Is Dropbox vs. Office 365: The Next IT Battleground?


Editor’s note: Follow contributor Mark Fidelman @markfidelman

A big mismatch is looming today between how CIOs view the world and how most employees view the world — and it’s creating an even deeper gap between the two.

For many of today’s employees, IT is the equivalent of the roadblock department in charge of slowing productivity and causing unnecessary headaches. Employees expect instant access to their work-related data and services and data from their personal tablets and smartphones – but, in most cases, IT is unable to support them. In today’s mobile world, employees are not waiting for IT anymore. They are taking matters into their own hands and bypassing IT altogether. That’s dangerous.

In fact, according to a newly released uSamp survey of 500 mobile business users (commissioned by my client four in ten mobile business users happily ignore IT restrictions proclaimed by their slow-moving, draconian IT departments to try out file sharing services such as Dropbox. Its simple experience is a huge draw, and unlike SharePoint, it works just as well on Android and Apple phones as it does on tablets, PCs and Macs. So what’s the issue?

Its infamous security flaws, for one. Ask just about any CIO you know and they’ll tell you that Dropbox is a huge security risk.

In this August 2013 security research report, Dhiru Kholia of Openwall and Przemysław Wegrzyn of CodePainters detail various methods to bypass Dropbox’s authentication, intercept SSL data and use a combination of code injection and ‘monkey patching’ techniques to hijack Dropbox accounts. What’s more, according to the uSamp survey, one in four workers (27%) who shared a document using Dropbox and other unsanctioned cloud services suffered negative repercussions, ranging from lost business to law suits and financial penalties.

That’s a problem.

And it gets worse: 38 percent of respondents to the uSamp survey said that a document shared using an unsanctioned service such as Dropbox reached an unintended recipient in the past 6 months, and 27 percent reported a data breach and negative consequences as a result. So chances are uncomfortably high that if your employees are using Dropbox at their discretion, they’ll make a big – and potentially costly – mistake. Adding insult to injury, SharePoint customers waste nearly $1 billion a year in duplicate Dropbox file sync and sharing services, reports in this infographic :

The High Cost of Mobile Business Users’ Rogue IT Behavior

You can download the full report at

So how can peace between IT professionals and their business users be restored? The de facto Dropbox and SharePoint co-existence solution is an expensive one. Can a clean cut be made? And if so, how?

One obvious solution is to deliver secure, full featured access to Office 365 and SharePoint from corporate-owned and personally owned iOS and Android devices, in addition to Windows. Given Microsoft’s reluctance to offer its prized productivity and collaboration suite directly to customers with multiple operating systems, five MDM vendors – Airwatch, Citrix, Good Technology, MobileIron, and Samsung KNOX – have taken matters into their own hands and offer secure access to Office 365 and SharePoint document collaboration and social features from iOS and Android devices, in partnership with

That’s one potential solution; built-in data encryption for document collaboration is another. What additional mobile security solutions would you like to see over the next two to three years?

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