BoxWorks 2021: Advancing Security, Mobile, And Integrated Offerings

Box

In many instances where I discuss digital transformation, the company Box comes into the conversation as a key player with the Box Content Cloud. A few weeks ago, Box held its annual BoxWorks conference, where it announced new and what I consider exciting collaboration and security capabilities.

These new capabilities and integrations add on to the Box Content Cloud alongside what was announced earlier this year, Box Relay and Box Sign. You can also read here my take on BoxWorks 2020, where I concluded that Box has evolved way beyond its origins as a file-sharing service through the cloud. It’s been a real eye-opener researching the company.

Before I jump into BoxWorks 2021, let’s look at Box’s financial performance. The company reported revenue of $219 million which is a 12% increase year over year. One of the financial statistics I found fascinating is that it has increased its attach rates for its bundled offering, Box Suites from 10% in the past two years to over 70%. This number is a dramatic increase and is a strategic plan that is paying off.

Let’s take a look at the Box Content Cloud’s new capabilities that reinforce my claim that Box has evolved way beyond its origins as a file-sharing service through the cloud. 

Box improves its intelligent security offering, Box Shield 

Box’s new security capabilities address the surging amount of ransomware that came out of the rapid digital explosion of the pandemic. It has even been reported that ransomware attacks have grown by over 288 percent in the first half of 2021. This number is bound to grow over the next few years as more and more businesses go digital. I’ve even written here about how it is affecting consumers with Aura, and even how Aura is making a play into the business sector for the same reason. For Box to have these statics and this awareness on its radar says a lot about how Box values security. 

The increase in ransomware is not just because more people are digitally connected for longer. It results from more people being digital in different ways, using multiple tools and services to be connected across multiple places at once. In other words, it is a vertical depth of connection of people coupled with a horizontal breadth of devices and services. Imagine this breadth and depth as a grid, and each node is connected to the one adjacent, above, and below. So, you can imagine that each one of those connections is targetable.

Box Shield, Box’s intelligent security offering for Content Cloud workflows, is designed to lessen many malware concerns. Box Shield natively embeds threat detection into the platform and will detect when employees are abusing content or when anomalous downloads, suspicious sessions, or unusual locations are happening inside Box. Box says it is extending Box Shield’s detection capabilities to identify more sophisticated malware by adding deep (scan) learning technology that complements traditional hash-based or file-fingerprint scanning approaches that leverage known malware datasets. It says the additional layer of security looks inside individual files to identify malware and then automatically clears the file or blocks the malware’s spread in near real-time. 

The active scanning process of malware for all Box content through the cloud. BOX

What I find impressive is that Box Shield has already scanned over 48 billion files a year, reducing content-centric risk. If we think back to the node analogy I made earlier, Box Shield detects threats from each connected node. Whether the content is uploaded, updated, downloaded, previewed, shared, copy or moved, it is scanned and detected in real-time. I believe the real-time aspect of Box Shield should increase the number of files scanned and matching the parabolic increase of in-transit content, greatly reducing the number of threats customers face

Continuing further with the node analogy, if we think of these different nodes as different ways that content is in transit, we can add another layer to the analogy by distinguishing between external and internal sources. Rather than employees having to worry about bringing in content from external sources, Box Shield’s new malware deep scan can analyze external content that is accessed by managed users, expanding protection to content from external sources. I think Box has a strategic focus with Box Shield. It understands that security threats come in different methods and diverse locations. Now more than ever, bad actors are creative, and what it takes to fight off malware in the most unsuspecting ways is vastly different than what it was ten years ago. 

On top of Box Shield’s malware detection capabilities, it has an extra layer of security for preventing data leaks by implementing security classification for files, folders, and classification-based access policies. Box says it uses machine learning to automatically apply labels to files based on the content inside, allowing for the scalability of labels for sensitive files. Auto-classification now extends to active and existing content in Box. It has released an integration with Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) to ensure only authorized users get access to confidential data. I am impressed with Box’s security solutions. I think embedded security in Content Cloud Management (CCM) services is fundamental to a company’s security, especially when security is compromised as content is compromised. 

