You've Got Mail from Dropbox - Shadow-IT is Official Now

Posted by Anand Kekre on September 22 2015

Ignorance is Bliss! So far you may have turned a blind eye to the fact that your employees are using Dropbox to store and share corporate documents.

Now - You’ve got email from Dropbox suggesting you to become a paying customer by subscribing to their Business version as a number of your employees are using Free Consumer version with their official email ids.

recieving email from dropbox can make shadow-IT official in your organisation

What should you do?

With this email, now Shadow-IT is official in your organization and you can’t ignore it without taking a huge file security risk of data leakage and compliance. The proliferation of shadow-IT in enterprises has significantly increased over last few years and it has become a pervasive problem resulting in not only the huge cost endurances for the company but also serious threats of data loss, security and compliance risks.

There’s no denying the utility of Dropbox. The idea of having anytime, anywhere access to important files is universally appealing, especially when files are accessible from any device. Moreover, one of greatest appeals is its interface — it’s basically just a folder that lives on your endpoints; there’s no site to log into and no complicated paths to navigate like in an FTP server or File server.

So where Does Dropbox Drop Off?

Dropbox was architected as a consumer solution. So, before turning to Dropbox for Business, which may look the easy and quick solution, it is wise to take a broader perspective. It may not be the right solution for enterprises like yours that need a secure file sharing solution with comprehensive end-to-end file security, privacy, control and visibility.

Here are the reasons why you should look for secure enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) as Dropbox alternative:

Administrative Controls and Security

The level of access control granted by enterprise file sharing isn’t just for business in healthcare, BFSI (Banks, Financial Services and Insurance) and other regulated industries but also important in all business verticals dealing with sensitive data. Encryption of data while in-use, at-rest and in-motion is critical for privacy and security. Control is distinct from security. Dropbox for Business offers limited file security, and even less control over enterprise file sharing.

Information Centric Access Controls - Enterprise Rights Management and Mobile Content Management

It’s fairly easy to control information as it moves through your corporate network. But maintaining control of your data once it leaves you network or when used by employees on un-managed devices (like BYOD or Bring-Your-Own-Device) is another story.

Hence you need information-centric protection such that the security travels along with the information as it moves across endpoints, across networks and across users (including with people outside the organization). This effectively means that a file always travels within a security envelope that can only be opened by authorized users, from an authorized device and from authorized locations based on access rights defined by the corporate IT and the owner of the file. This is information-centric (aka data-centric or content-centric) approach that emphasizes the security of the information itself rather than the security of networks, applications or devices.

With access control features such as enterprise digital rights management (eDRM aka Information Rights Management or IRM) and mobile content management (MCM), IT departments can define granular access control over corporate information. For example, let’s say you’re working with a third party and need to share a document with them. While this document could be relevant today, or even this week, it might not be the kind of information you’d want to stay available forever.

By using a file sharing system with robust mobile content management and enterprise rights management features, IT teams can define access rights to company information based on a number of parameters, including how long the shared documents can be accessible, how many times they may be accessed, who may access it and what (edit, copy/paste, print, forward) may be done with it. You’re not going to get advanced controls like enterprise rights management, mobile content management with Dropbox for Business.

End-to-end Encryption

Most file sharing solutions market the use of military-grade encryption to secure corporate files. State-of-the-art encryption techniques are great, but if they only apply it on the server, you’re only getting a portion of the encryption you truly need. Remember, if you’re sending data as plain text across the network to an encrypted server your data is still vulnerable en route. The most comprehensive file sharing solutions offer this same military-grade encryption for data throughout the life cycle - at the source, data at rest and data in motion – ensuring end-to-end security.

Multi-Dimensional Access Rights

IT administrators require robust, granular access rights controls over corporate files. This means managing who can access what files, from where access is granted, how and for how long access is granted, and more. You need to have the complete picture of your user base’s access rights; no holes should exist. This means employing access rights controls such as geo-fencing to control physical regions where file access is granted, as well as IP-fencing to control file access across a range of IP addresses within your network. Defining access rights based on timing might be another necessity for your business. For instance, if you want a file sent to a client for review to expire after one view or seven days, you should have that control.


When it comes to deployment, many Dropbox alternatives are available only from public cloud as Software-as-a- Service (SaaS). Platforms not offering a software license or on-premises option won’t work for IT executives who prefer to have control over everything in-house or to work with a data center of their choice. Moreover, flexible deployments give you options.

Integration with Existing Infrastructure

If you already have invested in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and storage, you should look for a solution that leverages this investment. If you are in security-conscious regulated vertical integration of file sharing and DRM with content-aware data classification may be required for a successful enterprise file security implementation as it ensures that the information that requires highest security is locked down automatically, while information that does not need securing is not touched.

Data Sovereignty / Data Residency

In regions with tight data sovereignty regulations, such as the European Union, data is not permitted in third-party clouds unless it’s encrypted, and the encryption keys aren’t allowed to leave the jurisdiction. This means that most of the EFSS solutions are not even legal.

As more users rely on numerous devices to access and share corporate files from outside the corporate network, having a secure, reliable EFSS platform is essential to maintain access control and enterprise file security.

Dropbox for Business is a poor choice for enterprises operating in highly regulated markets, as well as companies that value complete control over access rights and end-to-end encryption.

So you should seek a secure Dropbox alternative that offers a seamless, user-friendly interface along with robust encryption capabilities, granular access rights control, mobile content management, enterprise digital rights management capabilities and flexible deployment options that you can fine-tune to your unique requirements that may include FTP Replacement, Virtual Data Room, VPN-free anywhere access to file servers/NAS, Outlook attachment replacement and Endpoint Data Protection (endpoint backup, endpoint encryption and remote wiping).

You should also read this blog post  - Why you should consider Dropbox alternatives for enterprise file sharing

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Topics: Mobile Content Management (MCM), Thought Leadership, file security, enterprise file sharing, Enterprise File Sync & Share, Dropbox Alternative, enterprise digital rights management, Shadow-IT, Dropbox Replacement, Enterprise Dropbox

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