Dropbox Brings Its Consumer Cloud Storage To SMBs

Dropbox, a consumer-focused cloud storage and file-sharing service, is looking to break the consumer cloud chains with the launch of a new business-focused play for SMBs to share and store documents, photos and video in the cloud.

Dropbox Thursday unveiled Dropbox for Teams, a new service that gives SMBs administrative controls, centralized billing, phone support and a big chunk of cloud storage for teams. The four-year-old San Francisco-based company said that Dropbox for Teams is a move to bring Dropbox into businesses.

"People in over a million businesses around the world trust Dropbox for its simplicity and reliability," said Sujay Jaswa, vice president of business development and sales at Dropbox, in a statement. "Now, Dropbox for Teams will give businesses the control and freedom to rethink how they work."

Dropbox boasts 45 million users in 175 countries who save 1 billion files every three days, and the company hopes a business-focused offering will vault those numbers higher. Dropbox has predicted its user numbers will have tripled this year.

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Dropbox's entry into the business cloud market comes as more cloud services cross the chasm from consumer-focused to business-ready and the consumerization of IT pushes more consumer plays into business environments. Dropbox follows in the footsteps of major offerings such as Google Gmail, the Apple iPhone and Microsoft-owned Skype, among a host of other products that started out as consumer offerings but quickly infiltrated businesses.

Dropbox for Teams also pits Dropbox in head-to-head cloud combat with other business-focused cloud storage and file-sharing services such as Amazon's consumer-focused Amazon Cloud Drive; the recently launched Apple iCloud; and swiftly growing upstarts like Box.net, SugarSync and others.

The launch comes as large business-focused IT vendors look to round out their cloud product portfolios with the addition of a cloud storage and file-sharing offering. For example, Citrix Systems recently acquired ShareFile, and search-giant-turned-cloud-colossus Google has been rumored to be launching a full-fledged cloud storage service.

According to Dropbox, Dropbox for Teams is similar to its free consumer service, allowing users to add and update files and save documents, photos and videos to the Dropbox folders. Changes sync immediately across devices and Dropbox is compatible with nearly any device operating system, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Linux, Mac and Windows.

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Dropbox for Teams features the same security features as its standard offering, the company said. Dropbox files are stored encrypted on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) in secure data centers, and also remain on users' Dropbox-synced devices for added backup.

The addition of new administrative tools such as centralized billing, phone support and other controls that enable the addition or deletion of users takes the service deeper into business. Dropbox for Teams will cost $795 annually for five users and additional seats are available for $125 each, according to the company. The base plan includes 1,000 GB of shared cloud storage, and each additional seat adds 200 GB more.

Dropbox's launch of Dropbox for Teams comes on the heels of the company revealing that it has raised $250 million in Series B financing, funds the company will leverage to accelerate its growth, make acquisitions, pursue strategic partnerships and beef up its staff. The funding bump puts Dropbox's total funding at $257.2 million. It also was recently rumored that Apple attempted to acquire Dropbox two years ago with a nine-digit dollar figure, but founders Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston turned down Steve Jobs' offer.

Dropbox's road hasn’t been without a few bumps, however. Earlier this year, Dropbox faced public scrutiny and questions around security after an authentication bug opened a security hole that enabled Dropbox account access with any password, leaving Dropbox accounts open for the picking. The company said that no accounts or data were compromised in the security lapse.

Just weeks later, Dropbox stumbled again when it released a revised terms of service that some users believed was worded to indicate that Dropbox owned user content and data and could use it in any way it pleased. Dropbox quickly changed the wording of its terms of service and assured Dropbox users that users own their data in the cloud.