This article is part of a series on choosing the right iPad app for your company. Depending on where you are in the process, we recommend starting with Why companies deploy iPads? or the Guide to Launching iPads; two free ebooks that will get you primed and ready.
Have you found yourself wavering between Dropbox for Business and the Box iPad App as the most worthy iPad business collaboration tool?
‘Way back’ in 2010, sharing and maintaining files, while convenient at the office, was limited to insecure email attachments and your ability to remember your flash drive on the road. The iPad, along with cloud-storage apps like Dropbox and Box Inc. (formerly Box.net), have revolutionized collaboration tools, and file-sharing, making it easier to update files and collaborate with on-the-go employees on the fly.
One question we continually get from companies considering the FatStax mobile platform is, “How do you compare with Box iPad App or Dropbox for iPad?”
or, “We already have Box Enterprise, why do we need an iPad sales app?”
Both Box for iPad and Dropbox are largely viewed and designed as collaboration apps or file-sharing apps. Since we use both Box iPad App and Dropbox in our business, we’ll review both so you can decide which is best for your team’s iPad needs. In case you missed it, you may want to see Showpad vs. Digital Sales Aid.
You should know that we spent a good deal of time researching features from both companies that was worth mentioned, in our opinion. Everything presented below was gathered from online publicly available resources. Although not our intention, we may have missed some key information. We encourage anyone who has used these applications or works for these companies to let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the post.
Dropbox is a file-hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc., that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software. Box Inc. describes itself as an online file-sharing and cloud content management service for enterprise companies.
Here are a couple of overview videos in case you aren’t familiar with these two companies.
Both offer a ‘freemium’ business model that includes a free account with a set storage size or paid subscriptions for more capacity.
For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll focus on Dropbox for Business App and Box iPad app as iPad business tools (Dropbox for Business; Box Business and Box Enterprise, respectively).
Dropbox iPad App Overview
Dropbox started off as a B2C company that grew virally via word-of-mouth. This is not to discount Dropbox’s B2B offering of drag and drop sync and ease of sharing, as there is a definite need for this simpler approach for smaller businesses. As mentioned before, we use Dropbox and love it as a file sharing tool.
The interface of the Dropbox iPad App is Apple Standard: Folders on the left in landscape or Drop down menu in portrait. The folder system exactly mirrors the folders your company has invited you to join. Within the folders are the files for which you have access.
To open a file on their iPads, business users at your company will need to tap the file and the document will downloaded from the Dropbox server.
Viewing files offline (no WiFi connection) can be critical for business applications, so it’s important to note that files are not available offline until they are synced to the iPad. With Dropbox, there are two methods to sync the file to the iPad for offline viewing.
1. “Star” – Tapping the star icon on the top of the app will instruct Dropbox to sync the file and store it permanently in the Starred items folder for offline viewing within the Dropbox App.
2. “Open In” – This feature allows the user to open the file in another app, (e.g., iAnnotate). Once files are transferred and opened in the other app, they are available offline. This feature can cause version-confusion issues for individuals as files build up in apps, so companies will need to constantly monitor users and remind them to update brochures and presentations.
Box iPad App Overview:
Box Inc. started off as a B2B company, and as such, has a more solidified approach to the business aspects needed in cloud storage.
Like Dropbox, Box iPad App allows for syncing from iPad and computer, in addition to linking to files for users outside of your network. And for those all-too-common moments when you’re out of a cellular or wifi network, by “favoriting” a file you can view them offline on your iPad.
Collaborating on projects across town or time zones can get confusing, so like Dropbox, Box iPad App has version history tracking in case you need to retrieve an older file.
Box iPad App shines when it comes to collaborating and content management. Taking a page from Basecamp, Box allows users to work, edit, update and comment in a single workspace, and subsequently email notifications to all relevant users of the changes. This means by using both proprietary and partner apps, you can edit on the iPad within the workspace of the Box iPad App.
Dropbox vs Box iPad App Business Considerations
So now that we have the basics down, let’s focus on some features that may impact your business decision. Since these apps are largely going to be used for collaboration on files, we want to highlight the following areas:
- Maximum file upload size
- App Integration with existing business systems
Maximum File Upload Size
Maximum file size is important for businesses, especially those using videos and larger image files. The last thing you want to do is resort to emailing giant files to field reps’ iPads.
