Box Business Review
A great service that has plenty of third-party integrations and wonderful customer service, Box Business is kept from the top spot due to its slow speeds. However, that may be offset by its strengths, as you can read in this full Box review.
Free plan available
Box ranks as one of the best EFSS platforms available today. It’s no wonder, then, that it claims more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies as its clients, in addition to more than 95,000 businesses overall. In this review, we decided to take a detailed look at Box to see how it compares to its reputation.
In short, Box is a great service. It has many productivity tools, including integrations for Microsoft Office and Google Office suite. It also has capable user management, unlimited storage and strong security with the option for private encryption, as well as email, telephone and chat support.
It’s not all rosy, though, because the pricing plans could be cheaper and there’s no block-level sync support. If you’re interested in the details, stick with us, as we’re going to see how Box performs in our separate categories, below.
- Unlimited storage plan
- Great application integrations
- Office Online & Google Docs
- Strong security
- Private encryption with Box KeySafe
- 24/7 support
- Excellent user management
- Box zones
- No block-level sync
- Plans could have better value
- 5GB file upload max
- No audit page for shares
- Dropbox Business
- Shared Folders
- Google Docs Integration
- Visit Dropbox BusinessDropbox Business Review
- Citrix ShareFile
- Shared Folders
- Google Docs Integration
- Visit Citrix ShareFileCitrix ShareFile Review
Box currently has four plans designed for businesses: “starter,” “business,” “business plus” and “enterprise.” All plans require a minimum of three users and don’t have an upper limit, except for “starter,” which restricts you to 10 users.
Additionally, “starter” gets you just 100GB of storage space and caps your file size at 2GB. Still, it’s a good fit for small teams, and it’s just $5.80 per month per user. It’s not the best plan, when you compare it to, say, Egnyte Connect, which provides 5TB of storage space for $8 per month per user. If that intrigues you, read our Egnyte Connect review.
However, Box provides unlimited storage space with the other three plans. The “business” plan is $17.30 per month per user and raises the file size limit to 5GB, which stays the same for the remaining plans. “Business plus” offers more features for $28.70 per month per user.
Because plans other than “starter” offer the same amount of storage and number of users, their main difference lies in the features they provide.
All plans have standard features, such as version history, business support and user management. “Starter” is limited to those features, but other plans build upon that set. “Business” adds custom branding, mobile security controls, data loss prevention, advanced user security and reporting, among others.
“Business plus” enhances the previous plan with features including unlimited external collaborators, admin role delegation and content management. The “enterprise” plan adds HIPAA compliance, user groups, workflow automation, password enforcement and others. See here for a complete comparison between the plans.
Another important difference between the plans is the maximum number of versions you can save. Versioning helps you rollback unwanted changes or recover files lost because of accidental deletions. It also protects you from ransomware. In light of that, the higher the number, the better.
“Starter” can save 25 versions, while “business” and “business plus” plans can save up to 50 versions. If you need more, the “enterprise” plan can accommodate a maximum of 100 versions. If your needs run higher, you can purchase the Box Governance add-on for $10, which lets you save unlimited versions. You need to contact Box for the price, though.
Box gives discounts for annual signups, but before you decide to subscribe to Box, you can test the plans with a 15-day free trial. Other than that, you can get a ”personal” plan with 10GB for free. If you need more storage, but you’re not a business, you can get “personal pro” plan with 100GB of storage for $11.50 per month or $138 per year.
Box’s desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not on Linux. If you want a cloud storage service that supports it, read our best cloud storage service for Linux roundup for some ideas.
Once you download and install the desktop client, you will see a sync folder in your file system. Any files and folders you place in it will be stored both on your hard drive and in the cloud, which enables device synchronization, or “sync” for short. We’ll talk more about how well Box handles syncing in the corresponding section.
The other component of the desktop client is the system tray icon, which lets you open the sync folder and launch the preferences window and the web client. From the preferences window, you can turn sync on or off, contact support and enter the help center. The desktop client follows the common model of sync developed by Dropbox and is enjoyable and straightforward.
Although the desktop client with the sync folder is a key mechanism, a lot of the Box experience takes place online in its web client.
The web client has an attractive color scheme and is clear, so you won’t have to dig for actions and content you’re looking for. The menu on the left navigates through your files, recent content, synced data, trash, notes, workflow, admin console and favorites.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a timely manner, though, you can use the search bar at the top to look for it. The search bar looks for your content as you type, and you can add filters to your search.
The web client shows your files and folders in the center pane in grid or list views. If you click on an object, you will see its details in the right sidebar.
If you right-click an object, you can perform actions such as “move,” “copy,” “share” and “lock,” so nobody can access it. For convenience, you can perform the most common actions using the buttons at the top of the page.
You can also access your notifications, settings and help from the top-right corner. There’s also a tasks feature, which shows tasks assigned to you and ones you’ve sent to others.
