One serious drawback to using Dropbox in a business environment is the potential for collisions if users edit the same document simultaneously. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to know if another user has a document open. This limitation is not exclusive to Dropbox, and is found in all synchronization tools including Box.com and Google Drive.
In December, Dropbox released the Dropbox Badge to certain Dropbox for Business accounts. This feature is a result of Dropbox’s partnership with Microsoft. The idea of the Badge is simple. If two or more Dropbox users have the same Microsoft Office document open, the badge will inform all users that others are working on the same document. This feature, available on both PCs and Macs, goes a long way in avoiding collisions.
In addition to warning you if another user has the same file open, the Dropbox Badge offers to incorporate others’ changes into your version. This is where, in our opinion, the Badge overreaches. There is a big difference between open file notification and simultaneous editing. In simultaneous editing, which is available in Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365’s online applications, multiple users can make real-time changes to the same document. This Badge feature is attempting a type of semi-automated collision management. Collision management is tricky, and can easily cause loss of work – we were able to break it easily.
Still, the Badge is a huge step forward for Dropbox, and if used properly, can limit the number of collisions for Microsoft Office documents. It is especially important for distributed teams that don’t have the luxury of yelling across the office.
NOTE: The Badge is still in its early stages of release, so we’re not rolling it out to all our clients yet. If you’re a client that uses Dropbox and want to discuss it further, please reach out to your account manager.