With Dropbox Groups, businesses can finally sort folders based on departments

Dropbox is rolling out a new feature called Groups and a related API that should make it easier for businesses to manage all of their content stored in Dropbox, the file-sync-and share company is set to reveal on Thursday.

The new feature is now available for Dropbox for Business customers and was supposedly the most requested feature Dropbox customers — now hovering at over 100,000 businesses — were calling for, explained Dropbox product manager Waseem Daher in an interview.

Groups supposedly lets users create folders that only members of the appropriate group should have access to. The idea is that businesses can set up folders based on their departments and then assign the right staff members to those folders, said Daher. Now, marketing departments can create folders that contain their related documents and only sales and marketing staff should be able to touch them.

If a company hires a new salesperson, that new employee will “just need to be added to the sales group and they will automatically get access to all the content they need for the job,” said Daher. The new Groups interface will supposedly give IT administrators a central hub to manage all those employees in one place, and if a company wants, it can set up group owners with the ability to manage those folders as opposed to only IT staff.

The new Group API that’s also being released is similar to the recently launched Dropbox for Business API in that the API will give developers a chance to create custom applications or modifications to the new Groups feature per the needs of their organizations.

Daher said the biggest feature developers could create with the new API would be a custom integration with their organizations’ active directory, which some IT admins use to keep track of where all their company resources, user data and related items are be located.

Additionally, a bunch of identity-management and security startups — including Okta, OneLogin and Ping Identity — are all working on their own integrations with the new Group API, which makes sense because these startups are aiming to protect companies from rouge employees who may try sneaking into places they shouldn’t be. All of these startups have some sort of integration with active directory as part of their own technology, so the hope is that with the Group API they can just “mirror that right into Dropbox,” said Daher.

The new Groups feature is another example of how Dropbox has been busy morphing from a cloud storage repository into more of a workplace hub, similar to the company’s rival Box.

For these cloud storage startups to grow and court big enterprise clients, they need to show that they have more to offer than just a place to hold documents, as exemplified by the similar file-sync-and-share startup Egnyte moving into the data analytics space.

Egnyte eyes analytics as way to move out of file-sync-and-share

Egnyte wants to be more than just a file-sync-and-share player and hopes to reposition itself as a data management and analytics company. On Tuesday, the Mountain View-based startup will unveil data analytics features that should help users better manage their files and documents.

“The [file-sync-and-share market] is a decent-sized market, but overly crowded,” said Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain. “I believe it will cease to be a category and it will be a feature set.” This statement echoes what Steve Jobs thought of Dropbox, king of the file-sync-and-share startups, way back in 2009.

If it works as advertised, Egnyte’s new Adaptive Enterprise File Services will analyze how users access their storage, whether on-premise or in the cloud, and reveal which documents are downloaded the most and are the most collaborated on. It will also allow users to share documents with other companies in the case that they are working on a joint project, and users should be able to see a full “audit trail” that will let them know if the documents have been downloaded by other parties, Jain explained.

IT administrators now can automatically archive data that hasn’t been touched in a long time, select the appropriate storage mechanism for the type of data being stored and discover who may be doing something suspicious with all that data.

“We can make the recommendation to move to Amazon Glacier, the cheapest storage in the cloud, and do atomic filing, [which] cuts down the cost,” Jain said.

Egnyte EFSS diagram

Egnyte EFSS diagram

Later this year Egnyte plans to roll out automation features that should make it possible for the Egnyte service to provision “the movement of data without humans touching it,” said Jain.

Jain wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly Egnyte’s engineering team is working on to make sure that the service can deliver on what it promises, but he said there’s “a lot of work ahead.” The “biggest challenge” facing Egnyte is making sure that its upcoming automation features scale well for its big clients who may have upwards of 25,000 users, Jain explained.

As the cloud-storage wars taught us, it’s not enough to just offer cheap storage, since the big cloud providers of [company]Google[/company], [company]Amazon[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company] are willing to outdo each other over price. Now, if a company wants to make a name for itself as a storage-service provider, it’s going to be up to the features it delivers to make itself stand out from the pack.

“I want the market space to be the biggest possible to build a company for the long run,” said Jain.

Egnyte is going to have to innovate if it wants to outdo its larger competitors. The company has raised $62.5 Million since its inception that it can use to invest in new features, but that’s not a whole lot of money compared to how much the big guys have.

Box back on track for IPO; valued at roughly $1.5 billion

Box laid out the details of its long-awaited IPO and plans to raise $186.9 million with the company valued at roughly $1.5 billion, the startup detailed in an SEC filing on Friday.

The startup, which plans to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BOX,” will offer 12.5 million shares of its Class A common stock with each share priced between $11 and $13.

The filing also includes Box’s updated financials and user statistics, which the company revised in December. The company claims it has over 32 million registered users and 44,000 paying organizations.

Box took in $153.8 million in revenue for 2014 compared to $85.4 million in 2013 for the nine-month period ending October 31. For that same time period, Box’s net loss shrunk from $125.2 million to $121.5 million.

Here’s a look at some of Box’s numbers per the regulatory file:

Box filing - Jan 9

Box filing – Jan 9

Box cites [company]Citrix[/company], Dropbox, [company]EMC[/company], [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company] as competitors, according to the filing. The filing also states that Box boosted employee headcount from 689 employees in January 2013 to 1,131 employees by the end of October 2014.

Now that the company seems poised for an IPO, all eyes will be on the file-sync-and-share player which has been trying to make a name for itself in the workplace-collaboration space as well with industry specific services and a newly announced workflow-management product line.

Box put off its long-awaited IPO several times last year, first filing to go public in March. When that didn’t pan out, the company decided to take in a $150 million funding round in July. Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie recently told Bloomberg Television that the startup “should not have filed when we did,” citing a “bit of a market correction in the tech-stocks space.”

With [company]New Relic[/company] and [company]Hortonworks[/company] both being examples of enterprise startups taking a stab at the public markets in recent months, it will be worth following up on Box to see how its current IPO plans pan out.

Levie tweeted the following on Friday in response to the IPO plans.

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