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With the release of macOS 12.3, enterprise users of products like Dropbox and OneDrive had to be aware of some challenges related to the cloud-based files and the Files Providers API. Unfortunately, with macOS 12.3, Apple deprecated the kernel extension that was being used for this solution. While both companies have plans to resolve the problem, it highlights the need to audit your vendors and workflows continually.
About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.
Dropbox was always a hack, but it worked well
I’ve been using Dropbox for so long that I remember when their only iPhone app was a web app. Dropbox was a revolutionary approach to cloud file storage for personal users when it came on the market. It was head and shoulders better than Apple’s iDisk, and Google Drive wasn’t even a product at that time – it was straightforward: a folder that syncs. Dropbox gave 2GB away for free to every user to convert people to a premium plan. Dropbox was so popular that Apple made them a nine-digit offer back in 2009. Steve Jobs famously called Dropbox a feature and not a product; he was both right and completely wrong. He was right that a folder that syncs was a feature, but Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive would become so entrenched in the enterprise that they became products to build workflows and solutions around.
Dropbox pioneered this model, but others followed – including Apple with iCloud Drive. So today, we have Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, and Box all vying to become your file syncing solution. In addition, cloud storage providers have replaced Shared drives on servers for many organizations. The folder that syncs model became so popular that Apple eventually built an API for it, so it could ensure the user experience was first class.
Finder Sync supports apps that synchronize the contents of a local folder with a remote data source. It improves user experience by providing immediate visual feedback directly in the Finder. Badges display the sync state of each item, and contextual menus let users manage folder contents. Custom toolbar buttons can invoke global actions, such as opening a monitored folder or forcing a sync operation.
Changes with macOS 12.3
With macOS 12.3, Dropbox and OneDrive saw challenges in representing online-only files (ones that are viewable but don’t take up local space). Both companies have responded quickly with updates or alerting, but I came away from this situation pondering vendor selection and what’s local versus what’s in the browser. These products have become very popular in the enterprise, and while it’s nice to have the files locally for quick search, etc. – I think it highlights the benefits versus the risks of what kind of apps you use locally versus what’s in the browser. For organizations that rely on Google Workspace, Google Drive’s Shared Drive has become a popular way to store and share files. However, as companies get larger, it’s not feasible to show all of these files locally on the computer.
My main takeaway from this situation is that while I firmly believe enterprises’ should go all-in on cloud storage, there’s a part of me that thinks the simplicity of letting these products remain entirely in the cloud instead of trying to integrate it within macOS Finder might be a more straightforward solution long term. Dropbox and OneDrive have aggressively built out their web UI, while Google Drive and Box work best in the browser.
What do you think? Do the benefits of Finder integration for file providers in your organization outweigh the complications as Apple evolves macOS? Leave a comment below!
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