Late last week, Box.net unveiled Cloud Content Management, a layer of management capabilities for files, users, groups, work flow and collaboration atop the company's Web-based file storage system. According to the company, the move is an effort to provide today's increasingly mobile workforce with a platform that's in line with they way they work, more so than similar solutions available today.
The Box.net service provides cloud-based file storage and sharing for a monthly fee based on the number of users in your company or department. Files are uploaded through a browser and organized in folders, just as on a hard driver or server. Files can contain comments and be shared with and downloaded by non-members based on length of time, number of downloads or other parameters. With today's news, Box.net now lets users create other users, organize them into groups, grant them sharing rights to files and and folders and report usage stats. "Now you can see who's sharing what and who's doing the most stuff," explained Jen Grant, Box.net's vice president of Marketing.
Grant said the company is taking aim at SharePoint, Microsoft's ubiquitous Office-integrated platform that offers many of the same capabilities from behind the firewall. "People are realizing that they need to share their data outside the firewall and to connect with partners," said Grant, adding that it won't be difficult to compete with Microsoft in terms of ease-of-use. "The new knowledge worker is web savvy. They're using tools like Facebook and Twitter, which are easy to use and enable people to share. People expect the same kind of usability in business software." This suggests that if systems provided by their company's IT department are too rigid, "people will just go around them."
Box.net CEO Aaron Levie acknowledges two areas in need of improvement for 2010. One is the ability to scale service of its 3.5 million users in 50,000 businesses accessing a million files per day. "Globablization is an important project, and we want to improve the speed of access as much as possible," he said. "North America is key concentration for us, but we're talking to service providers for delivering content and co-locating in other regions this year and next year as a priority."
Another area targeted for improvement is the method by which files are populated into the system. "Today you can add single or multiple files or create content directly online," said Levie. "But we are developing additional ways to capture data and to implement as many ways to transfer content as possible." In the works for later this year, for example, is support for Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), as well as desktop integration. This is in reaction to a shift in the company's customer base from mainly sales people to IT departments, Grant said.
Christopher High handles sales and marketing development at Inverness Medical, which supplies diagnostic equipment to hospitals and laboratories across the U.S. He said that when he came on board, literature requests from the company's 300-person remote sales team were handled one at a time. "We have a large number of products, plus brochures, package inserts, health guides...nearly 13,000 pieces of literature." Whenever a salesperson needed collateral, they called the main office. "It was archaic. Now if they have a new customer to introduce a product, they can download it directly." Part of High's job is to maintain the Box.net library. "Now that they're all online, we can keep them all updated and easily accessible for our reps and include permanent links in our marketing materials and newsletters."