Box.net Review

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Matt Smollinger

Box.net
At a glance
Product Box Box.net () [Website]
Summary Box.net is a mature and feature-complete cloud storage provider aimed at business users.
Pros • Strong business feature set.
• Full text search of documents for paid accounts
• Excellent web portal.
• Enterprise SLA.
• Google Docs style collaborative document editing.
Cons • Plans aren’t geared towards end user.
• Relatively xpensive
• Encrypted storage only available at Enterprise account level
• Desktop-based file sync only available on paid accounts
Features
Private Sharing
Y
Share Groups
Y
Backup
N
Search
Y
Syncing
Y
File versioning (number)
?
File versioning (days)
?
File size limit (GB) 2
Account Types
Unlimited
N
Free
Y
Free Trial
Y
Home
Y
Business
Y
Monthly Billed
Y
Yearly Billed
N
Min. Limit (GB) 5
Max. Limit (GB) 9999
Free space (GB) 5
OS
Windows
Y
Mac OS
Y
Linux
N
Updated 10/29/2010: Storage increased for Free and Business plans

Box.net has a strong following among the Fortune 500s of the world, including names like Dell, Sandisk, Oracle, Symantec, etc., due to its complete feature set and mature platform. But these strengths make make Box.net not so appealing to individual users, primarily due to price, relative to other products.

Box.net also tends to have feature mixes not suited to individuals. Free acounts do not receive version history, or the ability to sync files on desktops with the cloud. And paid account features like full text search and download statistics, are things most normal users will never need to use.

The three account options are:
Free account limited to 5 GB of storage and a maximum file size of 1 GB.
“Business” account that for $15 / user / month. Accounts start with 500 GB of space, with a three user minimum.
“Enterprise” account with unlimited web storage, with 2 GB maximum file size. Individually quoted by Box.net.

Business users, though, will come to love the granular level of access one can assign to individual users. A SLA of 99.9% uptime further sweetens the product, along with a well-designed administrative console and user website.

An important omission at the “Business” account level, however, is the lack of encrypted file storage and transfer, which is only available to "Enterprise" level customers. Dedicated support is also only available to Enterprise accounts.

Documentation on the whole is poor, or at least what is available to the general public via the support website. For example, version history is nearly undocumented, particularly when it comes to how many versions are kept and for what length of time.

Account setup is straightforward on the Box.net website.

Account setup is straightforward on the Box.net website.

Upon account setup completion, a welcome dialog directs users what to do next.

Upon account setup completion, a welcome dialog directs users what to do next.

Folder creation is simple, and free users have the ability to limit access rights to view-only. The folder can also be immediately shared.

Folder creation is simple, and free users have the ability to limit access rights to view-only. The folder can also be immediately shared.

Shared folders are only visible to Box.net users, and require external users to sign up.

Shared folders are only visible to Box.net users, and require external users to sign up.

The overview screen provides quick access to all important aspects of a box.net account.

The overview screen provides quick access to all important aspects of a box.net account.

Box.net has a feature similar to google docs that allows for online documents to be created and shared.

Box.net has a feature similar to google docs that allows for online documents to be created and shared.

Special box.net online documents can be shared and worked on collaboratively.

Special box.net online documents can be shared and worked on collaboratively.

Openbox is the portal for all external access to a box.net account. Nearly all of the options require a paid account.

Openbox is the portal for all external access to a box.net account. Nearly all of the options require a paid account.

Access, Support, Security

Support
Email
Y
Online Ticket
Y
IM / Chat
N
Phone
Y
Knowledge Base
Y
Tutorials
Y
Security
Private Key
N
Access
Browser-based file manager
Y
FTP
N
Email link
Y
Blackberry
Y
iOS
Y
Android
Y
Windows Mobile
N

Mobile integration is good, with all major platforms being addressed, except Windows Mobile. Once again though, only paying customers have access to these features, where competitors like Dropbox offer all this to free accounts.

Access occurs primarly through a well-designed web portal. Through the web portal, users have access to upload files, add comments to files, create shared documents and collaboratively work on them, and add additional functionality through the “Open box” applications.

Open box handles all the integration with external sources, including mobile applications and the desktop sync client, which must be added and activated online before they become available for use.

Support is limited to an online ticketing system and there is a knowledgebase for free and business users. Enterprise accounts have access to dedicated support staff. The documentation for the individual features covers the basics, but could be improved with better explanation of the features included at the different account levels.

Security is where Box.net makes a couple of mistakes. All files are transferred over a standard 128-bit SSL encrypted connection. But storage of the files is unencrypted, which means anyone with access to the Box.net servers could access your personal files without a problem. Stored file encryption only is available at the Enterprise level, which is a glaring omission compared to other cloud storage vendors. The desktop sync application is also undocumented with regard to its security.

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