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Box cloud storage review 2021

Great collaborative cloud features for larger businesses.

Box logo
(Image: © Box)

Our Verdict

A solid choice for larger businesses in need of cloud storage with added collaborative tools.

Pros

  • Huge range of app integrations
  • Easy-to-use workflow builder automates key processes
  • Strong business focus alongside individual plans

Cons

  • Some aspects of user experience are confusing
  • Individual plans are quite restricted

When it comes to choosing the best cloud storage solution for you or your company, there are a lot of options on the market. Box is a longstanding provider that not only still provides an individual service, but now mainly focuses on helping businesses operate efficiently, securely, and collaboratively, even when working remotely.

Box review: Snapshot

With a huge range of app integrations and a workflow builder, Box slots easily into your working life. In this way, it goes far beyond offering a simple cloud-based storage service, even though it still offers a free plan and one paid individual package. But the user experience isn’t always the best, and there are some confusing aspects to the software. 

Despite this, Box is certainly worth a look for larger companies. In our full Box review, we take a look at the key features, pricing options, and performance of this cloud storage provider to help you decide whether it could be a good option for your business. 

Score: 4/5

Read on for the full review. 


Box's competitors

How does Box compare to its main competitors?
BoxIDriveDropbox
Score4/54.5/54.5/5
ProsFocused on business collaboration - Huge number of app integrationsBack up from different devices - End-to-end encryption - ‘Set and forget’ backupSmooth interface - Easy to share files externally - Excellent mobile apps
ConsRestricted free and individual plans - Different components can make user experience confusingCap on data you can store - Can be expensive for a business planNo end-to-end encryption - Not the cheapest business option
VerdictGreat for larger companies, with a huge number of app integrations and collaborative features. However, a slightly confusing user experience.A great choice for individuals but not the cheapest business option and lacks collaborative featuresSuper smooth interface and lots of collaborative features make this a top choice.
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Key features 

Box has a range of really useful features, mainly aimed at businesses that want to streamline and automate their workflow. As such, it goes far beyond offering a simple cloud storage service, and becomes a centralized workspace.

Like any cloud storage solution, Box lets you store your data remotely. This can be a more secure option than keeping everything on local disks and devices, especially with Box’s AES 256-bit encryption. The majority of Box’s plans also come with unlimited storage, so you won’t need to worry about exceeding any cap unless you choose the individual or free plans.

Something that’s a little confusing about Box is that you can download two different desktop clients for backing up content: Box Sync and Box Drive. Both allow you to upload files to the cloud, sync across devices, and work offline. Box itself notes that having both clients installed can cause conflicts, recommending users to switch over to Box Drive exclusively. Yet, Box Sync is still available, and selecting ‘Sync’ on the dashboard directs you to download it. This isn’t great in terms of user experience.

Box isn’t just a cloud storage service; it also showcases the collaborative aspect of the cloud. You can easily share documents with others, work on the same document in real time, and create notes and feedback to facilitate improvements. This is an excellent feature for those working remotely with others or in teams.

Box integrates with over 1,500 popular apps and services from top providers, including Microsoft 365, Slack, and Salesforce. This means users don’t need to jump from app to app; they can open and edit documents in Box or access content within CRM or chat systems. This makes for more streamlined working, with few integrations not supported.

Box: key features and highlights

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Box's user interface

Box lets you upload your files to the cloud (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Share files for easy collaboration (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Choose from a huge range of integrated apps with Box (Image credit: Box)
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Box's user interface in use

Easily create automated workflows (Image credit: Box)

On a collaborative level, the Box Relay feature makes it easy to build automated workflows with no code needed. These can be focused on file, folder, metadata, or task events. For example, if you upload a file and work in a team, an approval task can be automatically sent out to a manager, and the approved file can then be automatically moved into the right location. This really cuts down on time and stress when it comes to repetitive tasks.

In the age of remote working, it can be tough to pin down physical signatures. For that reason, e-signature software can be very useful, and Box goes a step further by actually integrating this into its service. E-signatures can even be embedded into your website or app using Box’s APIs. At the time of writing, the e-signature feature was set to be released imminently (summer 2021).

What’s new?

Box has been in operation since 2005, and it’s certainly evolved in that time, most notably in its shift from a direct-to-consumer product to one that’s much more focused on corporate needs.

New features are added constantly. Its latest major update is the aforementioned Box Sign e-signature service, an important addition for companies working with customers remotely. Other recently added features include audio recording, annotations—which allow users to leave actionable feedback on documents—and two-factor authentication for allowing external users secure access to your files.

Box’s ability to respond to user needs by developing and launching new services and solutions is impressive, and it suggests that the platform is flexible enough to continue evolving in the future.

Pricing

Box comes in two flavors: Individual and Business. Alongside a free individual plan, there's also the Personal Pro plan, which offers up to 100GB of storage, a 5GB file upload limit and 10 file versions for $10 a month. Its Business offering has four standard pricing packages, each available as either a monthly or annual subscription and with support for a minimum of three users. 

Beyond this, the packages are differentiated by the user limit, ability to invite external users, storage cap, enterprise app integrations, and admin access, amongst other features. An annual subscription gives users a 25% discount when compared with a monthly rolling payment.

Box's pricing plans
Plan type/featurePersonal ProBusiness StarterBusinessBusiness PlusEnterprise
Cost per month$11.50$7$20$25$47
Cost per year$120$60$180$300$420
Unlimited storageXX
Unlimited usersXX
External collaboratorsXXX
Custom brandingXX
Advanced adminXXX

Testing Box

To better benchmark Box against its competitors, we analyzed its upload and download speeds, which are a key factor in terms of cloud storage, as well as its integrations with third-party platforms, and the Box Relay automated workflows feature.

