Go beyond simple file-sharing with Box for enterprise cloud content management

Ian Hardenburgh looks at the transformation of Box.net into Box.com and its new focus on providing cloud content management features that are enterprise-ready.

Most people are familiar with Box since back when it was called Box.net. Its notoriety is likely attributable to its freemium business model, where consumers could take advantage of gigabytes of free hard drive space in the cloud with the ability to scale file storage at a relatively low cost if need be. But more recently, and perhaps somewhere around the time it dropped the ".net" off of its product title and started redirecting users to its newly acquired domain, Box.com, Box has become a more comprehensive enterprise cloud solution, moving well beyond simple online file sharing. Almost out of nowhere, Box has become an out-and-out alternative for enterprise document and content management, as once managed exclusively within on-premise data center file systems.

To understand what Box does, one needs to first appreciate what Box has done in the past. For both personal and business users, Box is still an on-demand service for file storage and straightforward document sharing and collaboration. Box files can be accessed with a web browser or more seamlessly through your computer desktop with easy-to-install applications like SimpleShare. Additionally, the Box service can be reached through mobile and tablet devices (see the m.box.com subdomain). Lastly, with its mid-tier business plan, Box users are provided with a fairly rich set of content management tools for greater control over the sharing and transferring of files, as well as with features like CMS-style workspaces, project file collaboration, API integration with other major SaaS applications (e.g., Google Apps and Salesforce.com), branded customization for customer or partner facing content, and more.

It's needless to say that Box is a well-rounded tool geared for the consumer market, small businesses, and perhaps your casual enterprise-class user looking to use Box for a specific application, like using it as a backend for Internet/Intranet site. However, the question remains, is it enterprise ready?

In order to catch the attention of today's vigilant IT manager, Box has to not only substantiate itself as a viable replacement for NFS, FTP, and MFT and highly-available/redundant systems, it also has to prove itself on the same playing field, with the same industry benchmarks and governance and compliance regulations, just as it is seen behind established company firewalls. Yes, Box often touts its ability to manage files through a consolidated interface, as well as boasts how it can liberate administrators from hardware and software configuration and tuning, but is it secure, "migratable", and can it serve as a feasible platform for I/O intensive enterprise applications?  In short, the answer is yes.  One can now imagine Box as a virtual operating system in the cloud in which all enterprise users can effectually share and collaborate on file data.

To get a broad sense for how Box might be considered enterprise ready, see Box's many resources under its For Enterprise IT web page, or see my list of what might be deemed the more relevant enterprise-ready features below.

  • Replace NFS, MFT and FTP with a user-friendly, IT-compliant content-sharing platform
  • No hardware, software, infrastructure configuration or tuning
  • No on-premise installation, provisioning, maintenance or DMZ setup
  • Application updates are seamlessly integrated and rolled out
  • Significantly lower hardware and storage costs
  • Simple user setup can leverage Active Directory/LDAP for easy account provisioning
  • Default security/permission settings configurable for easy rollout
  • Connect Box to leading SaaS applications (e.g., Salesforce, NetSuite and Google Apps)
  • Create custom mobile (with new OneCloud platform), Web and desktop applications
  • SSO with leading single leading providers like Ping Identity, Citrix, Intel, VMware, Okta, OneLogin, Symplified, etc.
  • Global user access permission controls
  • Complete audit trails for every action within Box
  • Advanced security: automatic file expiration, password protection, granular permissions
  • 256-bit SSL and AES encryption
  • SAS 70 Type II and Safe Harbor certifications
  • N+1 or greater redundancy for all components of essential systems
  • Uninterruptible power and backup systems, plus fire/flood prevention at storage sites
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS) monitors network traffic
  • Guaranteed 99.9% uptime

By Ian Hardenburgh

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.