Box is a strong cloud storage service that provides native support for Office 365 and Google Workspace, but it also has a long list of integrations that could be useful for businesses. It also has excellent security, although the private key management is a paid feature. Read this Box review to find out why it could be a good fit for your company needs.
Box has always been one of our go-to cloud storage recommendations for businesses. It earned a spot in our best business cloud storage guide, going head to head with some of our best cloud storage picks.
Yes, Box is safe to use. It features industry-standard AES-256 encryption for data at rest and protects files in transit with an SSL/TLS channel.
Yes, there is a free version of Box for personal use. The free plan comes with 10GB of storage.
Box is slightly better than Dropbox because it offers more security options and app integrations.
Box is better than Google Drive when it comes to app integrations, but Google Drive is cheaper.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Strong list of app integrations
- Native support for Office 365 & Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)
- Built-in task manager & note-taking app
- Excellent security
- Private key management is a paid feature
Box has a few features, though many of them come through paid add-ons (which we’ll get to in the next section) or through third-party integrations. Integrations are what sell Box cloud storage. Google Workspace, Office 365 and Slack are enabled out of the box, and they work directly in the Box interface.
Native Box Features
That isn’t to say Box is down and out when it comes to first-party tools. Every account comes with Box Notes and a task manager. As you can read in our Box Notes review, it’s not quite as good as our best note-taking app pick, Evernote, but it’s not bad. The biggest upside is that you can collaborate with others on notes directly in the Box app.
The task manager isn’t as robust as tools like Asana and Trello, though it helps for handling basic workloads. You can assign a general or approval task to any file, along with comments. Brilliantly, all comments, tasks and file activity live in the same preview window for files, allowing you to quickly see everything you need to.
Still, the integrations stand out. As we’ll get to in the “ease of use” section below, you can easily create and edit documents with Google Workspace and Office 365 without ever leaving Box. Outside of those native integrations, Box has a massive selection. You can add your own custom apps, too.
- : No
- : 5 GB
- : No
- : No
Box pricing isn’t great. It’s one of the more expensive business cloud storage services on the market, but it makes up for that fact with unlimited storage on three of its four plans. Both Sync.com for Teams and pCloud Business are cheaper, but neither come with unlimited storage.
- : 10 GB
- : 100 GB
- Users: No limit
- : Unlimited GB
- Users: No limit
- : Unlimited GB
- Users: No limit
- : Unlimited GB
The Starter plan, well, starts the lineup, but its scope is limited. The plan is restricted to 10 users, and it only comes with 100GB of shared storage. It also lacks most of Box’s business features, including data loss protection and custom branding.
The other three plans all come with unlimited storage for a minimum of three users. The main difference between the three comes down to enterprise app integrations and external collaborators.
The Business plan is restricted to a single app and doesn’t support external collaborators, while Business Plus supports three apps and unlimited collaborators. The Enterprise plan supports as many as you want of both.
Although unlimited storage is Box’s standout feature for pricing, it’s not the only cloud storage service with that much space. Dropbox Business is a little more expensive than Box’s first unlimited plan — though cheaper than Business Plus and Enterprise — and MEGA offers unlimited storage for less than both of them (read our MEGA review).
Box is expensive, but it offers a lot for your money. If you’re not ready to pay Box’s rates, you can try out the service for free for 14 days. The free trial requires a credit card, but you won’t be charged as long as you cancel within the first two weeks.
In addition to the plans above, Box offers Enterprise Suites (pricing available upon request). Enterprise Suites are bundles that include the standard service alongside some add-ons (more on those in the “security” section below). No matter what plan you choose, the prices are charged per user per month.
Ease of Use
There isn’t much going on with the Box web interface, at least not at first. Like a lot of other cloud-based content management platforms, Box’s web interface features a folder hierarchy and a left-side menu. You can quickly see recent files and trash, and you can create collections to quickly see a group of files.
It’s the details that stand out. For example, the “new” button isn’t just for creating new folders. By default, you can also use that button to create documents with either Google Workspace or Office 365. Similarly, next to the notification icon at the top of the interface, there’s a small task manager. It isn’t monday.com or anything, but it gets the job done.
Each folder also has an extensive list of settings attached to it, allowing you to do everything from hiding the names of collaborators from others to requesting a notification whenever someone uploads, downloads or previews files in the folder.
Box has a standard interface, but once you start digging around, it becomes clear that it has a lot more functionality than competing services.
Behind the web app is the admin console. With the exception of Starter, all plans come with this feature, allowing you to see usage logs, total storage space and more.
There are a lot of other things going on in the admin center, the most important of which is the app store. There are a few apps — such as Box for Microsoft Office — installed by default. You can install additional apps and configure file associations, too (for example, choosing Google Docs to open .docx files).
The Box interface is so well designed because it masks all of its intricacies. If you want to dig deeper in the settings, you can, and you’ll be rewarded for doing so. The design is so user friendly, though, that you don’t have to, and that’s what makes Box special.
