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Box review

Michael Passingham
2 Jul 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
3
per month for 100GB

This powerful all-round sync package may be overkill for some, but its web interface and mobile apps are highly polished

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Specifications

Operating system support: Windows Vista/7/8, Mac OS X 10.6+, Storage space: 100GB, Mobile device support: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone 8, Sync support?: Yes

Box is a synchronisation service that not only allows you to access your files from anywhere, but also share and collaborate on them. Its products are primarily aimed at businesses, but it also has free and paid-for personal accounts.

In a similar way to Dropbox, Copy, Google Drive and OneDrive, Box will only synchronise files stored in the Box Sync folder on your PC. This means that if you want a file to be accessible from anywhere, you'll need to move it into that folder.

PRICING

Box offers 10GB of free storage which, unlike with some services such as Dropbox, can't be increased through bonuses or referral schemes, or you can upgrade to the paid Personal price plan for $10 (around £6) a month. This gets you 100GB of storage and the ability to store individual files of up to 5GB in size. This is the same price as a 100GB Dropbox account, although the file size restriction does make it slightly less flexible.

You can also get a Box Starter account for $5 (around £3) per month. This tariff has 100GB of storage space but only allows for a 2GB maximum file size. If you're not planning on backing up very large files (such as large video files or disc images), this is by far the better-value option.

DESKTOP APP

The Box desktop app is very basic, and although we admire how easy it is to set up and use, we would have appreciated being given more options to tailor the service to our needs.

The most annoying omission is the ability to selectively synchronise folders, so you always have to download the entire Box folder to another computer, even if you only want to synchronise a handful of files. It's everything or nothing, and this makes the desktop application by far the weakest part of Box.

Uploading and sharing files is very easy, however; simply drag and drop a file or folder into your Box Sync folder, then right click and select the share button to copy a link to the folder to your clipboard, which you can then send to others.

Box desktop

WEB INTERFACE

Box has the most powerful web interface of all the Cloud services we've tested. Some may find it bewilderingly complicated, but for those who want absolute control over their files, it doesn't get much better than Box. For example, the web interface even allows you to open your stored files in Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, without requiring the Box Sync desktop software. You could feasibly use Box effectively without ever installing its desktop application.

You can see if a document has been edited, and Box will tell you how many iterations a file has gone through and allows you to revert them if you want to undo a change. You can also see who's been looking at, and editing, documents, and leave comments on files.

These tools are very much business- and group work-focused and will likely be overkill for people just looking to upload and share a few photos. Box's multimedia support isn’t as comprehensive as its document abilities; you can view photos in your web browser in a lightbox, but we had no luck playing a video file in the web app.

One of Box's key strengths is the arsenal of third-party add-ons available in the OneCloud store. Although many of these are expensive applications aimed at enterprise users, there are some designed for tasks such as printing, digitally signing documents and emailing attachments that home users should also find useful. The OneCloud store also extends to mobile apps, so you'll be able to download Box add-ons for use on your phone and tablet, too.

MOBILE APPLICATIONS

Box has a better selection of mobile apps than Dropbox, Google Drive, Copy, OneDrive and SugarSync, with software available for the iPhone and iPad, Android phones and tablets, and BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices.

The apps are compatible with more than 100 file formats, meaning you can preview almost any type of document and multimedia file from within the Box apps without having to open another application on your device. Our experience with previewing files was mixed, however. In our tests, large spreadsheets were impossible to read on our Android and Windows Phone devices due to our not being able to zoom in far enough, but things worked perfectly on the iPad.

Box iPad

Some useful features are missing depending on which app you use; for example, you can't download files in the Windows Phone app for offline use, and there's no Box OneCloud store built in, while in the iPad and Windows Phone apps you can't create Word and Excel documents from within the app, which is possible in Android. These are minor inconsistencies which shouldn't cause too many problems, and the overwhelming experience of Box on mobile devices is a positive one.

Box has also recently added its Notes tool to its iOS apps, a really handy little feature for those looking to make notes while on the move. In addition, Notes also allows multiple users to collaborate on a single document simultaneously in a similar way to Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online. It's basic stuff, but it's also lightweight and handy for a quick note or collaboration session.

Box is a powerful product, and to simply use it for uploading a few pictures or documents would be a waste of its capabilities. If you're planning on collaborating on projects or are even considering taking your small business to the Cloud, this is one of the strongest services there is, although if your business ambitions are smaller, you may wish to try Copy instead, which is cheaper per gigabyte per month. If you’re just looking for personal Cloud storage and sync, we'd recommend SugarSync or OneDrive, which are both simpler to use than Box.

Account specifications
Operating system supportWindows Vista/7/8, Mac OS X 10.6+
Storage space100GB
Number of computersUnlimited
Folder and file restrictions2GB file size limit
Backup
Redundancy/data centresMultiple data centres
Encryption256-bit AES
Logging/email reportsLogging/email
Schedule optionsNone
Pause/throttlePause
Back up open filesYes
Back up entire disk partitionsNo
Back up external disks/NAS devicesNo
Save backups to local mediaNo
Send backups by postNo
Restore
Recover previous versions of files25 versions
Recover deleted filesYes, 30 days
Restore from DVD/USB drive sent in the postNo
Web access to backupsYes
Share selected backup contentsYes
Media browserPhotos, video, audio, documents
Mobile device supportAndroid, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone 8
Sync
Sync support?Included
Sync priceIncluded
Sync foldersDedicated
System filesNo
Max devicesUnlimited
Buying information
Free version10GB free storage
Price per month$5 (around £3)
Price per year$60 (around £36)
Detailswww.box.com

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