5 smart ideas for using Dropbox in your business

Small businesses often gravitate towards cloud-based storage services, such as Dropbox, because they provide a lot of value – but only if the businesses leverage them to the fullest extent.

So with that in mind, here are five clever ways to use Dropbox in your business.

1. Use Dropbox like a server; promote transparency

Perhaps the most obvious way to use Dropbox in a business environment is as an alternative to a shared server. Especially for small businesses, the cost of a Dropbox Business account can be much lower than buying an in-house server and hiring staff to maintain it.

Using Dropbox like a server, whether that's an FTP server or a shared network with attached storage, allows all employees to get their hands on the same files so they can collaborate and have better version control. It can become a central place to store code-of-conduct manuals, benefits information, and style guides, in addition to the more typical files relating to work that require collaboration.

If your business aims to promote a culture of transparency, making other kinds of business documents available to all employees through Dropbox, such as financial reports and slideshows presented to investors or board members, could be an excellent step in the right direction.

2. Share travel itineraries; keep them offline on mobile devices

Business owners and employees who travel frequently might need to share their itineraries with others in the office. They might rely on another person to book the travel for them. By setting up a folder for travel itineraries, everyone who needs to know the whereabouts or details of a co-worker's travel arrangements has access.

Moreover, using the Dropbox mobile app, the traveller can mark his or her relevant itineraries as "favourites" to make them accessible offline, so they're available even at 30,000 feet. (If you're the person who's responsible for booking someone else's travel, imagine how much simpler this solution might be than emailing the traveller a copy of the itinerary every time she or he can't find it, something that doubtless happens all the time).

3. Collect faxes

Sometimes, to get an idea of how businesses use different software and services, I visit companies and interview them about what they do. Last year, while talking to Vert (a mobile-world savvy marketing and advertising agency), co-founder Kevin Planovsky explained to me how his company collects faxes in a cloud-based storage repository – Vert actually uses Box, rather than Dropbox, but the setup supports either – using HelloFax.

Every time someone sends a fax, HelloFax places the digital output in a designated folder on Dropbox or Box. Vert goes one step further by connecting workplace management tool Podio to the system as well. Each incoming fax automatically creates a task in Podio telling Planovsky and his co-founder to review the transmission.

4. Share media with customers, clients, and partners

One of the huge benefits of using Dropbox is that you can decide, with great flexibility, whether you want to share files with only your internal team, or with customers and collaborators, too. Restaurant websites are where I see external sharing of Dropbox files the most, and they often make their menus available through a public Dropbox link.

Another common way businesses use Dropbox is to collaborate with partners on projects of a particularly visual nature, such as website redesigns. By storing concept art and mock-ups in Dropbox, all the parties involved can view them without having to email large files.

One note: Links for Dropbox Business accounts have a bandwidth limit of 200GB per day. If your account hits the limit, your links are automatically (but only temporarily) suspended. Dropbox says it will notify the Dropbox administrator via email if this problem occurs, but in the meantime, anyone who tries to access the links will see an error page instead of your file.

5. Test job applicants’ skills

Job candidates in certain fields, such as programming and writing, typically take a test during the application process. Why not extend this idea by testing candidates' computer skills and ability to follow instructions by asking them to upload certain documents to one of your folders in Dropbox?

Once a candidate passes an initial screening and is in the interview phase, you can invite him or her to a shared folder and provide instructions on what to upload, such as a CV, writing sample, piece of programming code, artwork, video – you get the idea.

Give your candidates precise instructions for how to name the file, its maximum size, and so forth to see how easily and quickly they can complete the activity. And, if this test mirrors your business' regular practices, the candidate gets an early taste of how the company operates. (I got this idea from an organisation called Nyaya Health. The hiring team uses a similar test for potential staff members, only with the collaboration and task management tool Asana rather than Dropbox).