Box’s mobile app is similar to other services’. That means it’s easy to access your content, upload new files to the cloud, save files for offline use and tag content as “favorite.” We also like the fact that the big “+” button for adding content lets you create a new note or folder, in addition to capturing media.
The user management options enable you to configure your team so the right people have access to certain content and collaborations don’t get out of control.
When you add a user to your Box account, you can edit how much of your total storage that user can access and give them the following access permissions:
- Shared contacts: allows the user to see other Box users
- Enable sync: allows the user to sync cloud files to their desktop
- Device pinning: exempts the user from the maximum allowed devices
- Restrict external collaboration: prevents the user from collaborating with external users
You can also select folders that a new user can access. When selecting a folder for access, you can assign one of seven different permission levels:
- Co-owner: can do everything, including admin tasks
- Editor: can do everything, except restrict invitations
- Viewer uploader: basic user with upload capabilities
- Previewer uploader: limited user with upload capabilities
- Viewer: basic user with download, preview and link capabilities
- Previewer: limited user with just preview capabilities
- Uploader: can only upload content and create subfolders
Here’s a helpful image that compares the differences between these roles:
It’s easy to invite individual users, but bringing on dozens of users one at a time would become very tedious, very fast. Fortunately, it lets you perform bulk invites.
Box User Groups
When adding users, you can also assign them to groups, which make it easier to manage permissions for multiple users. For example, you can create several groups that correspond to the departments of your business and give them different permissions.
When you create groups, you can set who can manage them. If you set it to “admin,” only administrators will be able to give this group access to folders and view members of this group. You can expand that management option to group members or even the entire company.
Once created, you can add users that have either “admin” or “member” permissions. If you make a user a group administrator, they can manage access to folders tied to the group and monitor group member activity.
If you need to work with someone who’s not part of your organization, you can invite them as an external user. While in your network, external users can take advantage of Box’s features you have available. You can manage their access level at any time, or expel them from the network.
Overall, Box does a great job, but if you need more customizable user management, we suggest you give Citrix ShareFile a try. You can learn more about it in our Citrix ShareFile review.
Users can share files and folders by clicking the “share” button associated with any object.
That enables them to invite people and assign them permissions, or to generate a link for the file or folder.
In both cases, if you invite people, you can give them “editor” or “viewer” permissions. Editors can upload, download, preview, share and edit files and folders. Viewers can only download and share. Specifically for folders, you can add other permissions that correspond to rights for folder access from the previous section.
When you create a link, you can restrict which people can access it and what they can do with it. You can set the link to be publicly accessible, make it visible to only the people in your company or give access only to invited people.
Whatever you choose, you can enable users to view and download, or only view. In addition, you can protect it with a password, disable download, define a custom URL and set the link to expire on a specific date.
Although Box has all the sharing and content control features you need to securely share your content, it lacks a page that shows an overview of your shared files and folders.
Like we mentioned earlier, after you install the desktop client, you will see a special sync folder on your desktop.
Any files that you put into this folder will remain on your hard drive but will also sync to the cloud. Once in the cloud, Box will send these files to your other synced devices and those of your collaborators in near real time.
This might be troublesome for users that have laptops with slim solid-state drives. Because those don’t offer as much space as conventional hard drives, due to cost, such users might run out of space in a short time.
To help avoid that, Box provides a feature called “selective sync,” which lets you turn off sync for certain folders. To do that, open the Box web client, right-click on a folder to open the menu. Under “more actions,” select “unsync.” Plus, you can do the same by right-clicking an object in your local sync folder and selecting “unsync” under “box sync.”
From that point on, that folder won’t be stored on your hard drive. The downside is that it also won’t be available offline. So if you have content that you’re actively working on, you may want to keep it synced.
Box’s sync speeds compare well with other EFSS services on initial file uploads. However, subsequent syncs aren’t as good because Box doesn’t incorporate the block-level file copying algorithm, which helps speed up file syncs by only transferring the parts of files that changed, rather than replacing the entire file.
Dropbox is a great example of block-level sync done right, so if you want that, read our Dropbox Business review to learn more about it.
If you want to improve your transfer speeds, you can make use of “box zones,” a feature that enables you to store your content in one of eight locations around the world. The closer you are to a server that syncs your data, the faster your transfers will be.
Many EFSS tools integrate their web clients with productivity apps and collaboration apps to improve their ability to replicate the workplace online. In this category, we’re going to take a look at Box’s own efforts to move in this direction.
Unlike Google Drive and OneDrive for Business, Box doesn’t have a full suite of native office applications. The only native productivity tool that Box offers is a note-taking app called Box Notes.
However, Box Notes is a formidable note-taking application. It’s not quite as advanced as the best note-taking apps, such as Evernote, but it can compete with entries like OneNote and Google Keep. You can use it to take notes during meetings and discuss files with your teammates. Plus, you can include pictures and tables.
Box makes up for its lack of native features by offering a nice selection of third-party apps. The foremost among these are Office 365 and Google Docs. You will need to subscribe to Office 365, but Google Docs is completely free. That said, you can always preview office files for free using Office Online.
