biix vs. Dropbox

How is biix different from Dropbox and similar services?

We were using Dropbox ourselves when we first rolled out biix in 2009. What made us go to all the trouble? What made us switch?

First of all, it’s probably not proper for us to use the word “switch”, because that term implies we went from one service to another similar service. It makes it seem as though we gave up Dropbox in favor of Box or Google Drive or MS OneDrive. And by the way, we’ve tried them all, including ProCore and Amazon.

1. Is there a difference?

Yes.

Of course, we all know that comparison charts can be stacked to favor an answer. In this case, we haven’t tried to do that. The truth is, each product has its advantages.

To be candid, we wouldn’t have given up some of Dropbox’s advantages unless there was a good reason.

And did we mention, we still integrate with Dropbox? That’s right, we do.

2. Storage and Users

We like the idea of having unlimited user accessibility and storage. Many file sharing services restrict how many seats or users you can have. You want more? You’ll get bumped up to more expensive plans.

No seat restriction

We host hundreds of projects. Some of them have dozens of members. Project members are varied, but because we have no restrictions it is easy for us to include a large crowd:

  • Owners
  • Designers and Consultants
  • Contractors
  • Facility Operators

Similarly, we have unrestricted file sizes. Projects can quickly grow to 5, 10 or 20+ gigs. We don’t want capacity to be an issue with our users. That’s why we offer unlimited storage.

3. Standardized Organization

This is a far bigger deal than it may seem at first glance.

The problem

Everyone organizes file structures differently. Person A, for example, may even organize their files completely different when moving from Project 1 to Project 2.

Document organization is usually left to one person’s imagination, or it becomes some form of ad-hoc group-think where many different hands start grabbing the file-structure steering wheel.

As we uncovered over and over again, the consequence of self-determined file organization — when it comes to managing information in buildings — is that it quickly becomes counter-intuitive.

So what do you do?

We knew we needed to organize information consistently and intuitively. So we not only standardized, but we also started employing document tags. Tags allow yet another way to search for your information.

Tags help bring structure to the madness. But as you’ll see below, in the Section 4 Category illustration, there’s more. We also categorized information/document files using seven (7) major steps in a building’s life cycle, starting with Design and Construction.

4. More Features

Dropbox focuses on cloud-based storage, while also specializing in synchronization with local files on your computer.

We wanted more. We wanted a platform that could actually manage information. We also knew that if we wanted to actually manage, then we would need some additional tools.

For example, if you’re trying to determine if someone has provided a critical document, it would help to have a dashboard view that indicated if the folder was empty or full. That’s a far faster checks-and-balances than having to open folder after folder after folder.

The Categories illustration depicts that the example project has 139 files. If we look more closely, we can see that 1.A and 1.B have both been populated with critical design documents. One each. And its clearly very easy to see which document folders are empty — they indicate a zero (0).

This is the kind of advantage that really helps speed up our day. But we wanted other management tools, too: task lists (Issues Logs), messaging and notes. biix does all of that and more.

5. Task Lists/Issues Logs

When managing information, we started to realize that information on the scale of buildings needed to be treated like a project. And project managers need tools.

We wanted to be able to assign tasks to the design, construction or facility teams when we were coming up short on information.

Our task lists are customizable. You can have as many lists and as many issues on each list as you want. Each issue or task is assignable to one or more people. You can even determine pre-requisites, attach files, assign due dates and establish priority levels.

Task list provides guidance for the closeout documentation commissioning requirements.

There’s much more. For example, if someone owes you 10 documents, but they have provided five so far (5/10), you can indicate that their task progress is 50% complete. We think this is far better than the issue simply showing up as OPEN, because with ‘percent complete’ the task is empowered to provide team members with credit for partial progress.

6. Multiple ways to search

Search is often only as good as the file name. But what if the file name is something like “18–0219-ADfr13m”? It can be impossible to find your content unless you start opening up file after file, which can become a terrible time-drain. If, however, that mystery document is assigned to an asset - let’s say a generator — then our challenge becomes far easier: while its name may remain a mystery, its association is clear.

Dropbox doesn’t organize by assets. biix does

Let’s say we tagged our mystery document with a tag called “ePower”. Again, our search challenge would become easier through association.

Or, let’s say our Building Guru virtual tour had the mystery document associated with the generator. As you tour the building and spot the generator, then once you tap on the generator all the generator-related information would populate. Including our mystery document.

7. There’s no Us vs. Them

We still like Dropbox. If you look at the screenshot closely, you can see the Dropbox integration button in the top right corner.

Click on the Dropbox button, and it opens a pop-up screen, as shown.

Notice how the pop-up depicts that we’ve organized our Dropbox parent files similar to biix Categories. Scroll up to Section 4 of this article and you’ll see the similarity. This is an example of standardized file structure.

We’ve standardized intuitively, using the building life cycle and asset association as our two main organizing principles

8. biix does things Dropbox wasn’t designed to do

We’re not saying you can’t make Dropbox work. But to be clear, for all of its value, there are things that Dropbox is not designed to do. For example,

  1. Dropbox was not designed for buildings. It was designed for users and teams to store documents in the cloud.
  2. Dropbox was not designed for unlimited users.
  3. Dropbox was not designed for unlimited storage.
  4. Dropbox was not designed for multiple ways to search.
  5. Dropbox was not designed for tags.
  6. Dropbox was not designed for integration with biix smartTags.
  7. Dropbox was not designed for biix Building Guru virtual tours.
  8. Dropbox was not designed to show display how many files are present in a folder.
  9. Dropbox was not designed to manage information, utilizing management tools.

A real-life example

Finding information in a building can be very time-consuming. Let’s look at a real-life example.

How do you find information in a building?
John is a building engineer. He handles many calls every day. One of them sends him up to the roof to examine a rooftop air handler that’s not performing. Once up there, he realizes he needs some documentation to help him troubleshoot. He climbs back down the roof hatch, grabs an elevator, and makes his way down to his basement office. Once there, he has no idea where to find the troubleshooting manual. Thus begins an effort that may take 1–4 hours of searching building records and/or getting on Google.
But if John had biix, once on the roof he would pull out his mobile device, click on the Category called Assets, scroll down to Rooftop Air Handlers, and immediately locate the Operations & Maintenance manual.

biix Documentation Management guidelines