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Drop Dropbox to optimize online business collaboration

Some new Office 365 customers have asked us for advice on ditching their old consumer Dropbox accounts and using OneDrive For Business as an integrated enterprise-grade shared file collaboration solution for their company. While we have blogged in the past about typical OneDrive For Business and SharePoint Online storage usage scenarios, this is an excellent opportunity to also discuss the advantages of Microsoft Teams when it comes to corporate file sharing and collaboration.

First, let's look at the usage scenario for consumer-focused cloud storage services like Dropbox and how they are different than Microsoft OneDrive For Business. For most people, Dropbox was their first exposure to cloud-based online collaboration and sharing. Anyone could sign up for a free Dropbox account, upload their files (usually personal photos and documents) to an online folder, then share either the specific file or even the whole folder with another person. Because Dropbox was a free consumer service, the storage space, sharing functionality, and security controls were limited—you had to pay if you wanted more space and features.

The benefits of Office 365 integration

Microsoft OneDrive For Business was created to compete with Dropbox but it had the advantage of being integrated into the Office 365 experience. This meant every individual business user of Office 365 would have their own personal cloud-based storage space with all the critical enterprise-focused security and collaboration features that corporate users needed. If you were familiar with how Dropbox worked on the consumer side, then your learning curve with OneDrive For Business would be minimal—and you'd get significantly more storage space than with the free consumer-oriented Dropbox. 

However, the similarity between how consumer-oriented Dropbox works could confound some OneDrive For Business users who wanted to store and share files for group collaboration. It's crucial to understand that OneDrive For Business is cloud-based storage for individual employees; think of OneDrive For Business as your "me" storage at work. When consulting with new Office 365 customers who used the consumer-oriented Dropbox in the past, Amaxra consultants found neophyte users would upload team-oriented files to their OneDrive For Business and then label the folder with a team name (e.g. an "Accounting Team" folder). Working under the assumption that all cloud-based storage is the same, our consultants would often get asked for tips and tricks on how to share files and folders from OneDrive For Business with people outside of their company. But the best method for making this common customer-usage scenario painless and secure is to use SharePoint—which you should think of as your "we" storage for business teams at work. 

You can share folders and files internally or externally via SharePoint with far more control and compliance than with OneDrive For Business. A key advantage using SharePoint instead of OneDrive For Business to share folders and files is the integration of SharePoint Online with Office 365 Groups. Using Office 365 Groups, an employee can choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and then easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. By assigning specific people to an Office 365 Group, it's simple to securely share repeatedly-used online resources such as a SharePoint document library for collaborating on files. When a SharePoint folder is shared via an Office 365 Group, it's easy for the owner of the SharePoint folder to add users to that Group, and even files store on their individual OneDrive For Business to that Group. Individual users can then view and collaborate with shared files in the Group when they are online. When internet access is unavailable, users can work on the shared Group files offline and then synchronize the changes later once connectivity is restored.\ 

Collaboration in the cloud with Teams

To maximize your productivity, Amaxra has found that the easiest way to share and collaborate with cloud-based files and folders is using Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is an app that acts as the hub for teamwork in Office 365. When you use the Teams app to create a new Team, it also automatically creates an Office 365 Group and SharePoint subsite to store documents for your new Team. Just create a Team and add collaborators either inside or outside your organization. Those collaborators then have a secure shared folder along with all the other Teams features such as chat, channels, and meetings. It is very organized and saves you a lot of time to get the collaboration going quicker. Most importantly, with Teams your users don't have to understand about Office 365 Groups or SharePoint sites. Your collaborators will see a shared documents tab on their personal Team hub.

While on the subject of Teams and collaboration, it's important to reiterate the point that OneDrive For Business is designed for "me" file storage rather than "we" group file collaboration. This is an important point because it is possible to use OneDrive For Business just like Dropbox; configuring an "Accounting Team" folder then sharing all the files in that folder with the entire team. But the reason you don't want to do that is because OneDrive For Business folders are tied to each employee. When an employee leaves, the folders in their OneDrive For Business are eventually deleted off the cloud unless you have stringent (and sometimes costly) file retention policies at your company. By using "me" storage for "we" files, any important folders and files shared by that particular employee are gone once they leave the company.

Figuring out where you store your company's files in the cloud and how they are best used to collaborate does not have to be burden.

Contact us at licensing@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 for a no-obligation consultation on how we can help you get more value from your software investment.

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