In a recent episode of AvePoint’s "Shift Happens" podcast, author Ray Wang mentioned how modern technology is partly responsible for the success of remote work. And indeed, the rise of collaboration apps and the disappearance of isolated platforms have shaped the way companies implement the new hybrid work model.
Collaboration tools have evolved. While they used to enable simple file sharing or communication, they are now dynamic tools that combine communication, easy and secure file sharing, and collaborative working.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the two collaboration platforms popular with users and find out how your business can benefit from both of them.
Microsoft 365 vs. Dropbox
Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based suite of services tailored to the business needs of enterprises. It offers several applications that allow business users to collaborate, communicate and securely create and store data.
Microsoft’s solutions offer flexibility for teams to work together. The integration of applications in the Microsoft 365 suite and other third-party solutions has enabled better collaboration in the cloud workspace.
In this blog post, we’ll focus on the three main collaboration platforms in the Microsoft 365 suite: OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
Dropbox, on the other hand, is a cloud-based synchronization and storage tool that allows team members to store, access, sync, and share their data with each other. Dropbox provides secure storage and file sharing solutions, and has since begun to evolve from a simple storage tool to a collaboration platform through the addition of integrations.
To have a better basis for comparison between the two platforms, we assess them based on four key considerations: Collaboration and productivity, storage capabilities, data security and integrations.
1. Collaboration and productivity
Collaboration and productivity go hand in hand. A space where a team can seamlessly collaborate while allowing users to focus on their individual tasks is important.
In recent years, there has been a shift in the world of digital collaboration – from using isolated communication apps to platforms with integrated communication and collaboration. This change is best seen in Microsoft Teams.
Channels such as chats, calls, and even screen sharing for demos and trainings are available for communication, files are shared in real time, and documents are edited together – all without having to switch from one app to another to do so. Because of the tight link with SharePoint and OneDrive, files (Office documents such as Word and Excel files) can be accessed and edited in the Teams app without leaving the platform.
Teams and channels can be created to prevent sprawl, allowing different departments or project teams to seamlessly communicate and share files easily. Project management is not only facilitated by the features mentioned above. To-do lists, calendars, and new apps such as the brainstorming tool Whiteboard, and Viva, which focuses on employee experience and user productivity, also contribute here.
Since the creation of a team is automatically accompanied by the creation of an associated Office group and SharePoint site, all files are spontaneously stored in SharePoint in a structured way. So you don’t have to buy third-party storage and can conveniently share files and folders. A share link is quickly created and can be shared with one or more users via a Teams chat or directly via email.
Finally, SharePoint can serve as your intranet, giving your users access to all company resources as well as internal news and announcements – all without going directly through Teams!
While Dropbox is primarily a storage solution, it now offers tools that allow teams to collaborate in real-time. With Dropbox Paper, team members can easily collaborate, edit, and brainstorm in a single document.
There are several templates – from meeting minutes to brainstorming sessions to to-do lists – that you can use for both projects and individual tasks. Content and social media calendars are also available.
Team collaboration can be enriched with the following features:
- Shared folders: Create a folder and invite team members to it. Any member can add files, share content and create to-do lists. All content is synchronized with the files of the other team members.
- Groups: Create groups, add members, and then link the group to a shared folder.
In terms of file sharing, Dropbox ensures the smooth exchange of content with convenient workflows. From small content like individual documents to larger content like CAD and video files, Dropbox Transfer makes sharing links easy.
Unstructured files almost always hinder productivity and in some cases even compromise data security. In addition to storage, flexible file management must be included in the offering to help the entire organization work more smoothly in the cloud.
In the context of storage space, let’s also look at how each platform enables backups and restore features.
Microsoft offers different plans with different storage quotas. With most subscriptions, each user has 1TB of OneDrive storage by default. This can be increased to 5 TB depending on the tariff and number of users.
The storage space available for team files can be seen in the following table from a Microsoft documentation:
In addition, the individual apps in the Microsoft 365 suite offer different options for backing up and restoring data:
- SharePointDeleted native SharePoint files are kept in the Recycle Bin for 93 days, and can be recovered within that time period before being permanently deleted.
- Data stored in SharePoint from other apps: Data from other apps integrated with SharePoint, such as Microsoft Teams, Stream, and Yammer, is stored for 30 days before being permanently deleted.
- OneDrive: Work and school accounts have a retention period of 93 days, while personal accounts have 30 days.
For more details on retention in Microsoft 365, see this blog post.
In terms of folder structures and organization systems, SharePoint has sites and subsites that can be set for each department, team or project. Within these sites and subsites, there are folders and subfolders for better file structuring (OneDrive also works with folders and subfolders). Individual files also have metadata that helps users better understand a document without having to open it.
Using these features, teams can get to work immediately and avoid the time spent searching for specific files.
