Box.net is an on-line, cloud-based, “one-stop” professional collaboration service. Similar to Lawyerist-favorite Dropbox, Box.net enables users to collaborate on projects from across the globe and access files from anywhere in the world.
While Dropbox is an excellent online backup and sharing medium, Box.net offers a service that specifically caters to professionals who collaborate online.
For instance, with Dropbox you can create a shared folder that can be viewed and modified by any number of invitees that are also required to download and install Dropbox. While this is certainly a wonderful feature for the attorney who collaborates only sporadically, hardcore collaborators may want to splurge on Box.net’s more feature-rich collaboration service.
Box.net does not require any software to download or install, and all collaboration and file storage takes place in the cloud. Box.net’s wiki-style document editor allows files to be edited and shared without ever being downloaded. Because Box.net keeps previous versions of files on the server, there is no need to worry if a document is mistakenly deleted or seriously altered. Also, because all collaboration takes place online, Box.net’s web interface can be accessed from any OS (Linux, Windows, or OS X).
Box.net’s task-based file system is a new addition to its feature set. Each file in a shared project folder can be assigned tasks to any of the file’s collaborators. The four assignable tasks are: approve or reject, review, update, or custom instructions of your choosing. Take this scenario: you are collaborating with a number of co-counsel on a shared client file. You can assign one collaborator to update the file with the information you specify, then assign another to review the document for errors, and then finally send it to your partner for final approval or rejection.
Box.net also features the ability to add a custom company logo to your login and folder screens. While certainly not necessary, it still conveys a very professional image.
Other features include multiple folder layers, mobile access via any browser-enabled mobile device, usage statistics, file update notifications, and security management. Box.net’s pricing is competitive considering the level of services offered. Pricing begins at $7.95 per month for 5 folders and 5GB of storage. The top tiered business account is $14.95 per month for unlimited folders, 30GB of storage, company branding, and version history. A scaled down “Lite” version is offered for free with 5 folders, 1GB of storage, and a 25MB file limit.
Is this a better alternative to Dropbox? I think the two services serve different purposes. Dropbox handles online back-up and file access better than anything I have tried. For that purpose, nothing beats it. However, Box.net offers a professional interface, online document editor, and superior organization and sharing options. I personally use both services, and recommend both for different reasons.