Box.net was started in 2005 to provide a way for people to store content on the web and access it from anywhere. Its capabilities have continued to expand along with the maturity of the enterprise 2.0 concept. Last week I spoke with Jen Grant, Amy White, and Sean Lindo from Box.net about their new features.
They have moved the business from its initial vision of online storage for the consumer market as their business users have found the service useful and expressed demands for new capabilities. Jen said they see three main use cases at the moment. First, people in such areas as a firm╒s marketing department, need to store and share large files. For example, Stonewall Kitchen provides visual images to its outlets and partners to use in promotions. They offer access to these large files through Box.net.
Second, some companies do not want to maintain file servers and go paperless. They put all the company files on Box.net with access permission levels to accomplish this objective and provide ease of access. This includes images, audio, video and creative assets, as well as more traditional documents such was Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Third, companies are now going beyond simple storage and access to use Box.net for team collaboration. This third area is the most complex and it has been the focus of their new feature development. They see this as a major growth opportunity and I would agree.
Box.net╒s main goal is providing a cloud solution that is both easy to implement and easy to use. They are using this strategy to address the enterprise 2.0 adoption issues and I agree here, as well. They have also found that teams have gone beyond team collaboration to use Box.net for lightweight project management within the workflow. Much of teamwork within many companies is content centric so Box.net wants to provide collaboration and project management capabilities where the content resides. They have seen good pickup here.
Box.net also support social networking in the context of content. You can see content related profiles, discussions, tags, and comments. However, in keeping with the simplicity goal, these features are offered in a side bar so they do not clutter up the workspace. There were also options for each content folder such as share, comment, and star (make it a favorite).
A page listing a collection of content files displayed a number of features off to the side such as a listing of the collaborators, recently updated files, latest comments and folder options. You can add to content such things as bookmarks, a related website link, description, and comments. You can also see the latest activity across all shared content. Here is sample page containing folders.
There is a profile page for each employee that includes information about their role and current projects as well as contact information (email, phone number, and a picture). Their latest activities are also covered: what content they’ve most recently edited, commented, or discussed. This status is updated automatically and is based on the activities around content within Box. In addition, there is full text search and you can FAX from within Box. Here is a sample profile page.
Box.net also offers a Web Documents feature to create a new document within Box. If you create that document inside a shared folder with people you want to collaborate with, collaborators in that folder can receive updates when the document is updated and, depending on the settings you choose, you can let them edit the document, as well. You can also start discussions around the document.
They provide open APIs and an open platform for third party developers and IT departments that want to add functionality. It is also integrated with Zoho that offers a suite of productivity applications (see Zoho: A Suite of Many Online Apps for Small to Midsize Business and Zoho Apps Go Mobile).
Jen said that as a SaaS provider they are doing well in this down economy. They continue to exceed their revenue targets. She attributed this to pressure on IT departments and business units to keep expenses down. With Box you can test it for free and choose from several low cost options. It is easy to get started and there are no implementation or systems integration costs. Employees still needs to do work and Box provides a lower cost way to accomplish many content related tasks.
I would agree here as many SaaS vendors are told me their revenues are up now. I would add that Box provides a very intuitive, easy-to-use system. This will be one of their competitive advantages to help overcome adoption issues in enterprise 2.0. Box recognizes this and Jen said that they plan to continue to keep their simplicity and ease of use as they add more features. Here is a post from their blog on more new features: Workflow and branding tools come to Box.