Box Business review: A top-notch business cloud service
Excellent admin controls and great integration with third-party apps
Box has come a long way from its early days as a simple cloud storage repository and has evolved into a fully-fledged cloud file sharing and collaboration platform. The Box Business plan on review also looks great value for SMEs, as 12 per user/month gets you unlimited cloud storage all round and a 5GB file size restriction on uploads.
Along with file syncing and sharing, user management and two-factor authentication, the Business plan enables enhanced reporting and security, plus integration with Active Directory and single sign-on (SSO) providers. Billing can be monthly or yearly, but Box doesn't offer a discount for the latter and you must provide payment details prior to starting the 14-day trial.
The admin portal is easy to use and we liked the Insights page, which provides a graph of user activity for up to 90 days and can be changed to show details such as logins, uploads, downloads and edits. More graphs reveal the top files types being used, the most popular third-party apps, a map of geographical activity and a bubble chart for hourly activity.
Invite new team members by email and the link asks them to provide a password, after which they can log in to their personal cloud portal. The portal initially asks them to install the Box Sync app but we suggest taking a step back before doing this.
Box is in the process of phasing out Sync and replacing it with a new Drive app but both cannot coexist on the same system. Box Drive is designed to save local hard disk space by keeping all your work folders in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.
You can access the Box Drive folder with Windows Explorer or Mac Finder and use your favourite apps to create new documents or edit existing ones and all changes are instantly saved in the cloud. Sync is the best choice if you want offline access to your files as Drive doesn't currently support marking files for offline access.
The Sync app links up with user's portal where they select folders and activate syncing so they are copied down to a predefined local folder for offline access. The Drive folder shows all your cloud content and both apps provide right-click options to create email links for sharing files or locking them so no-one else can edit them.
User security is excellent: Box admins can set quotas on cloud storage, enable or disable syncing, allow them to install Box on any number of devices, force password changes, decide whether they can see all managed users and stop folder sharing with external users. Groups make it easier to manage large numbers of users as you can apply a set of base restrictions to all members.
Collaboration invitations for folders can be sent to other account users and seven access levels are available, ranging from full editorial rights down to viewing only. Users can email file share links to send a file but Box still doesn't support file upload requests.
App choices are outstanding with Box for Office allowing you to create, edit and save files directly from Microsoft Office and Office365. Box can work with Google Docs, SalesForce, Oracle NetSuite and many others while Box for Gmail lets users attach files from Box and save them to their cloud folders directly from the Gmail portal.
The transition from the Sync to Drive apps does complicate deployment, but there's no denying Box Business is offering a superb range of file sharing and cloud collaboration features. It's remarkably easy to manage, offers great access security and is highly recommended for businesses of all sizes.
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