Review: Box beats Dropbox -- and all the rest -- for business

Box trumps Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix ShareFile, EMC Syncplicity, and OwnCloud with rich mix of file sync, file sharing, user management, deep reporting, and enterprise integration

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Originally and now just Box, this company offers one of the best-known storage services for small and midsize businesses and large enterprises. Not only does Box offer generous amounts of storage -- 1TB for business users -- but its business and enterprise plans sport some hugely ambitious and useful features.

The basic, free, single-user Box -- the Personal tier -- gives you 10GB of storage and a 250MB file size limit, but you can ramp those up to 100GB and 5GB for $5 per month. An array of desktop and mobile clients let you sync and upload from most any device. Using the Box Edit app, you can download a given file and edit it on your computer (provided you already have an app that can edit that file type). Your changes are saved back automatically. With the full Box Sync app, which keeps shared folders echoed to your local system, you edit files locally.

The really professional features come out at the Starter tier, for up to 10 users. Files can be locked, set to automatically expire, have permissions assigned to them, and versioned with up to 25 previous versions stored. The full-blown Business tier ups the file version history to 50 and adds external authentication, user management, and audit logging. Go for the Enterprise tier -- you'll need to get a price quote -- and even more management and API-level features are unlocked.

Object permissions are a good example of how much more functionality is unlocked as you ascend Box's tiers. At the Starter level, only two user roles are available: editor and viewer. With Business and Enterprise accounts, you have Previewer, Uploader, Viewer, Previewer-Uploader, Viewer-Uploader, and Co-Owner as well, each with different sets of permissions available. Business and Enterprise customers also have access to detailed reporting. The reporting goes far beyond that of Dropbox to include things like who read or modified which files.

Box is most famous for the wealth of apps and extensions available for it, the sheer range of which dwarfs most of the competition. Aside from the usual crop of sync-files-to-a-device apps (for Windows, OS X, Android, and more), there are apps for working with specific desktop applications (Box for Office), apps to provide integration with different online services (Box for Google Apps), apps for accessingh legacy infrastructures (the Box FTP server app) -- the list goes on. Note that while some of the apps are available free, others come only with the premium levels of the service, and still others are available for-pay through third parties.

If you want further proof of Box being designed to appeal to professional customers, the range of single sign-on options ought to do it. Aside from being able to authenticate with Active Directory, Box can authenticate with Salesforce, NetSuite, Jive, and DocuSign accounts. The Business tier is limited to the use of one SSO authority; the Enterprise tier has no such limits. On the other hand, custom portal branding is only available at the Enterprise level; that's a feature Citrix ShareFile offers even on its most basic tiers.

With granular user management functions, integrations with various business apps and services, and a wealth of third-party add-ons, Box is easily the leader of the pack in enterprise-oriented features.

This article, "Review: Box beats Dropbox -- and all the rest -- for business," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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