New Dropbox Partner Network Aims At Business Users Through Channel Partners

Dropbox, whose consumer-focused file share and sync technology is the bane of corporate IT administrators, on Thursday signaled it is serious about developing the business market by unveiling its first formal channel program.

The Dropbox Partner Network program, in beta with 50 partners since the beginning of the year, is aimed at finally closing the gap between business and user requirements in an increasingly BYOD world, said Kevin Egan, vice president of sales for Dropbox.

"We're trying to set up a win-win, where IT gets the security and visibility they need and users get the convenience they love," Egan said.

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The new Dropbox Partner Network builds off the company's April release of Dropbox for Business, a version of its file share and sync technology specifically targeting businesses, Egan said.

Dropbox for Business has at its heart the kind of security demanded by corporate IT administrators, including two-factor authentication, Active Directory integration with single sign-on, the ability to lock down sharing of certain files, and visibility into from where users are using the technology, he said.

Dropbox for Business also includes unlimited recovery of deleted or lost files, unlike the 30-day limit included with the free consumer version.

"We're doing an enormous amount of work to make IT life easier," he said.

Security of an application commonly used by employees on their own devices at work is a huge concern for businesses.

Dropbox is commonly perceived to be a potential security risk for businesses. In a recent survey of over 4,500 corporate- and employee-owned devices by mobile device management technology developer Fiberlink, Dropbox was the iOS app most blacklisted by businesses.

Security was the first question Cartwheel had for Dropbox before signing up as an initial beta tester of the new Dropbox Partner Network program, said Raj Kapoor, CTO of the New York-based MSP.

"We have clients in the medical and financial markets, and they are concerned about security of their files," Kapoor said. "Dropbox is all about security. They offer encrypted storage at rest and in transit. And they're open to other people building additional security on top of their offering."

Cartwheel has been happy about how Dropbox addresses security," Kapoor said. "Dropbox is not afraid to adopt new technology," he said. "They recently added two-factor authentication. Not everybody has that."

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Dropbox sees a lot of demand in the business world for the company's file share and sync technology, Egan said.

The company currently has over 2 million users in a business environment, Egan said, although he was unable to break out how many of them use Dropbox for Business.

"When we look at the role of partners, we see MSPs and resellers often serving as the CIOs of their clients," he said. "As CIOs, they need the tools to meet customer requirements."

Dropbox started the Dropbox Partner Network beta program in January with an initial 50 partners, and currently has about 150 partners already using the program, said Adam Nelson, head of channels for the vendor.

The Dropbox Partner Network offers partners recurring revenue in addition to partner discounts on the products they sell, Nelson said.

The program includes a new automated reseller portal, which offers lead registration, purchasing and client management tools. "The lead registration works so that if a clients contacts us, we can tell them to contact their partner," he said. "We treat partners' client leads as theirs to close."

The portal also offers training and sales and marketing resources, Nelson said.

Dropbox also has a dedicated partner manager who coordinates with partners, he said.

"Partners own their client relationships from a billing and support perspective," he said. "That is a core requirement of our partners."

Kapoor said Cartwheel was drawn to Dropbox because of the importance of having a file share and sync application for his company's managed services business.

"We saw the landscape for file synching services very anemic," he said. "There are lots of portals out there. But they don't work the way users work."

Also, Kapoor said, Dropbox historically is very much an end-user-centric solution.

"People know Dropbox," he said. "People like Dropbox. CIOs and administrators are finding their users are already using it. They tell me they wish there was a way to control it. And they're dealing with questions from users they can't answer."