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Combating Mobile Content Fragmentation With Box

When it comes to business content on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, fragmentation can become a serious concern: Different versions of content wind up locked in silos inside apps. This fragmentation can lead to both versioning and data loss challenges.

Having spent the past several years refocusing its business from consumer-grade cloud storage provider to enterprise cloud content management service, Palo Alto-based Box is attempting to build a new service around helping businesses face those challenges.

Content Takes a Round Trip with OneCloud

Just about a month ago, Box unveiled Box OneCloud, an enterprise mobile framework in which Box is the central storage repository with an array of third-party partner apps that orbit that repository and can be used to act upon the content. What truly sets it apart, however, is that OneCloud is designed so that content takes a roundtrip: from Box, to the third-party app that acts upon the content and then back to Box. In this way, the content always resides in Box, rather than the particular app used to edit, annotate or otherwise act upon it.

"On iPad, for instance, you can select a file, open it in another productivity app, annotate it and then save it back to the location in which you opened it in Box," says Chris Yeh, vice president of Platform at Box. "That round trip is very difficult to do. We built a bunch of infrastructure to make that happen."

Part of that infrastructure—which security-conscious enterprises are likely to appreciate—is a feature that gives administrators the ability to turn off particular applications in the OneCloud app gallery.

"One of the nice things about OneCloud apps is that when they exist in our app cloud gallery, they can be turned on and off by an administrator," Yeh says. "If an administrator turns an app off, and a user then installs that app, the app can't be used with the Box content. That's really important for our customers."

Box Unveils a Redesigned and RESTful API

On Wednesday, the company also unveiled a completely redesigned API that adds a host of new features for developers working to integrate their apps with OneCloud.

"This is probably the biggest product release on the platform side in the company's history," he says. "We completely rebuilt the API from the ground up."

The new API is fully RESTful (i.e., conforms to representational state transfer constraints), meaning that it leverages common naming standards and output formats to streamline and simplify development. It provides transactional-level views of events in Box, giving developers the capability to see how their applications are being used on Box and also providing the capability to create an audit trail or pull out key transactions. The API could, for instance, be used by a third-party developer or product to do things like connect an eDiscovery tool to an enterprise's Box content.

Box has also introduced Instant Mode, a new feature that streamlines the process of connecting applications to Box's content and collaboration services by removing the user sign-up process for third-party applications connected to Box. Instead of having to go through a series of manual steps in Box, an app can now create a new folder automatically inside the user's Box account, which goes into a pending state until the user approves it. Apps can only see documents in the folder created for the app via this process, and have no access rights to any other folder in Box.

OneCloud launched with 30 app partners in its OneCloud app gallery, including flagship apps Quickoffice, Adobe EchoSign, Nuance PaperPort Notes and PDF Expert. On Wednesday, Box added 15 new partners, including Microsoft Office document editor app CloudOn, which uses compressed video streaming to provide full-on access to Microsoft Office applications via mobile devices. Yeh notes that Box carefully vets each of the third-party apps before including them in its gallery.

Thor Olavsrud is a senior writer for CIO.com. Follow him @ThorOlavsrud.

Read more about office applications in CIO's Office Applications Drilldown.


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