For Dropbox, there are no file size limits when uploading through the desktop or mobile applications. However, you probably want to make sure your iPad is on WiFi and not cellular if you’re trying upload or sync a really large file. You don’t want to use your whole data package for the month! One caveat is, if you are on the Dropbox website or web-browser version you are limited to 300MB uploads.
Box Inc. is limited to 2GB for Business and 5GB for Enterprise for upload size. To put that in perspective, the entire Beatles music collection is not 5GB, so that’s a lot of data.
Both Dropbox and Box iPad App include extensive administrative options, including, but not limited to, single and group permissions for folder and links. While Box iPad App has offered Single Sign-on (SSO) for a while, Dropbox recently announced SSO inclusion on the Dropbox for Business accounts. The SSO feature allows the user to sign in once to a central identity provider (eg. Active Directory via Okta, Ping Identity, OneLogin, etc.) and securely access their business apps on the iPad, creating an easier login process for the user and better overall maintenance and security. Additionally, both companies offer two-step verification for an added layer of security.
Dropbox and Box Enterprise encrypt information using 256-bit AES, both in transit and on their respective servers. While beneficial, a possible concern is that both have the ability to decrypt all files on their servers. So, if a file is of extreme confidentiality, use encryption software prior to uploading.
***It’s important to note that files that are synced to the Dropbox or Box iPad App are not encrypted or protected. The best practice for protecting files on your company’s iPads is still via a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution or iPad remote wipe functionality through your IT department.
App integration to existing business systems will typically be a requirement as your team gets more familiar with iPads. Examples might include syncing files from SharePoint to Dropbox to an iPad, or capturing data in your CRM.
App integration will come into play at two levels:
1. On the iPad – moving files between apps to edit them. Both companies provide Open In features to “talk” to compatible iPad apps. Some apps that are available to both Dropbox and Box include GoodReader, iAnnotate, and QuickOffice. On a deeper level, Box has a special integration with CloudOn and Notability that users can instantly sync changes back to file folders in the Box App.
2. In the Cloud – Moving files into and out of existing business systems like Marketo or Salesforce.
Box Inc. offers direct integration with many standard business platforms including Salesforce.com, Google Apps (Docs), NetSuite, and Jive, among others. Interestingly, Box and Salesforce recently announced a tighter partnership that is worth noting if you are a salesforce.com fan.
At the time of this article, Dropbox does not offer direct integration with Salesforce.com and Google Apps, but several apps on AppExchange can help you do the trick. This is not to take away from the vast list of compatible—and savvy—apps for Dropbox, but if CRM is at the top of your list for your sales needs, Box Inc. appears to have more direct options.
Dropbox for Business Pricing and Packages
Dropbox for Business offers annual plans starting at $795 for five users (averaging $13 / month) up to $31,430 for 250 users (averaging $10.50 / month), with an option for adding more. As for storage, they offer ‘as much as you need.’ The Dropbox iPad app is included with their business services or is free to download from the Apple App Store.
Box iPad App Pricing and Packages
Box Inc., on the other hand, with its two tiered business options, offers a wider range depending on your company needs. The Business option starts at $15 / month per for 3-500 users, with a max storage of 1,000GB. The Enterprise option offers unlimited users and unlimited storage (pricing not available online). The iPad app is included with their business services or is free to download.
The iPad—and its place in the mobile business world—will continue to evolve. In fact, we have a great strategy guide for launching iPads to your reps in the field that is definitely worth a read. Along the way, there will be both ‘killer and killed’ apps, and there even might be a competitor that comes along to challenge the iPad itself. Right now, we think Dropbox and the Box iPad App are both examples of great cloud storage and collaboration apps for general business use. They can be used successfully along side other specific business apps for sales, marketing, support, and other business departments. Are they sales apps? I’m not quite sure…
As a B2C and SMB option, Dropbox will likely be the choice with its ease of file-sharing and syncing. If, however, you need a more robust management system and collaboration tools for an on-the-go team complete with client-facing options, Box iPad App might be the better fit.
Hopefully, for all of our readers, doing your homework will lead to a productive iPad enterprise mobility project for your company’s teams.