File Sharing & Syncing
Given Box’s exceptional ease of use, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sharing and syncing is equally user friendly. You can view the sync status of folders and files in your account simply by clicking them and tabbing over to “details” in the web app. There, you can choose to sync a file to your desktop or leave it solely in the cloud.
Syncing is easy and, in most cases, automatic. It’s not all thumbs-up this section, though. Box doesn’t support block-level sync, meaning that every time you edit a file, you’ll have to reupload it to Box. We’ll talk more about what that means for speed in the next section.
Box isn’t great for large files, either. With a file size limit of 2GB on the Starter plan and 5GB on the Business one, you’re better off with one of our best cloud storage for large files picks.
Document Sharing and Collaboration
File sharing is equally simple. You can right-click any file or folder to generate a sharing link, or to invite other collaborators, no matter if they’re internal or external. Box supports file requests, too, allowing you to send a request to an external collaborator to upload a file directly to your Box cloud storage.
Collaboration is what stands out here. With native Google Workspace and Office 365 support, you can create and edit Word documents, spreadsheets and presentations directly in Box.
Even better, you can collaborate with others on these documents in real time. Box Notes supports real-time collaboration, as well, and each file comes with a detailed activity log so you can see who did what.
To test Box’s speed, we uploaded and downloaded a 1GB folder filled with photos, movies, documents and more. We did this two times, then averaged the results.
Before running our tests, we marked our internet speed at 450 Mbps download and 21 Mbps upload. Ignoring all other network conditions, we’d expect an average download speed of 19 seconds and an average upload speed of six minutes and 49 seconds.
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
Box doesn’t stick to those speeds exactly. Download times are pretty slow considering our expected result, though not terrible. Egnyte is a little faster using the same folder on the same internet connection, but not by much — around 20 seconds.
Upload speeds are slower than expected, as well, and worse, they’re inconsistent. We don’t usually see a 30-second gap between trials. Based on our average, Box is around one minute slower than we expected with a 1GB folder, so although an extra 60 seconds doesn’t seem like much, it can add up over time.
What really racks up time is syncing. As mentioned, Box doesn’t support block-level sync, meaning you have to fully reupload a file whenever you make changes. The initial upload is a little slow, but having to reupload files at that same rate each time you edit a file will account for more time.
Security & Privacy
When it comes to security, Box does everything it should — short of offering a zero-knowledge security model. Files in transit are secured with an SSL/TLS channel, and files at rest are encrypted with AES-256 (read our description of encryption for more). Box also has redundancy in the form of file copies at other facilities.
It’s key management that separates Box from a service like Tresorit, which is one of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage providers. Box manages your encryption keys by default, meaning it has access to the key that decrypts your data. That makes Box easy to use but slightly less secure than other services.
Thankfully, there is an option to manage your own keys. Box KeySafe offers just that, and it sits alongside other add-ons like Box Zones — which lets you choose your data residency — and Box Shield, which offers threat detection and classification-based security controls.
The problem is that none of these add-ons are free, and Box doesn’t display the prices for them. For some of the add-ons — like Box Shield and Box Platform — the extra cost makes sense. However, data residency and key management are both standard features with a lot of cloud storage services, including Tresorit and pCloud.
As far as your data goes, Box likely isn’t digging through user accounts, though it could by default. Private key management is slowly making its way into the EFSS market, and we’d like to see Box include it as a standard feature in the future.
Our customer service experience with Box started off right. After signing up for a trial account and messing around a bit, someone from Box reached out not only to ask if we had any questions but also to clarify the features and restrictions of the plan we were testing. This happened in the first 24 hours of testing.
It’s important to note that we signed up for an account like anyone else would, free of any mention of Cloudwards.net. The email also wasn’t automated, and we got a reply quickly after responding ourselves. Although it was customer service rather than technical support, we rarely see an actual person reaching out preemptively.
For technical support, Box has a few options. It offers email and chat support, though the latter goes offline from time to time (there are different departments, and their availability changes). Additionally, Box offers phone support, but only on select plans.
Box ties these various forms of support — along with the community forum — into a single area, making it easy to manage your tickets, ask the community and browse troubleshooting articles.
Summarizing the self-help resources as “articles” is a bit reductive, though. Box does offer troubleshooting articles, but it also offers a range of educational courses for users, admins and developers. It also has articles split up by product, featuring everything from installing Box Notes mobile app on Android and iOS to understanding sync with Box Drive.
Overall, Box does everything it should. Although we would like around-the-clock support and phone support for all users, Box has a personal touch when it comes to support. The self-help resources stand out most, though.
Box for business is excellent. However, it’s mainly excellent on the back of its integrations. Otherwise, it’s an expensive cloud storage solution that scores high on usability but has a few issues when it comes to speed and security.
What do you think of our Box review? Are you going to give Box a shot? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.