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Dropbox’s Ease Of Use Is ‘Essential’ To Attracting More UK Businesses

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Dropbox pins hopes on usability to expand European business, arguing it will make companies more secure and productive if employees actually want to use it

Dropbox believes that making its cloud platform as easy to use as possible will help it sign up more European businesses as customers.

The company held its first European customer event in London this week and claims that since it opened its office in the capital 18 months ago, business has grown tenfold. In three weeks’ time, it will move to larger premises to accommodate the growth.

“I’ve never seen a company grow like this,” claimed Mark Van der Linden, Dropbox’s UK country manager, who joined the company from Google where he performed a similar role.

European expansion

Mark van der Linden DropboxDropbox has 500 million users, of which eight million have taken the product into their workplace, and 150,000 paying business customers. This employee advocacy is instrumental for Dropbox’s growth prospects.

More people using its free service means the more likely a company will sign up for the business edition, especially in the large enterprises Dropbox is targeting. And with Europe a key market, the firm is investing more and more this side of the Atlantic.

“More than one quarter of our users are outside the US and 40 percent are in Europe,” added Dennis Woodside, Dropbox COO, “It’s really important for us to invest in Europe, our teams here and our products here.”

“We started with one office in Dublin in 2013 and added London and Paris [afterwards],” added Geraldine MacCarthy, head of Dropbox for Business in Europe. “We now have six offices across Europe in sales, marketing and engineering. That’s helping us get closer to you.”

Network effect

Dropbox Windows 10 3Woodside said half of the Fortune 500 is using Dropbox and this trend was being replicated in the UK. More than a third of the FTSE 100 companies are now customers. Larger firms have more employees, partners and suppliers meaning that the maximum benefit of Dropbox can only be realised if as many people as possible are using it internally and externally.

End user experience is the “foundation”, he argued, because people will instinctively use technology that saves them time, causing their employers to react and adapt. He cited Windows 95, Microsoft Excel and the iPhone as but three examples.

“Dropbox started off as file storage, it’s now about collaboration around these files and that’s what we’re taking into business, “he continued. “We integrate with apps people use in everyday life. We have integrations with Adobe and Office to make opening and saving files easier.

“Dropbox is only tech player that invests equally in end user and in IT. That’s because we believe end user experience is the way to improve security and productivity of your team.

Customer view

Naturally, being a customer event, Dropbox had someone on hand to illustrate its point.

“What we wanted was something people would really enjoy using. I can’t stress that point enough,” said Dominic Shine, global CIO of News Corp, parent company of The Times, The Sun and a number of other publications and publishers.

“It needs to be secure, scalable and cost effective but needs to be easy to use. If people choose something they’d use in their everyday lives, it’s going to work.

“We’ve given to all 25,000 people across the group. We’re seeing really great adoption and we have 100TB of data on their now.”

Shine said Dropbox was used for everything from content creation and managing advertising to designing book jackets.

Consumer transition

Dropbox LondonBut this user advocacy is hardly a unique strategy. Offering free storage to consumers in the hope they will influence their employers is a tactic employed by Box, while Facebook at Work and Skype for Business are other examples.

Jive Software, which offers collaboration tools, is unconvinced that ‘consumer’ services can make the jump into the business market.

“Enterprises require really strong enterprise identity, security and protection. Transcending a consumer app into the business market is tough,” Jive CEO Elise Steele said at JiveWorld earlier this year.

Dropbox is adamant this is not the case. It argues that making something easy to use actually makes companies more secure because employees will actually use it, subjecting them to policies and security measures, instead of resorting to shadow IT.

“Our belief is that by embracing end users and getting that adoption quickly, it enhances your ability to create secure environment because people are actually using [Dropbox],” said Woodside, who added that numerous tools were made available to admins to protect their networks.

“It’s important for us to enable IT to offer a secure environment. Dropbox already encrypts data at rest and in transit. We’ve taken the best in class approach to security but the chances are that if you have a security solution, we support it.”

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