Box, the business-targeted file sharing and syncing service, adds more enterprise-friendly features to distance itself still further from the cacophony of consumer brands.
We've written about Box's ambitious vision to expand beyond a narrow file syncing and sharing role to become something like the cloud's operating system. The company recently introduced new features, some available in open beta to existing customers, aimed at making it a better fit for the requirements of the largest enterprises.
At our cousin publication The Brainyard, David Carr has good coverage of Box's news, with a juicy aside regarding a small-scale outage that the company experienced and the hay its competitors immediately made of it.
Perhaps the most important new feature Box is introducing is an enterprise dashboard that gives unified visibility and control over all of a company's content stored in the service. An enterprise-wide search function aids in locating shared content, and "in one simple step, admins can grant or adjust access to content for any user in their company," according to Box's press release.
A related feature relaxes the previous (and widely used) convention of segmenting users under their email domains. This broadening is especially important at companies with the scale of a Proctor & Gamble, Carr reports, where the previous segmentation of customer accounts meant that files shared at tide.com and charmin.com were not visible to the parent company pg.com. "Under the new scheme, a top-level administrator can still delegate administrative rights down to divisions but has the power to administer files and accounts globally, when needed," Carr reports.
Another important feature for highly regulated industries is the ability to archive activity notifications. Users "can now log Box activities, such as comments, tasks, and sharing files, with their existing monitoring systems," according to the press release; "These new capabilities support business compliance and eDiscovery requirements."
Enhanced security features ("available today for Android and coming soon for iOS") offer more granular control applied to Box-supported mobile devices. Administrators can apply passcode locks and enhanced permissions for offline file access on a per-user basis. These basic security controls complement the more extensive features of mobile device management (MDM) products.
Carr quotes Box's general manager of enterprise, Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, on how the Box enhancements work with MDM solutions: "Six months ago, I would have said the vast majority of our customers were using our technology minus any kind of MDM. Now, among our large customers, it's probably half and half." Tidmarsh Bouck said that Box's basic controls might suffice for smaller businesses for which an MDM solution would be overkill.
The share-and-sync market has been the scene of feverish activity for a while now; recent developments include ShareFile being snapped up by Citrix and EMC acquiring Syncplicity. And of course there's the introduction of Google Drive. Box tries to position itself above this fray. The Brainyard quotes Tidmarsh Bouck describing it all as "a big heatup [in the] low-end file [sync] and share market." Box claims 82 percent of the Fortune 500 among its user base, so it might be onto something.