How Box forced me to drop Dropbox

Two years ago when I started looking at file sharing and backup services I obviously tripped over Dropbox and SugarSync. I also discovered Box but, for whatever reason, I got the distinct impression that it was first, firmly enterprise level oriented and, second, a tadge on the expensive side.

My online mate Matt Clark of Damang Media recently published a comparison of the three services and Box edged slightly ahead of SugarSync so I thought I’d do a revisit and report back from my perspective.

Desktop application

At first viewing Box has more in common with Dropbox in that there is no desktop application unless you subscribe to the business or enterprise levels. This is something I consider a major plus with SugarSync.

On the rare occasion I have no connection with SugarSync I can add files and carry out admin tasks on the desktop app and leave it to sync when a connection is eventually made. To some people this is not a game changer, but to me it is important.

Allegedly Box will be rolling out the desktop sync software to us pondlife users later this year but judging by comments on the community forum I am not going to hold my breath. At the moment this is not a ball breaker but …

Setting up Box is simplicity itself. You simply sign up to an account flavour of your choice, set up a directory structure and then start uploading files. Box boasts an excellent Java powered bulk upload tool so when starting off you will find populating your Box account doesn’t give you any headaches.

Box scores with sharing apps

Where box scores significantly over SugarSync and Dropbox is that it can share itself with other services such as Salesforce, Google Apps, LinkedIn, Microsoft Office and Outlook and NetSuite. In fact going through the list of associated apps it’s difficult to find one that Box doesn’t link into or provide a suitable alternative.

With Google Docs, for example, you integrate the service with your Box account and then click on the +new button and start a word document or spreadsheet.

Another area that Box is ahead of the game is with server space allocation. Like SugarSync Box gives basic free account users a generous 5gb of space which leave’s Dropbox’s 2gb looking a little measly. But if you upgrade to the basic business account for $15 per user per month you get a staggering 500gb of storage space.

What is slightly sneaky is that Box doesn’t tell you that you need a minimum of three users for a business account until you hit the upgrade button. Caveat Emptor!

Online administration

Keeping everything up to date and organised within the web-based admin area is a doddle. You can copy or move files across folders buy a simple tick and click. As you would expect sharing any file on your Box account is just a matter of tick and clicking and allocating email addresses. It really is that fool proof.

Most importantly with the growth of tablets and smartphones you can enjoy the benefits of mobile computing by loading the relevant app from whatever OS market you use. With my Galaxy SII Android phone the mobile app synced perfectly with the cloud based service.

Summary

So would I jump from SugarSync to Box as my primary backup and sync service? In a word, no. SugarSync allows me to work the way I want by “doing stuff” on my desktop PC, netbook or smartphone and then syncing it to the net and linked devices. I can also stream music from within the desktop, netbook or mobile phone SugarSync module.

But it has focused my mind on Dropbox which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. For a smidgen under $10 a month I get just 25gb of space with Box compared to the 50gb I got with Dropbox but the added functionality more than compensates.

It’s early days and I am sure as I work with Box regularly I will find more to report from the front line, so watch this space.

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Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications professional who has worked for some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. In the 1990s he became interested in how emerging Internet-based technologies could change the way that people worked and became an administrator on the Telework Europa Forum on CompuServe. With other colleagues he took part in a four year European Commission sponsored project to look at the way that the Internet could benefit remote communities. His blog is a resource for SMEs who want to use cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies.