Microsoft & Dropbox: A perfect match made in the cloud

Think Progress Team

Wednesday 31 December 2014

In a surprise move, Microsoft and Dropbox have recently joined forces to make working on the go even easier. This new partnership sounds like great news for mobile workers and people who spend a lot of time out of the office. But what does it mean for how your organisation does business? How can you and your employees make the most of these updates?

What’s happening?

Microsoft has announced it’s teaming up with Dropbox to help integrate its file hosting service with Office. The first development will involve new versions of Office for iOS and Android. Before the deal, Dropbox users could only preview Office documents. Now, users of both services will be able to save into Dropbox directly from Office, as well as edit Office documents directly from Dropbox.

If you’re using a mobile device that doesn’t have Office, Dropbox will prompt you to download it (you will need a subscription to Office 365). However, since the deal with Dropbox was announced, Microsoft has also made certain basic editing features in Office free to use. The Office mobile apps are essentially now ‘freemium’ – you get more editing tools and controls for charts and tables, etc., if you upgrade to a paid subscription.

The desktop versions will be updated early in 2015, enabling the same functionality. Editing for Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents will be managed through Microsoft’s Office Web Apps (Office Online), and the documents stored back to Dropbox. Dropbox has also committed to building a Windows Phone version of its app.

Why this is good for your business?

A partnership of this kind wasn’t expected since Microsoft has its own competing cloud storage system, OneDrive. That it should choose to team up with a rival initially came as a surprise. (If you haven’t heard of OneDrive that’s no surprise, on the other hand, as the service has previously been called SkyDrive, Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Folders).

Keeping track of the numerous cloud storage devices around has often been a headache for businesses. Not only can there be compatibility, sync and sharing issues, but each additional service also presents a new security risk for IT departments to manage.

This variety can also complicate things for end users. For example, one party may store their documents in Google Drive and edit in Google Docs, while another may need to access and edit them in Office.

This partnership helps create a single, dominant platform in terms of market share. Dropbox has over 80,000 paying business clients and around 300 million users, with 35 billion Office documents stored on its servers. Meanwhile, more than 1.2 billion people worldwide use Microsoft Office software. If your company uses Office and wants to use a highly popular cloud storage service, you now have that option.

The future

It gets better – there’s more on the way. Dropbox recently announced an API for developers wanting to integrate apps with Dropbox. Partner organisations include Microsoft and IBM. It will enable custom-built Dropbox for Business apps to use some of the more advanced features that aren’t available on the free service.

More importantly, it also integrates with existing enterprise security systems. This will minimise the amount of work for IT administrators.

Dropbox for Business also announced a series of new features a few months ago. As it stands, it seems unlikely that any of these features will be removed as a result of the alignment with Microsoft.

In conclusion, this partnership is so far set to benefit every user. You can synchronise between Office and Dropbox smoothly and seamlessly. You can access and edit your Dropbox documents in Office.

Image: Dropbox blog

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