- Great user interface
- Extensive monitoring
- File synchronization
- User role management
- Quite expensive
- Free account very basic
Box.com is probably the best service that combines online storage with collaboration, file sharing, and synchronization. It is clearly aimed at business users, but also offers a free plan. If you need to manage and monitor your team’s tasks and files, you should definately give Box a try by testing it out for 14 days completely free.
Who is Box.com for?
Box is obviously aimed at business users or people who frequently work in groups on larger projects. Sure, they have a free plan that offers 5GB of free storage, but it comes with limitations. If you are willing to pay for the business version you can do a lot of things with your box.com account: For example file sharing and syncing, live collaboration with team mates and the ability to comment on the uploaded files. If you just started using box.com you might be a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of features, but its clean and well thought out user interface should help you get along just fine. If you don’t, well, just watch my videos — I’m sure they’ll help you through!
Get a free 14 day trialActivate Offer
Box.com (formerly known as box.net) launched its services back in 2005 based on desire to make file sharing and collaboration among teams easier and more accessible. Its founders are two well-known tech guys (Aaron Levie (CEO) and Dylan Smith (CFO)) who recently managed to secure 45m dollars in venture capital for Box. This points out the huge potential that lies in file sharing and collaboration tools for SMB. One of Box’s main advantages is its ability to make use of so-called apps which integrate into the whole Box experience. That way you can use Box with Google Docs, Zoho project management and other services seemlessly.
In this Box.com review I’ll have a look at whether or not the steep price is worth the features, and if all of those features work smoothly.
Sign up, plans and pricing
While Box is clearly aimed towards business use, there is also an interesting free plan available called the Personal plan. That is the only plan a “personal” user can choose, as an upgrade would make you a Business or Enterprise user. There are no paid plans for personal users, but the free plan gives you plenty of options to try the service out, and you’ll enjoy the same benefits that you might be used to if you are a Dropbox user. Except that while Dropbox limits storage space to 2GB, Box gives you a full 5GB of online storage for your files. As you might imagine, Box is not particularly designed for backup purposes, but rather specializes in file synchronization and group collaboration.
In this review I will sign up for the business plan as it is available for a 14 day free trial and will give me more features to experiment with and to show you. Therefore, this review is going to be particularly interesting if you are looking for a business online storage solution.
The business plans start at 15$ per user per month. However, you need to pay for at least three users, so you’ll end up with a minimum investment of $45 per month. Quite steep, but again, if you are a business that relies heavily on quick and easy collaboration, the price might well be worth it. You can also save 2 months if you decide to pay one year up front. Speaking of collaboration: the business plan allows you to add as many as 500 users, so if you happen to manage a larger corporation and need to get things done while also monitoring progress Box might be the ideal solution for your business. It’s also good to know that the business edition gives you 1 TB of storage space for your files. If you need more, you can custom tailor an enterprise solution, you’ll just have to call them for a quote.
But storage space isn’t the only feature that you can make use of:
- Access notifications
- Password protected sharing
- Full text search
- Desktop sync
- Google Apps integration
This features gives you a detailed report of the people who accessed your files and what changes have been made. This is great for review and evaluation purposes.
File sharing is a great tool for collaborating with other people, but it would be even better if you could password protect the folders you share, and manage user roles independently.
If you manage a lot of documents or spreadsheet you’ll absolutely love this feature. It allows you to browse your documents with ease. Remember that minute from that one meeting three months ago? Certainly not, but you might remember a keyword you talked about (e.g. “deadline”), now you can look for it and find the document instantly.
This is a feature we’re all used to thanks to Dropbox. Unfortunately, this is not available in the free plan, but it is available to business customers.
If you happen to work a lot with Google Applications (for example Google Docs), integration with Box will be a breeze. There are a lot of Apps available on the market place that integrate perfectly with Box.
Sign up for a year and save 20%Activate Offer
There are more features that are worth covering but wouldn’t fit in this review. Have a look Box’s feature list for an extensive overview.
How to get your files into the box
As I pointed out before, Box is not exactly an online backup solution. If you are looking for business-tailored online backup you should probably have a look at Mozy Pro or SugarSync, both of which offer better backup solutions for your files. With Box, online storage is redefined, as you can not only store your files but also sync, share and collaborate with them. The first step, of course, is getting your files up and running.
There are a couple of ways to get your files into Box. You can either go in and select the files manually via a file browser or drag and drop the files into your browser window, the second of which is particularly convenient and time saving.
Box File Synchronization
Another interesting way of getting your files into Box is file synchronization. Just like Dropbox you install a software client on your PC or Mac or mobile device and you’ll get a dedicated synchronization folder where you can put your files in which get automatically transferred to your box account.
The folder that is being created is called ‘Box Documents’ and within Box Documents you can organize your file structure and mirror that to your Box account. However, I miss the feature of being able to select folders in my file system and select those with a right click to be synced automatically. In this regard box has the same downside as Dropbox: you have to move your files into a special folder. I’d love to have a little more flexibility here.
What you can do is selecting folders you have in your box account and make those into ‘Sync Folders‘. So if you upload a folder and later you decide you want to synchronize that folder among your and your employees’ machines you can specify that in the options.
