Up until nine months ago, approximately 10,000 Expedia staff had been using Dropbox on an individual basis to share files.
Speaking at Dropbox Open in London yesterday, Chris Burgess, VP of IT at Expedia, said that the company has now completed the deployment of Dropbox Business for its entire workforce. Burgess moved these 10,000 accounts over “seamlessly”, enabling central management of accounts by IT staff.
"We have offices around the world and employees collaborating, so they work closely together across locations and use tools like Dropbox to simplify that very easily," said Burgess
Work Your Way
Burgess said that Expedia's vision as a company is to use technology to simplify the travel booking process for customers. This is mirrored by the firm's approach to providing consumer-friendly tools such as Dropbox.
“The corporate IT function is about getting out of the way of employees and allowing them to focus on product and innovating. We use technology to simplify their day at work,” he said.
Part of this strategy is allowing employees to decide which mobile device or laptop they want to use, as part of a project he calls “work your way”.
“We moved our model to give people the choice and just said 'we’ll manage it', so cross-platform solutions [like Dropbox] are critical,” he said.
Allowing employees to use the devices and software they are familiar with has been well-received by Expedia staff, Burgess said. “Working in an IT function you hear when things go wrong, but I’ve had a queue at the door asking for a Dropbox account.”
While Expedia has invested in Dropbox as its main file sharing platform, Burgess told ComputerworldUK that the IT department can be flexible if staff chose other cloud platforms.
“Within reason we allow employees to use the tool they want. We offer choice and understand that Dropbox may not be for everyone, some people may be entrenched with another solution or we may acquire a company which is entrenched in another solution. So we try and simplify what we can by consolidating.”
Another of the benefits of rolling out Dropbox business-wide is the ability to replace on-premise infrastructure. Burgess says his job is now about “consolidation of tools more than anything".
"We are a tech company but we are still fairly young so we don’t have a lot of the legacy infrastructure, but its amazing how much you can acquire even in a short time. So deprecating legacy systems is also a key part,” he said.
The increased security Dropbox has introduced over the past few years has allowed him to decommission an in-house tool for secure file transfer. By giving everyone a Dropbox account: “We were able to get it out of the environment and migrate all of our users [to Dropbox] within fifteen days,” he says.
When it comes to cloud-based solutions for file storage Burgess says Expedia has been looking for solutions for a while, including file storage vendors such as Talon, but: “We don’t want to have lots and lots of point solutions, we want to have one that solves several, and that is a huge benefit from the user’s point of view and from a cost point of view.”
Expedia also spoke about its excitement around the big product announcement of the day at Dropbox's customer event: Project Infinite.
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. As an added bonus you can view the document's key information - such as size and modification dates - with a 'right click' as you would a local file.
As Ben Newhouse the engineering lead for Project Infinite says: “Access to all your Dropbox content from your desktop, regardless of its capacity.”
Project Infinite is only available to a select number of sponsor customers at the moment, with no news on wider availability yet.
Newhouse went on to speak about the benefits: “Rather than build an entire new file system we integrate deeply in the core of the one you already have and make it better. Rock solid reliability and performance while still getting the functionality you are used to.”
Project Infinite: IT benefits
Expedia's Burgess said that Project Infinite has benefits for IT teams as well, particularly around enabling consolidation. He said that Project Infinite is “exciting and it has the possibility to [replace all file share and storage]”.
“Having physical infrastructure in over a hundred offices and having to maintain that infrastructure, and manage complex file systems and permissioning has a cost associated with it," he says.
"So if you can remove the physical side of it, and no longer rely on upgrades, you can focus your time and effort on providing other solutions.”