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Dropbox partner ecosystem helps with security, shadow IT

Dropbox channel partners, which number more than 2,200 worldwide, are looking for places to add value around the file storage service as it moves into the business space.

The popularity of the Dropbox file storage service is creating more opportunity for partners since the expansion of its Dropbox Partner Network last November as well as the addition of Dropbox Enterprise to its product arsenal, which also includes Dropbox Business.

There are now some 2,200 partners worldwide, and the partner ecosystem has been segmented in terms of size and reach, according to Hank Humphreys, head of global channel sales, at Dropbox. "Our strategy has been around multi-tier distribution [with] the objective of getting more scale. … We want tens of thousands of people representing Dropbox globally."

Hank Humphreys, head of global channel sales, DropboxHank Humphreys

That means getting "the right set of partners," Humphreys added. Ingram Micro and SYNNEX were recently brought on board by Dropbox to help make it possible for resellers to access their technology, he said.

Hilltop Consultants, a managed service provider (MSP) focused on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has been a Dropbox partner for about four years -- something the company pursued after noticing that the free personal edition was showing up at client sites, said Jim Turner, president and CEO.

"I'm big on partner relationships and having them in the channel," he said. "I reached out to Dropbox and said 'Hey, do you have a Dropbox partner program? We should get on board with you since we have so many relationships with other channel partners.'"

Turner, who believes Hilltop is Dropbox's ninth MSP, said it has 45 Dropbox deployments. One of the challenges he finds is that "rogue employees" would install their own versions of Dropbox at work, making it a challenge for Hilltop's customers to manage files.

"We work with a lot of lobbyists, and we don't want someone in a 10-person firm syncing files with his or her own Dropbox account; I want them on Dropbox for Business so I have the ability to make sure the lobbying firm retains ownership of their data should that lobbyist ever leave," Turner said. "We need to have controls."

Dropbox is very intuitive, he added, so the software doesn't require a lot of training on the company's part, but Hilltop offers an implementation service and has developed a project plan of best practices for deploying the software. When companies are looking to replace servers, "we propose Dropbox as a solution and come in and migrate them away from a server infrastructure and implement Dropbox and organize their data and configure their mobile devices for remote access."

With the personal edition, Turner said it was seeing some clients' employees not adhering to appropriate security controls. "You'd find some people sharing accounts … with the same credentials," which gives them all the same level of access. "There's no reason why every person … should have access to HR documents. With the business edition we make sure we properly set up folders and security."

We propose Dropbox as a solution and come in and migrate them away from a server infrastructure and implement Dropbox and organize their data and configure their mobile devices for remote access.
Jim Turnerpresident and CEO, Hilltop Consultants

Hilltop also uses Dropbox for Business as a network attached storage (NAS) archival offering for customers. "What's really cool is that now … there are some manufacturers of NAS devices that allow you to use your Dropbox credentials to replicate data stored on a NAS to Dropbox," as a backup service, Turner said.

Hilltop manages a lot of mobile devices, so he said it's particularly helpful for employees working remotely to have Dropbox installed when they find themselves in places with no Internet access. For example, one of their clients is a company that builds water pumps for large buildings, and "Dropbox got us past a problem where field engineers didn't have access to forms and data that they need while they're on service calls," he said. For this particular company, "we've replaced clipboards with Dropbox for Business by giving employees access to documents on their iPads, so when they go to a client five levels below a street working on a pump system, they have all the data they need regardless of whether they have Internet access."

Shervin Chua, senior manager, SoftchoiceShervin Chua

Services provider Softchoice just recently became a Dropbox partner, so it doesn't offer any services around the software yet, but will be "exploring this option" with the company, said Shervin Chua, senior manager.

"As part of our value proposition with Dropbox, Softchoice offers our own proprietary SaaS [software as a service] assessment services that help organizations discover, analyze and understand their internal SaaS usage," which addresses shadow IT, and "offers discussions around opportunities for consolidation," Chua explained.

For example, Softchoice finds that many employees in a client organization use different storage products like Google and Box, in addition to Dropbox. "Through our SaaS assessment services, we're able to advise our clients about the risks in having different solutions for one function" like storage, and will suggest they instead consolidate on one product.

Like Turner, Chua said many of their clients' employees bring their own versions of Dropbox to work to give them the ability to collaborate across different office locations and to share, consolidate and maintain documents and files that people need access to.

Right now Chua sees stronger usage and demand for Dropbox in the SMB space and among media, entertainment and consumer-facing organizations.

Next Steps

Learn more about Dropbox's security features

Take a head-to-head look at Dropbox and Box

Read about Dropbox and Active Directory integration

This was last published in March 2016

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Dropbox partner firms and other channel partners in file storage are exploring what services to offer around the base product. What do you see as the key services?
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