Originally, Dropbox offered 5 TB of storage for both the Standard and Advanced plan. Now Dropbox has increased the storage for the Advanced plan to unlimited. Once the 5TB storage cap is reached, teams can now contact Dropbox to request additional storage space.
Dropbox backs up all your individual files and previous file versions for up to 180 days by default (for business users). This is done via Dropbox’s Delta Sync feature, which syncs and backs up your files incrementally.
Files can be deleted from dropbox via the "Deleted Files" page.com or restore with Dropbox Rewind. The latter gives you the ability to select a restore time for an entire folder or your entire Dropbox account in case of malware incidents or downtime.
In addition, Dropbox offers some storage saving features:
- Smart SyncDropbox automatically stores all your files online to help you save space on your computer. Simply download the files you want to use offline.
- Selective sync: Determine which files you want to store online or offline.
While SharePoint is structured by sites and subsites, then folders and files, then metadata, Dropbox generally leaves it at structured folders and subfolders that can be divided by teams, departments or projects.
3. Data security
File sharing is convenient and boosts productivity. Nevertheless, appropriate measures should be taken to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive and business-critical content.
Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure plays a big role in securing data across the Microsoft 365 suite, including Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint and all the other related and integrated applications. Cloud applications are regularly audited for compliance with standards such as ISO, HIPAA, FedRAMP and SOC.
An underlying layer of protection called "Microsoft Information Protection" is leveraged via security apps like Data Loss Protection to allow administrators to proactively monitor and protect sensitive data. Access controls, guest and external sharing settings, identity authentication, and privacy security settings can be regulated, ensuring overall enterprise security.
Granular controls can also be configured, whether for specific applications, devices or files:
- Permissions: By customizing granular permissions, you can choose to grant access to an entire SharePoint site, just a specific document, or revoke access permission to specific devices.
- Access: In the Admin Center, you can limit sharing settings to people in your organization to ensure secure sharing. Users can also choose the extent to which they want to grant access to other users via share links, whether read-only or with permission to edit.
OneDrive also has features to set expiration dates for links and passwords so that personal files can be shared securely.
Dropbox provides multiple layers of protection in a distributed, reliable cloud infrastructure, and also adheres to international regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.
In terms of secure file sharing, certain access controls are possible:
- Sharing options and controlsRead-only access, passwords, and expiration dates can be set for share links. Disabling of downloads is also possible. Links typically expire after seven days, but the time limit can be extended to 90 days or even a year as long as the link’s target is still accessible.
- Granular file or folder permissionsYou can share specific subfolders or individual files without granting access to the entire folder.
In addition, Dropbox has a remote wipe feature that allows you to delete all Dropbox data on a compromised device. As with Microsoft 365, Dropbox administrators are also given security and access controls to monitor account activity and prevent malicious accounts from logging in.
Finally, Dropbox has a special feature called Vault where sensitive information can be secured. This is a PIN-protected folder in your Dropbox account that you can access at any time and from any device. Unfortunately, this feature is only available for personal Dropbox accounts and not for accounts with a business plan.
As we mentioned earlier, enterprises today prefer comprehensive platforms over isolated solutions. To improve collaboration and business processes in the cloud, integration is critical.
Microsoft has integrated the entire suite not only for collaboration, but also to meet the various business needs of the different departments. Let’s take a look at some notable integrations you can use across Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive:
- Power Platform: Power Automate can be used to automate workflows, Power Apps can be used to create no-code or low-code apps specific to your business that can be viewed in teams, and Power BI can provide valuable insights to drive business value.
- Other apps in the Microsoft suite such as Stream, Sway or Lists
- Third party apps, such as marketing and sales applications like Trello, Zapier, Adobe Creative Cloud and many more
Dropbox has partnered with several other app vendors to make its platform a better collaboration solution. Productivity software, communication tools and email apps like Trello, Zapier, Salesforce, Slack, Gmail, Outlook and Zoom can now be used through your Dropbox account.
Dropbox Extensions, d.h. Third-party integrations that can perform actions such as editing a PDF, signing a document, or editing video content are also available to users of Dropbox’s Basic, Plus, and Professional plans. However, companies with a Dropbox Business license and more than 500 members are advised to reach out to the Dropbox Customer Success team.
While it can be fun to compare Microsoft 365 and Dropbox, one thing is certain: both companies bring different values to the table. While Microsoft is an expert in the industry, Dropbox has just begun to offer an integrated and comprehensive collaboration platform.
You can definitely expect more from both solutions, but thanks to the leadership and innovation Microsoft has demonstrated over decades, the maturity of its platform has helped more companies accelerate their digital transformation than any other vendor in the space.
When looking for the best technology solution that can help you succeed, always analyze the needs of your business and choose a proven technology that will get you where you want to go.
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