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Box.net boosts Sync, security features

The cloud-based content management system will come pre-installed on the Xoom and HP PCs

Box.net bumped up security and synchronization on its content management and sharing platform and teamed up with Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Mobility for pre-installation deals at its BoxWorks user conference in San Francisco.

Motorola Xoom tablets and all Hewlett-Packard small-business PCs will come with Box.net software pre-installed, the companies announced on Wednesday. In addition, Box.net will work with the Salesforce Chatter enterprise social-networking platform, as Box.net tries to position its service and software as the prime platform for sharing and collaborating on enterprise files.

The company announced an update to its Box Sync feature, which lets users share files across multiple devices, and said it would become available for Macs for the first time. It also announced Trusted Access, a feature that lets users and managers see which of their devices were used to access their account, and the capability to set sharing permissions across an enterprise for different sets of data.

But partnerships were a major part of the day's news, including deals with MobileIron and Good Technology for using those companies' mobile management tools to manage Box.net, and with Okta to tie into that company's cloud-based identity management system. Okta allows employees to get into a wide variety of enterprise applications and data stores with one login and password.

Box.net's target is traditional enterprise software that puts data in silos, said CEO Aaron Levie, who peppered his keynote speech with jibes at Microsoft. Traditional IT makes information hard to share, making it harder to get work done, he said.

"Our vision at Box is to change that. The more people that you have, the more data that you have, the more value your organization gets," Levie said.

More than 100,000 businesses, including 77 percent of the Fortune 500, use Box.net, Levie said. The company claims more than 7 million users worldwide, including consumers.

Box.net is available as a native application for PCs, Macs and major mobile platforms, as well as a browser-based tool built with HTML5.

Under the new deal with Motorola, the Android version of Box.net will be available on all Xoom tablets worldwide.

HP plans to start by including Box.net on all its desktop PCs for small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and is interested in expanding the offer in other parts of the world, said Kathy Chou, vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group Americas.

Chou sounded notably optimistic about the partnership, given that just last month, HP said it was studying the possibility of spinning off or selling its PC division.

"Hopefully, this will be a key point in both our companies' histories in years to come," Chou said.

The new version of Sync will become available next month. It will synchronize files for all the users who have access to them, across versions of Box for tablets and smartphones as well as PCs and Macs. After a user creates or modifies a file and moves it into Box.net, that file is available to colleagues in its latest updated form. Users can also set up alerts for colleagues and notify them of tasks they need to carry out, such as approving an updated file.

Levie acknowledged concerns around security for cloud-based file management, alongside ease of use.

"Box has to be the easiest way you can securely share information in the enterprise," Levie said.

The Trusted Access feature, available immediately, can be set by an IT manager for all employees. In addition to showing the user which of his devices have been used to access his account, it includes the capability to revoke access to the Box.net software on a smartphone that has been lost or stolen. The Trusted Sharing capability will let administrators define access to specific documents based on domain and user group.

Over the next two quarters, Box.net will also improve the dashboard users see when they look at the Box.net client, Levie said. The updated view will provide personalized updates, bringing to the top the most important documents for that individual. Ranking will be determined based on the content, activity and comments associated with each file.

Two enterprise customers who spoke with Levie onstage at the conference said Box.net and other cloud-based resources help their organizations work more efficiently and spend less time managing internal IT infrastructure. But there are challenges connected with moving to the cloud, they said.

"The technology change isn't nearly as hard as the people-change management aspect of it," said Steve Philpott, CIO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a maker of drugs for diabetes.

Craig Butler, CIO at a regional division of the American Automobile Association, said about 800 of his organization's 2,000 employees have worked at the AAA for 30 years or more and have to learn how to collaborate using a tool such as Box.net.

"It's not holding the information away, delivering it out just when I think it's right, it's actually working in a collaborative fashion," Butler said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com


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