The file server has been a trusted workhorse for decades. I'm sure many of us can remember our first experience working with a file server at the office. Mine was at Cerner Corporation. Everything was on the file server. Well sort of anyway. Finding stuff on the file server could be tedious and time consuming. Once I found the version of a file I liked, it lived on my hard drive.
The file server has some issues:
- Search is slow and inconsistent
- Remote access is tedious, unreliable, or not configured
- Mobile access is ... well, nonexistent
- Collaboration is nonexistent
Basically the file server is the digital version of the file cabinet and not much else.
A lot has changed in the past 12 months. If you wanted to move your file share to the cloud 6 months ago, I would have reframed the conversation. Why? Because individual PCs have limited hard drive space compared to the file server. Rather than relying on the bulky computer hosting the file server, you wanted to move all your files - or more accurately everyone's files - to your trim MacBook Air or Asus Zenbook. Dropbox does have Selective Sync which can help but was basically retroactive and usually applied once your hard drive was already stuffed. The only option was to suggest a piecemeal approach of replacing parts of the file server. Today we have a more interesting answer!
1. Smart Sync
Smart Sync is a Dropbox feature that helps you save space on your hard drive. Access every file and folder in your Dropbox account from your computer, using virtually no hard drive space. Smart Sync is available for members of Dropbox Business teams. With Smart Sync, you can:
- Choose if individual files or folders are available online-only or locally on your computer
- Select a default sync setting for new files and folders that are shared with you
With Smart Sync, content on your computer is available as either online-only, local, or in mixed state folders.
When you start using Smart Sync:
- there's no change to files already in the Dropbox folder on your computer
- new content is automatically online-only unless you or your team admin chooses otherwise
Long story short, Smart Sync allows you to see all potential company folders and files (that you have permissions to) but will only store locally the content that you actually work with. Genius.
2. Team Folders
When we plan for the replacement of the file server, Dropbox Team Folders provide important functionality with several key features.
- Control collaboration with granular permissions: Enhanced sharing controls let admins manage membership at the team folder or sub-folder level—and grant people inside and outside the company access to only the specific folders they need.
- Centralize content management: With the team folder manager, admins can view all their team folders from a single tab. This makes it easy to customize sharing policies to prevent mis-sharing of confidential materials.
- Manage sync settings at scale: Sync management lets admins control what content automatically syncs to company computers, simplifying onboarding and saving precious hard drive space.
With Team Folders, we can control permissions mapping from the Admin Control Panel. For example, we might have something like this.
The goal of replacing your file share?
Simple. Get more done in less time and create more time for everything else that matters in life.
- Better collaboration and sharing capabilities - inside and outside the company
- Better Search
- Better capabilities on mobile
- Tons of new capabilities
- The Dropbox Badge for Office
- Share content outside the company
- Use Dropbox File Request to easily collect large files
- Use your iPhone to scan paper documents directly into Dropbox
Once the team gets comfortable with the basics of Dropbox you can begin to reimagine many processes and workflows to enhance efficiencies further. Dropbox isn't just a file share in the cloud, it enables a totally new way to work.