Appen and Dropbox for Business

Customer Stories

Appen & Dropbox for Business: Ensuring nothing is lost in translation


Published on July 24, 2014


When it comes to international business, a lot can get lost in translation. Just ask Appen, a global leader in language, search, and social technology.

Appen works in over 150 languages and thousands of dialects, with services ranging from translating and localizing business resources, to developing speech technology, to making voice-overs for GPS systems. To accurately capture speech and text patterns, the Australia-based company sends employees to almost every continent to record hundreds of hours of conversations. Project deadlines are typically very tight, so it’s critical that these recordings get back to the Appen offices as quickly as possible — which can be difficult to do with such a large volume of data.

Appen explored all kinds of options to move their files quickly and securely, from shipping hard drives back and forth to building a custom FTP pipeline. At one point, Appen even resorted to flying employees from the field to the Appen offices to make sure data wasn’t lost or stolen. However, all of these options were slow, difficult, and expensive; some cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Tools we created for copying data all required manual intervention and weren’t terribly reliable,” explains Stephen Norris, Appen’s VP of Operations for Language Resources. “With varying time zones and logistical difficulties, it could take three to four days to coordinate our IT team with teams in the field — which wasted a lot of time.”

When Norris learned that Appen’s business development team had been using Dropbox for Business for large data transfers, he decided to give it a try and roll it out to the entire Language Resources team.

The team soon discovered just how fast and reliable Dropbox sync is, seamlessly syncing terabytes of data regardless of where in the world Appen employees happen to be. And now with the help of streaming sync — which accelerates sync for large files by letting users start downloading a file before the upload has completed— the Appen team can easily transfer hours of recorded conversations from the field to their headquarters in Sydney, without ever having to go to the post office or hop on a plane.

“Dropbox lets us transfer massive amounts of data without anyone really having to get their hands dirty,” says Norris. “Before, people might have to ask if a transfer worked, but now when they look inside folders, they can be certain what they see is up to date.”

Now, with Dropbox for Business, Appen is saving both time and money. Without expedited shipping fees and FTP maintenance fees, the team can focus their resources on keeping their projects moving. “It’s really been an all-around great application,” Norris says. “Trying to coordinate across all [of our] locations with any other solution than Dropbox would be maddening.”

Wondering how Dropbox for Business can help your team work more globally? Sign up for a free trial today!