How fast is Box?

Windows Explorer folder showing Box download files

Uploading and downloading from Box Drive on desktop is the quickest option (Image credit: Box)

Whether you want to use the cloud for simple data storage or as a tool for collaboration, it’s important to be able to work quickly and efficiently. Box offers two ways to upload your files to the cloud: via Box Drive, which you can download to your computer, or through the Box website.

With an internet upload speed of 2.67Mbps, uploading a folder of larger files (a mix of audio and visual documents totaling 600MB) took five seconds. Uploading the same folder via the website took 35 seconds. With a download speed of 13.79Mbps, downloading the same folder from Box Drive took 12 seconds, and from the website, 10 seconds. This is pretty fast overall, despite the slight lag in uploading via the browser.

What integrations does Box offer?

Box's admin console's integration settings

Enable apps through Box’s admin console (Image credit: Box)

Box prides itself on its huge range of app integrations. Enabling integration with your required apps is easy through the Box admin panel, where a simple toggle allows users to install the apps they need. 

For individuals, Microsoft Office and Google integrations are automatically enabled, so it’s easy to create, for example, a Microsoft Word document within Box. You will, however, need to sign in using your Microsoft 365 account.

How does Box Relay work?

Box's Box Relay automated workflow settings

Box Relay lets you quickly and easily build automated workflows (Image credit: Box)

Box claims that it’s easy to set up automated workflows with no coding in Box Relay. It’s certainly straightforward to choose and implement one of its templates, which can be tweaked to suit your needs. We also found it easy to create a workflow from scratch using the step-by-step process provided. 

This is a very accessible feature no matter what your level of technical expertise is, and setting up a basic workflow takes just a couple of minutes—a solution that may significantly reduce your workload. In our opinion, Box Relay lives up to its promise.

Alternatives to Box

There are a few big players in the cloud storage space, and some of these, like Box, offer individual and business packages jam-packed with features. The right solution for your business will depend on how you plan to use your cloud storage service.

An obvious competitor is Dropbox, which has a range of individual-user and business solutions. Dropbox is famous for its easy-to-use interface, which syncs your files across different devices. Business packages add an e-signature function, a selection of team-management tools, and the Dropbox Paper centralized workspace, amongst other features. 

Its cheapest business package is more expensive than Box’s, but like Box it also has a free tier for a single user if you are just starting out with the cloud, plus a paid single-user option that’s ideal for sole traders. However, Box's free 10GB of storage is superior. Learn more about this cloud service in our full Dropbox review.

IDrive’s business package focuses on backup features, with continuous data backup, the ability to copy data from multiple devices, and disk clone, which allows you to copy an entire hard drive to the cloud. It is, however, more expensive than Box, and doesn’t come with as many collaboration tools. So, if you’re looking for a collaborative workspace, Box wins over IDrive.

On an individual level however, the two services are neck-and-neck, with similar features and a slightly cheaper monthly cost for IDrive, which offers unlimited devices and 5TB of storage compared to Box's 100GB.

Find out more about IDrive and its cloud storage offerings in our IDrive review.

Box's features compared to the competition
BoxDropboxIDrive
Unlimited storageYes – with three most expensive packagesYes – with most expensive packageNo
App integrationsYesYesNo
SupportKnowledge base, community forum, chat, and emailKnowledge base, community forum, training sessions, chat, and emailKnowledge base, phone, 24/7 chat, and email
Cheapest business plan$60 per user a year$150 per user a year$74.62 per user a year

The verdict

Box is a well-designed business solution, and this comes through in the range of features and solutions that prioritize the needs of a large company. It’s not just a file storage or backup service for individuals, although both are possible with Box. Instead, it’s pitched more as a collaborative tool that makes remote working more secure and efficient.

Whether on the individual or business plans, the vast array of integrations means users don’t need to jump from app to app whilst carrying out tasks, which makes everyday working life much more streamlined. The ability to set up automated workflows quickly and easily, with no coding needed, can also increase the efficiency of your team. And the new e-signature feature shows that Box is willing to respond to changing customer needs.

Box isn’t necessarily the easiest product to use, though. The confusion between Box Sync and Box Drive is a prime example of this. Also, the vast majority of its packages are aimed at more than three users, with IDrive's free and paid individual tiers superior to Box's. If you’re just starting out with a cloud product, you may want to use Dropbox’s free or Professional tiers, which will cut your costs. 

That said, Box now has a suite of features comparable to Dropbox, and can work out cheaper for a larger team. All in all, Box is a solid cloud solution that offers more than simple file storage, and can add real value on a business level in terms of team efficiency. 

Further reading on cloud storage

Make sure you take a look at our Box for Business review, which focuses in on the provider's business-centric plans and services in more detail. Wider reading includes our comparison of cloud storage vs local storage, our tips on reducing cloud storage costs, and our buying guides for the best cloud storage, the best cloud storage for business, the best free cloud storage, and the best cloud storage for photos.

The Verdict
4

out of 5

Box cloud storage review 2021

A solid choice for larger businesses in need of cloud storage with added collaborative tools.

Catherine Miller

 Catherine Miller is a freelance writer with expertise in tech, finance and education. She's also works in business development for a fintech start-up and is passionate about the positive impact of technology.