anyone who needs access.
  • Can be accessed from anywhere, anytime; via desktop, phone, or tablet.
  • Owner of the document can allow editing or viewing only privileges.
  • Syncs documents automatically after edits so latest version is available to all, no matter what device from which they view.
  • Is free, or inexpensive with added bells and whistles and expanded storage capabilities.

Before I tell you what I explained to them about the good and the limitations of Dropbox, let’s talk about a second call that came in later that day.  It was another conversation I had with another potential client later that day.  Basically, he was reaching out to me to ask about what system he could get that would work better for his business than “these *#@! Dropbox links…”

Yes, that’s right.  Two conversations in one day, one from a business debating embracing Dropbox in a big, and another business ready to run away from it fast.  What’s the deal?

Now, before we get into analyzing, let’s make sure to say this right off:  Dropbox has done really well.  They’ve spent very little on advertising, yet are a company worth north of $4 billion.  They were recognized as best overall startup in 2011—and a persistent Silicon Valley rumour is that Dropbox founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi turned down a 9 digit offer from some guy named Jobs… Steve Jobs.

Here are some signposts along the way about Dropbox’s growth (there’s no actual link here!):

Now that is impressive.  Let’s give Dropbox their due.

They are a fabulous consumer-oriented service that makes file syncing and sharing from person to person really, really easy.  But building on that business model means trying to get much more out of that system can become a problem.  Dropbox was built on consumers—one consumer, with one Dropbox account at a time.  And the larger the organization, the larger the problems become manifest with it.

The biggest limitation to Dropbox for a business enterprise or larger organization is security.  Dropbox is consumer-oriented, not business-oriented.  Individuals don’t need to worry about audits or ISO 9001 compliance.  Developer or enterprise-based cloud storage and access services have much stronger encryption and access controls to ensure your data remains yours and yours alone.   The difference in the level of access control and the importance of permissions control can’t be stressed enough—quite simply, any company concerned about security or in a highly regulated environment can’t do without it.  And that means an enterprise-based solution.

And if it’s really just cloud storage you’re after, Dropbox is limited because of its pricing.  $9.99 a month will get you a terabyte of online storage at Google Drive.  That same terabyte will cost you $15.00 per user per month—and that price only kicks in after 5 users—for Dropbox Business.  There’s also a 200 GB limit on daily traffic for Business users.  Each consumer user of Dropbox has to pay for their own account, and their own storage.

But that’s not all of it.  The biggest problem with cloud storage is two-fold, and this is really what my second client called about.  He had employees and vendors exchanging Dropbox links via emails, and how each link related to the project as a whole was becoming increasingly tangled.  His employees would spent long amounts of time looking for the email that had the link to a particular file, and in the end it wasn’t much different than a hierarchy system of drives and folders on a network—clunky.

Utilizing Dropbox links can create a Gordian knot of data trails that lead to somewhere or something important, but become so difficult to parse out of the tangled web that the data becomes essentially hidden—therefore useless.

ball-of-mess

Dropbox and things like it are made to be easy for most people to use for most of the things they need it for.  So getting most things into the cloud is easy for most people.  And sharing a single file with another user is also easy for most people.  

But what if the data you need uploaded isn’t already an electronic file?  What if it is a credit card or mortgage application?  How do you get those into the cloud?

And then… how do you work with that file once it is up there?  How does that file related to other files and data?    

And that’s where a company like 5i Solutions comes in.

We have document management systems that go far beyond ‘a place for your stuff.’  Systems that can automatically upload what is important to you—from computer folders, files, emails, and more– and have it instantly retrievable is much, much better.  Automated functions to make sure the correct records are stored, and for how long can protect your enterprise.  Automatic audit trails for highly-regulated businesses.  

And all that important data that doesn’t come in through computers?  5i Solutions helps clients every day to convert paper forms to smart data that is instantly searchable.  Our clients find the exact document, or piece of document, that they need right away—and this is true even if those documents originally resided on paper and were transferred via one of our custom data capture systems.

5i helps businesses get and use the data that is most important to them, with 24/7/36t access from anywhere in the world.  And security as strong as you need it.  

Plus something else really important:  5i  brings a custom solution for you that uses the latest technology and matches it to your existing business needs.  We’ll be there when you when you need us.

Trying getting Google Docs or Dropbox on the line for a support call.  If that doesn’t work, call us.  We’re 5i Solutions.

5i Solutions.  One single, secure point of intake, access, and storage.  One singular solution.

5i Solutions, Inc.

© 2015 5i Solutions Inc.

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