Silicon Labs switched from on-premises file servers to Dropbox for the majority of its document storage in 2013, and the launch of a new 'team folders' feature will allow the company to move even further towards the cloud.
Silicon Labs CIO Everett Plante tells Computerworld UK: "Before, Dropbox folders were tied to the employee, but with team folders we were excited by its mirroring the access rights and controls you have with on-prem systems."
Silicon Labs is a fabless semiconductor company headquartered in Austin, Texas. It focuses on designing silicon, software and tools for the Internet of Things (IoT). This business model places intellectual property at the heart of what the company does, so secure collaboration and document storage are of massive importance.
Team folders give admins more granular controls – who can be invited, who can manage access, whether links can be shared externally – when it comes to who can access what in folders that are owned by the business, not the individual employee.
Senior product manager at Dropbox, Marcio von Muhlen, gave Computerworld UK an example: "Imagine a marketing team using a folder. They will have sub-folders with projects for internal or external sharing, and with these permissions they can have all content in the team folder and only share relevant content with collaborators."
Plante can now integrate the folders with their in-house Active Directory, meaning access controls are automated as people move from department to department.
With these new controls comes a new level of confidence for Plante. "Our goal and strategy now is to move more into the cloud with Dropbox," he explains. "It will never be 100 percent because we have intellectual property and sensitive information that we are worried about access rights to. But 80 percent of documents and departmental files will all be migrating to Dropbox."
Plante says he decided to opt for Dropbox for file storage and collaboration, instead of say Microsoft or Box, because it "flat out works".
He says that adoption among the 600 or so engineers Silicon Labs employs was a non-issue and "if we had gone with a more cumbersome system [the engineers] would have just worked around it."
By getting all staff on the same system his team can keep files more secure. He explains: "We felt it was something we could get our heads around with security and admin and we could enforce via policy that it was the corporate sanctioned file source system and we could restrict employees from storing Silicon Labs data anywhere else."
Aside from team folders, Dropbox has launched a raft of improvements to its enterprise-level file sharing and collaboration tool aimed at IT administrators, which it calls AdminX.
Other changes include more granular file event logging, down to individual edits, additions and deletions, which can be filtered into an admin log. Now admins can manage membership down to sub-folder level to ensure that people inside and outside the company can only access specific folders.
Device management has also changed so that IT can limit the number of linked devices an employee can have for work documents. This capability is built to complement, not compete with, existing enterprise mobility management (EMM) offerings.
And new sync management lets admins control which content automatically syncs to save hard drive space.
However, where team folders do "IT 101 for us" the killer Dropbox feature Silicon Labs is looking at is Project Infinity, announced in April this year.
This feature promises a means for accessing all of your files, whether stored locally or in the Dropbox cloud, from Windows File Explorer (Windows 7 backwards compatible) or Mac OS X Finder without the lag of a network drive.
In practice this means files saved locally will display with the familiar green tick and files stored in Dropbox will appear alongside but with a grey cloud symbol. Your computer will simply download these files when you need to access them.
"Infinite is huge, with the ability to traverse the metadata about files and folders without having all of that replicated to your local hard drive," Plante says. "It is incredible the time people are clicking through structures and searching for the file they want and they aren't really accessing files. So to make that experience quick is huge."
AdminX features are currently available on a permission-only basis and will be rolled out gradually throughout the year.