You can create a new Office or Google Docs file from Box’s web client by clicking the “new” button in the upper-right corner and then choosing the type of document you want to create.
In addition to Office and Google Docs, you can integrate additional third-party apps to Box by clicking on your name in the upper-right corner of the client and selecting “apps.” This will redirect you to an app library, which you can search by name or category.
App categories include “collaboration,” “project management,” “content management” and “security.” Box has too many integrations to list them all here, but prominent ones are Slack, Trello, Asana, Salesforce, DocuSign and ShareVault.
Box provides many features to secure your intellectual property while it’s stored in the cloud, which you’d expect from a service that’s geared toward business customers.
Box keeps your data in hardened data centers, which are audited by independent third parties. Thanks to those audits, Box’s data centers are ISO 27001 certified, which means they have strong information security. They are also SOC 2 compliant.
Box utilizes the TLS protocol to protect data in transit between your device and the data center. This is called in-transit encryption, and it helps against man-in-the-middle attacks, which are basically a means of online eavesdropping.
Once your information reaches the data center, Box keeps it encrypted while at rest, which means it’s scrambled while stored server-side. The encryption in use is 256-bit AES.
This means that nobody can read your files unless they have your encryption key. That said, Box manages your key by default, but you can choose to manage it yourself.
To do that, though, you need to subscribe to a “business” or “enterprise” plan and pay for the optional Box KeySafe add-on. This makes your encryption private, and most EFSS providers don’t offer it.
Box also uses key wrapping, which means it not only encrypts your content but also your encryption key. For this, Box also uses 256-bit AES.
If you’d like to avoid paying for the more expensive plans and Box KeySafe, you can also set up private, end-to-end encryption with Box using Boxcryptor. Single sign-on (SSO) integration, which lets employees log in to multiple business systems using the same credentials, is also available. Supported SSO options include OneLogin, Okta and Bitium.
Box enables users to set up two-factor authentication to protect against weak passwords, too. With two-factor authentication enabled, users will have to enter a security code that is sent to their phone when logging in to Box from an unfamiliar device. This minimizes the risk posed by weak passwords because it prevents brute-force cracking.
We also like the fact that Box lets you set custom password requirements. That’s another way you can prevent your users from creating weak passwords.
In addition, Box has device pinning, which lets you limit the number of devices each user can sync. The feature also lets you check which devices are being used by your users. That way, you know exactly which devices have access to your cloud storage.
However, when you unpin a device, you only cut live access to your cloud storage, which disables future syncs. This means any previously synced content won’t be wiped, so this isn’t a good method of protecting yourself, in case of a lost or stolen device. If you want this feature, give Egnyte Connect or Dropbox Business a try.
Another interesting feature is “box shield, which enables you to label your content with security classifications, such as “confidential.”. You can then, for example, make sure that confidential content won’t be shared outside of your organization. You can also detect anomalous download behavior and content access from suspicious sessions or locations.
If you encounter an issue with an aspect of Box, you can attempt to resolve it by using the articles in the community knowledgebase. The knowledgebase contains troubleshooting articles, guides, support articles and use-case studies. Many of those are written by fellow Box users.
If the knowledgebase doesn’t help you, the Box Community also provides user forums, such as the troubleshooting and Box developer forums. Consulting the community is a great way to utilize crowd support for creative ideas. Plus, the forums are active and moderators often answer questions.
There’s also Box University, which has many video tutorials and scheduled live sessions that help you learn how to use basic and advanced Box features.
In addition to community support, Box offers chat and telephone options for those who have urgent issues that need to be resolved. The chat option is perfect for users who are not strangers to tech and can communicate the issue in just a few lines. Unfortunately, live chat is only available during business hours, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
We asked multiple questions during chat and got fast replies. However, we did get conflicting information when we inquired about the availability of support channels during the work week. That said, all other questions were answered in a satisfactory manner.
If you prefer to talk over the phone, you can request a telephone callback. Like chat, it’s available only during business hours. However, that’s true only for “standard support,” which is included for free in your Box license.
However, with “premier” or “platinum” support, you get dedicated 24/7 call support, 99.9-percent guaranteed uptime, on-site check-ins and more.
Even with “standard” support, though, users have access to 24/7 email support. We sent an email request describing an issue and got a response in three hours, which is a good response time.
Box is, without question, a capable EFSS service. You won’t lack anything when moving your business online because Box integrates with many third-party apps, including Microsoft and Google. In addition, your files will be safe thanks to strong security features. Pricing plans could be a better value, though they do offer unlimited storage and a wealth of features.
If you find yourself short on hard-drive space, you can make use of selective sync to store only specific files on your hard drive. Besides these features, Box offers extensive support options and user-management capabilities.
However, you might not find Box to your liking, or you might want a service that has block-level sync and cheaper plans. For that, consult our EFSS reviews for alternative ideas. That said, what do you think of Box? Does it meet your expectations, or do you need another service? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.