Synchronization is really a breeze with box. My test folder got synced very quickly and without any issues. I’m quite confident that you’ll also be able to synchronize folders larger than a gigabyte with ease. I was missing a detailed sync status, though. If your files are being sent, box indicates the status with circling arrows but I cannot see a detailed overview of the synchronization speed or status. When your file is synced it gets the little green checkmark.
Sync 1TB of filesActivate Offer
Managing your files and folders within box
Box is a real online storage and collaboration powerhouse. You have a plethora of options to choose from to manage files and combine those files with people and assign tasks with deadlines. This is especially useful for project management to keep track of your deadlines.
Let’s say you work with a designer and she creates a first Photoshop mockup. She uploads the PSD file to your box account, and you get the chance to revise it. If the file is in one of your synchronization folders, it will get synced automatically to your desktop as well. Otherwise you can comfortably access it via the web client. Now you can select the file and assign a deadline to it when the final version has to be finished. Now your designer will know immediately when she has to deliver the final version.
What normally would cost constant back-and-forth of various e-mails and large attachments it is now just a couple of clicks away.
File sharing and user role management
With your box account you can share folders with your freelancers and assign various user roles. For example, you can restrict editing access to a specific file by giving only view permissions. This is a great way to outsource your work: say, for example, you have a dedicated person who just reviews if the files are complete. There is no need to give that person editing access to the file.
The different roles allow you to manage your coworkers and avoid mishandling or accidental deletion of important company data.
Public file sharing
If you are working a lot with external clients you’ll love the feature of public file sharing. Box gives you the opportunity to select any file that you uploaded previously and create a public link that you can send to your client or other coworkers.
Box gives you various security options how those links can be accessed. For example you can set a password or an expiration date so that it cannot be downloaded anymore. Further, you can set the file to ‘view only’, which works great for jpegs or larger pdf files that only need to be viewed by the third party.
Share files with clientsActivate Offer
Bulk adding users to your account
If you plan to work with a large team you do not have to add all those users manually. You can use the ‘bulk add’ feature and add those users the easy way through a csv important. After that, you can go in and manage those user separately, what they can do, how much storage each user can have and what files those users are able to edit. However, for this feature to work you need an enterprise plan. The business plan support adding users easily via a web form where you provide details, like an email and name of the user.
Something that wasn’t clear to me in the beginning was what kind of users do count against my users quota. I have the basic business account which gives you 3 users (and you can add more at $15/user). I first thought that only managed users would count but in fact, also collaborators count against your purchased users. I think this needs to be made clearer right at the beginning or at least explained in the admin control panel but I only found this out through experimenting with different types of users.
One of the great advantages of the box is that you can access your files from virtually any device. Box came up with a variety of different apps for iOS, such as the iPhone and the iPad, or android. But also supports apps for BlackBerry and other devices.
As you can see in my video, synchronizing and accessing your files via the iPhone is very easy. Changes that have been made via the iPhone reflect instantly on other devices and via the web client. The app allows you to manage tasks comfortably similar to the web client. You can comment on files, assign deadlines and share files.
Data security is one of the major aspects when companies think about data storage and online collaboration. Virtually all data that belongs to a company has to be treated very sensitive. That’s why top-notch security is a must for a business online storage solution. Box makes a very good impression on security and even allows you to handle security options at a very detailed file level.
Box is certainly one of the most secure online storage and collaboration services out there offering the following features and guarantees:
- Servers hosted in redundant facilities and automatically backed up
- 99.9% network uptime guarantee
- Data encrypted using 256-bit SSL on transfer and 256-bit AES SSL encryption at rest
- SAS70 Certified
As a business user or even with personal plans you cannot afford making experiments regarding security. That’s why the encryption over the Internet is very important so that 3rd parties cannot read the data you send. Fortunately, it is both easy to share files with box but also to control access to those files as described above.
Top notch security for businessActivate Offer
One feature that is going to be highly useful for monitoring purposes are the reports. Box allows you to generate reports on virtually any aspect of your cloud storage environment. You can monitor access of individual users, review their IP addresses and what files have been edited. the reports are structured into 3 categories: ‘Usage logs’, ‘File Statistics’, and ‘User Statistics’. If you have an enterprise account you can also have additional security reports that create comprehensive audit trails of all the files.
These reports are important for managers that need to send status reports to their superiors or to analyze possible file abuse. Obviously, it is necessary to fully disclose that you’re monitoring your coworkers.
Box.com Review Bottom Line
Great that you made it through the review! Bottom line is this: as a business user who needs to manage his teams or freelancers Box.com is a feature rich online storage and collaboration suite with plenty of features that take some time to get a good grasp on. So plan in some hours to wrap your head around it until you can really save some time.
Being able to restrict and grant file access in a fast and secure manner is a feature that you don’t want to miss after trying it out. If you frequently find yourself hitting your email quota, you’ll going to love Box.
Pricing is a little steep but for $15 per user per month you’ll soon find that it is worth every penny. Especially, the ability to assign deadlines or tasks to files and give a specified amount of storage to each user is something completely new that I haven’t found with other online storage providers.
If you are a Personal user you should probably stick or go to Dropbox which costs a lot less and the free version offers more features than the free version of Box.
Get a free 14 day trialActivate Offer
Like what you read?
If so, please join over 2,000 people who receive exclusive online backup and cloud storage tips & coupons. Also, get a FREE COPY of my eBook, Online Backup 101 (PDF, Kindle and MP3)! Just enter your name and email below: