Faculty, staff and students on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses as well as Michigan Medicine now have access to Dropbox Team folders with unlimited storage.

Information and Technology Services announced an agreement to offer Dropbox at U-M, a cloud file storage service, in June 2020. The initial rollout included individual Dropbox accounts, which provide five terabytes of data storage for each individual account.

Dropbox Team folders are equivalent to shared accounts in Box or shared drives in Google and make it easier to share and manage content within teams. The ability to easily share large files is especially beneficial to department groups and labs while working remotely.

“I am thrilled to hear about the Team folders — this is exactly the infrastructure that we need,” said Ashwin Shahani, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

Another benefit of using Team folders over individual Dropbox folders is the ease in which account access can be changed and shifted. Because Dropbox Team folders have an MCommunity group that controls the ownership of files, a simple change to the MCommunity group will remove a team member who has left the institution, or add a new team member who is joining the effort. 

“Team Folders help teams save time and effort by syncing files and folders between all team members. They also offer the additional advantage of avoiding stranded files if someone leaves or a new person joins a team,” said Matt Vuocolo, IT operations manager for the School of Dentistry and a member of the Dropbox launch team.

Dropbox individual accounts and Team folders are covered by a Business Associate Agreement, which means they may be used to maintain Protected Health Information regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

HIPAA compliance is a shared responsibility. Members of the U-M community are expected to comply with HIPAA requirements in the use of Dropbox at U-M. Details and a list of sensitive data types permitted for use with Dropbox are included in ITS’ Sensitive Data Guide.

Members of the U-M community can get started using Dropbox Team folders by visiting the Dropbox at U-M web page to request a Team folder. Team folders are created by request for groups, teams or departments, and membership is managed through Mcommunity groups. Files and folders inside a Team folder can be shared externally.

Dropbox at U-M will replace Box as the university’s primary collaborative storage service in December 2021, as a result of increased pricing and limits on storage that are incompatible with the institution’s needs. No action is required by members of the U-M community until early 2021, when U-M plans to launch its Box-to-Dropbox migration plan.

ITS is working with Unit Ambassadors to identify workflows that might be affected by this change, and to develop training material to help faculty, staff and students with the transition from Box into appropriate storage solutions. Additional information can be found on the Box at U-M Retirement project website, where community members can identify their unit’s ambassador and provide feedback.

U-M community members who are interested in preparing for the future could take the following steps:

  • Set up an account in Dropbox and get familiar with the tool.
  • Review existing content stored in Box and delete unnecessary files and remove yourself from files and folders that have been shared with you, but for which access is no longer needed.
  • Visit the new U-M Data Storage Finder tool to learn about additional storage options at U-M.

“Early adoption of Dropbox individual accounts has been great, and with the rollout of Dropbox Team folders, we expect that trend to continue,” said Robert Jones, executive director of ITS support services. “As always, we appreciate the partnership of IT staff in units as we roll out Dropbox and help ensure that the university’s collaborative storage services enable our community to do amazing things.”

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