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Box gives IT admins enterprise mobile management features

Box suffered downtime this week but forged ahead with its enterprise market strategy with security and mobile device management features for IT administrators.

Document file sharing and storage are still Box’s raison d'être, but the company has rolled out new management features specifically for IT admins that may push Box ahead of the pack of vendors vying to be the enterprise alternative to Dropbox.

Box released new enterprise-friendly management features this week following news that a small number of customers discovered the service was down for two hours in the early morning.

Box needs strong management features to enter the enterprise market, but downtime is one thing Software as a Service (SaaS) companies must avoid if they want to win the trust of leery IT pros.

“We worry about downtime,” said Justin Slaten, director of IT for the Wasserman Media Group in Los Angeles.

But, “all SaaS products have downtime, and there’s downtime for on-premises too. We take it all into consideration,” he added.

Wasserman Media Group, a sports agency, has a globally dispersed mobile workforce. The company first used Box as a File Transfer Protocol replacement back in 2007, but in the last year it has migrated traditional on-premises data storage to Box.

“It’s been a more aggressive timeline” to become “entirely cloud” because of the enterprise management features Box has released, Slaten said.    

New Box management features

Box admins can now conduct enterprise-wide data and file searches from the admin console to discover which files employees are sharing inside the company, and then how those files are used outside the corporate network.

There is more granular mobile security support, which Box said is not a mobile device management (MDM) play, but rather is intended for companies that might not have an MDM system in place yet.

That’s the case at Wasserman Media Group, Slaten said. The company has primarily relied on BlackBerry and BlackBerry Enterprise Server for MDM, however, many employees use iOS and Android devices, which has the company re-evaluating its strategy.

“The mobile security piece [of MDM] gives us peace of mind during this process,” Slaten said.

For example, Box admins can now enforce passcode locks to access content on mobile devices and restrict files from being stored locally on devices for specific users and in specific scenarios.

That extra layer of security for protecting data on mobile devices at the app level should entice IT admins beyond standard MDM, said Chris Silva, an analyst at the Altimeter Group, a San Mateo, Calif.-based research firm.

This feature is available for Android immediately and will hit iOS devices once it goes through Apple’s App Store approval process.

There’s also the ability to manage multiple email domains through a single admin account for large companies with multiple subsidiaries. User activity notifications within Box can be archived into existing enterprise monitoring systems for businesses in heavily-regulated industries.

Box also launched an enterprise license agreement which provides multi-year pricing and volume discounts for corporate customers.  Box didn’t provide specifics on pricing, but said the rate was negotiable.

Can Box pull ahead?

The cloud storage and file-sharing market has plenty of competitors: SkyDrive, Google Drive, Citrix Systems Inc.’s ShareFile and VMware Inc.’s Octopus have all made waves in the last few months.

It’s no longer enough of a value proposition to provide anywhere and anytime access to files through seamless syncing -- that’s become the standard, said Tim Hickernell, director of research at Ontario-based Info-Tech Research Group.

The new enterprise management features by Box are a step in the right direction to separate from a very crowded market, industry watchers said.

“They need as many data security and management features as possible,” Silva said.

Further, Box’s evolution in the social enterprise collaboration space is another positive indication they can move beyond storage, industry watchers said.

“If Box wants to remain a differentiated player, they need to strengthen [their]document-editing and creation tools,” Silva said. Box has formed partnerships with other SaaS vendors such as QuickOffice and Evernote.

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Box has also improved its software development kit to make it easier for SaaS apps and existing legacy applications to integrate more tightly with Box.

IT needs more than just file-sharing and storage space, Hickernell said. They need an easy and secure way to link the SaaS services that employees are using across multiple devices. Box does that about as well as any company, he said, and the continued release of enterprise-friendly management features is an appealing combination.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush on Twitter. Like on Facebook.

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