Need a refresher?
Box is a service for businesses to store files online. Box was built from the ground up for business and is not the right choice for individuals. Its business plan has a minimum of three licenses, at $15/month per user. I hold it in high regard; for a number of reasons I think it’s the best choice for small businesses and prefer it over Dropbox and OneDrive, which were originally designed for individuals and are being frantically overhauled because businesses are more profitable.
Box Drive is the program for Box users that makes online files appear just like network shares in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder. Businesses can move files from their onsite file server into the cloud; users have exactly the same access to the files along with added features like external collaboration, search and version control. Files and folders can be browsed and opened normally but they’re not synced to the computer and they don’t take up any hard drive space. When you click on a file, it is immediately and silently downloaded and opens completely normally. When you save a file, it is immediately and silently uploaded. There is no delay while files are synced. Box Drive is a new alternative to a separate older program, Box Sync, which syncs copies of online files to your computer’s hard drive.
Box Drive is similar to Dropbox Smart Sync (only available with Dropbox for Business and Dropbox Professional) and OneDrive Files On-Demand (now available to everyone but only used by people with a high tolerance for Microsoft confusion).
Although it has been labeled a beta, Box Drive has been stable and suitable for general use for many months. Taking away the “beta” label is more for PR than anything else, but it gives me a chance to call attention again to this significant bit of technology. One of the reasons that Google is successful with Google Drive is that files are available from any device without any fuss. Chromebook users can pick up any Chromebook, log in, and have immediate access to their files without a second thought. Theoretically Dropbox and OneDrive users on computers could have the same experience if we went to the Dropbox or OneDrive websites – but we never got in the habit. It makes us nervous if files aren’t listed in File Explorer. Apps like Box Drive and Dropbox Smart Sync allow us to have it both ways: files are safely stored online and accessible from any device, but we can browse through them in File Explorer and feel at peace with the world.
There are a few details for Box users. The rest of you can tune out now. Thank you for playing.
Box Drive does not currently support marking files for offline access. If you absolutely need to access some files or folders when you’re disconnected (on a plane, say), then don’t switch to Box Drive yet. That feature will be added to Box Drive soon. When it is available, Box Sync will be retired.
Box Drive and Box Sync fight with each other. If you want to switch to Box Drive – and you should – first uninstall Box Sync and restart your computer, then install Box Drive.
If you’re using Box Drive, you’ll be asked to install an update soon. A notification will appear, or the Box Drive icon in the lower right will have a little blob on it that’s supposed to look like something. When you start the update, it will complain until you right-click the Box icon in the lower right and click on “Exit.” Once the update is running, walk away and get coffee. You won’t have any indication that it’s working, but at some point it will return with a notification that the update was successful. In my experience that has taken between 2-5 minutes.
You cannot search files in Box using File Explorer or Mac Finder. Instead, left-click on the Box icon in the lower right. Your cursor will be in a search box where you can do full-text searches.
You can lock files from File Explorer and Mac Finder. Right-click on a file to lock it so other users cannot work on it simultaneously.
You may have trouble if multiple users log into the same computer. I don’t have any experience with this but this is from the release notes for Box Drive as of April 1, 2018: “Multiple users on the same device or workstation will not both be able to use Box Drive in their user profiles. Box Drive will not open for the 2nd user.”
Box offers collaboration and sharing, security, search, version control, integration with other online services, and more. Small businesses should try it. If you’re currently using Box Sync, consider switching to Box Drive to avoid sync errors and delays. It’s a great service and a clear direction to the future of file storage.