Box adds security, automation to IT admin console

The cloud storage vendor also launched an IT services unit and struck a partnership with Capgemini

Box is prepping a revamped IT administration console for its cloud storage and file sharing service that adds content management, security and workflow automation capabilities.

The company is also launching a consulting unit for assisting customers with deployments, and releasing an improved sync tool that's faster and less CPU-intensive, it said on Wednesday.

The new console now gives IT staff centralized control over users' access and sharing rights.

"Admins will be able to manage and control the content in Box across their entire user base," said Whitney Bouck, general manager and senior vice president of global marketing of Box's enterprise business.

The new console also lets administrators establish general usage and security policies for uploading and downloading data, and set up automated notifications when employees perform certain actions. "This capability has been a common request from companies in highly regulated industries, like financial services," she said.

The console also lets administrators set up multi-step workflows for common tasks like approving invoices, so that the each completed action automatically triggers the next step.

"It's about automating manual processes and removing bottlenecks around content movement," she said.

The content management component of the console will be available in the coming weeks for customers in the Enterprise and Elite tiers of Box's cloud service. They will still have to wait to gain access to the policies and automation capabilities, due in the months ahead.

"Those are all features that big enterprises like, so this improved admin console ups Box's relevance in large, complex organizations," said Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst.

The workflow automation and usage policies also make Box a stronger platform for it and its partners to build more complex document-centric applications and beef up Box's capabilities for document management, broadening its scope from its core cloud storage and file sharing features, Koplowitz said.

Alan Lepofsky, a Constellation Research analyst, called the addition of the automation and policies admin features "a significant milestone in the evolution of the Box platform."

"Policies add basic ECM [enterprise content management] capabilities that should ease some security concerns around cloud based storage. Automation provides the foundation for BPM [business process management] functionality that can elevate Box from just being storage, to being a platform for content-centric applications and workflows," Lepofsky said via email.

Box is also beefing up its IT services with the launch of its Box Consulting unit and a partnership with Capgemini, which will give Box customers professional services such as custom application development, enterprise deployments and integration of cloud services.

Box also announced that its Box Sync client software has been revamped so that it's now 10 times faster while requiring 25 percent less CPU usage.

Box's cloud storage and file sharing service is now used by about 200,000 companies -- including 97 percent of the Fortune 500 -- and by about 20 million employees. Recent customer wins include Chevron, Safeway and Pearson.

The company, founded in 2005, is one of the hottest in the enterprise IT market, having built up its service from the ground up to work in the cloud. Earlier this month, Box announced it had raised US$100 million in its latest funding round, on top of the more than $300 million raised previously. Its co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie, who is just 28 years old, has said the company could go public next year or in 2015. Its investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Andreessen Horowitz.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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