To cloud skeptics: Don't diss Dropbox

While many IT departments may try to put a stop to Dropbox because of its cloud storage roots, it still provides useful file-transfer services.

Want to know why my company shut off Dropbox access and then turned it back on again a day later? It's a story that's playing out at companies large and small in every industry, across the globe.

Our IT department rarely gets caught up in shiny, new IT products and services, especially anything as flaky as cloud computing. These guys have their hands full keeping everything running and their heads buried in the business of our company. But once in a while, something new comes along that forces everyone to rethink how they're doing things.

Video content has ramped up significantly as one of our products. We're doing everything from two-minute interviews with IT pros at conferences to weekly Web video shows to custom video commercials for our clients. The upside: cool new content and products. The downside: streaming a video file requires an order of magnitude more bits than loading a Web page. As a result, video is hogging our bandwidth.

Last week, this problem hit home when users in the satellite San Francisco office were ready to fling their laptops out the window because the network was crawling along so slowly. Apparently, in two instances over the past week, Dropbox and Spotify pegged the office uplink limit and caused the network to grind to a halt for everyone else. (You kids on Spotify, you're just bad!)

And you Dropbox users … wait. That's a cloud storage and file-sharing thing? "Never mind," was the thinking at TechTarget HQ. "We can't control it." And so they created a new firewall policy in San Francisco to block Dropbox use in our office.

A bunch of email messages flew back and forth about how we use Dropbox, not only for storage but also as a file-transfer service. It beats anything we can install locally, which would be a headache when we need to share and edit video files while on the road. Gone are the days when we would accept a lesser digital experience in one place versus another. We considered a multitude of other options from MiFi cards to paying for more bandwidth for our office to making everyone work from home. Oh wait. Many employees already do that.

The best option won out. IT removed the block on Dropbox, but throttled it down in hopes it won't undermine bandwidth as much as it has in the past. And we got strict instructions not to have things like music, photos and vacation videos on our work computers. Fair enough, though let's see how long that one lasts.

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of SearchCloudComputing.com.

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