Collaboration

Another significant announcement and area of growth is in Box’s area of collaboration. It revealed all-new Box Notes, coming in January 2022, and an updated Box Mobile app. Box Notes jumps into the collaboration-with-teams space as a note-taking tool for teams inside the Box Content Cloud. Box says it can include a table of contents, anchor links, and more features for organization and navigation. Users can create call out boxes for highlighting content and can use code blocks for simplifying technical collaboration processes. Box says it has inline cursors for users to keep track of collaborator edits in real-time. It also has table capabilities with an intuitive interface for users to structure and format content easier. Since it is also built into the Box Content Cloud, it adopts the same level of security and control capabilities as the rest of the Box platform.

The most notable area we see collaboration tools like Box Notes is side by side with video collaboration tools for teams. Box Notes directly competes with other collaboration tools built into the most popular of video solutions like Google Jamboard and Zoom Whiteboard, their respective collaboration tools. Box Notes’ presence outside of these video call solutions, where most of its competitors are utilized, may seem like a weakness in comparison, but in actuality, its greatest strength. Although Box Notes is not in a video call solution, it has more of a profound and appealing impact—in the secure and complete Box Content Cloud. Staying within the ecosystem of the Box Content Cloud takes precedence over convenience in a video call solution.  I even think the ability to have a note collaboration tool through workflows and pipelines for teams overtakes that of the convenience of being in a video call solution.

Box Mobile has new features for collaborating on the go. BOX

To switch gears, Box has also updated its mobile app. The Box Mobile app now has a new capture mode for scanning documents, taking photos, or recording audio and instantly uploading them directly to Box. And, its new Optical Character Recognition (OCR) recognizes text automatically  turning scanned documents into searchable PDFs. The Box Mobile iPad experience also has a new simplified layout, more productive and improved navigation, and drag and drop functionality. I can’t tell you how many times I use this feature and it was important for Box to add it to the suite.

Our mobile devices keep us connected more than any other device, and I think this is especially true in a hybrid environment. Whereas laptops are stationary, apart from travel, and desktops even more so, smartphones and tablets are almost always on our person; less for tablets and iPads. We communicate and collaborate the most on our smartphone devices. They are the tools that keep us connected. While it has its challenges in utilizing the full Box Content Cloud, Box Mobile excels at quickly accessing, capturing, and sharing content, and I don’t think Box should shy away from creating the best mobile experience of any CCM. I think the best part about Box’s improvements to its mobile app is that it utilizes the one tool on smartphones that may not seem like a core strength for business users, the camera. Both its Capture mode and OCR technology take advantage of the incredible cameras users have in their back pockets, and I think if Box can continue to utilize the strengths of the smartphone, the Box Content Cloud becomes indifferent to platforms. By that, I mean that Box Content Cloud users could be equally as productive on the mobile platform as the web and desktop platforms. 

Better integrations into other content management technologies

Box has included new integrations with other content management technologies, including Microsoft Office and Teams, Slack, and Zoom. Integrations with Microsoft Office and Teams include real-time co-authoring on mobile, web, and desktop Office apps. Box and Microsoft announced an update to the Box for Office integration that will enable real-time co-authoring on Office desktop and mobile apps, with all changes saved to Box. This will be available in early 2022. They also announced a new option to have Box as the default storage within Teams, bypassing SharePoint and eliminating content fragmentation for joint Box and Microsoft users. This feature will be available at the end of 2021. 

Box’s new integration with Slack includes the ability to upload files directly to Box through the Slack interface for a more simplified content process, while maintaining Box’s security and compliance over any content coming through Slack. 

Box has also launched the Box app for Zoom that allows users to access Box content without leaving the Zoom platform. Box says users can browse, preview, and share Box files directly from Zoom, whether the meeting is active or not, and users can present a Box file with one click.  

Although the previous paragraphs were a whole slew of information about Box’s integrations with other productivity applications, we should unpack what Box is trying to accomplish. Although the ideal scenario for Box users is to stay within the Box platform as much as possible, it is almost inevitable that users are bound to use other applications.  It is strategic for Box to integrate into today’s top enterprise applications – with the company’s current number of integrations topping 1,500+ — , and the reason why falls on the same principle as to why Box wants users to stay within the Box Content Cloud. 

Box wants its users to stay within the Box Content Cloud because it wants its clients to have the most powerful experience within a CCM service as possible. Box can give such a service if it can control the critical variables, such as security, that make for a seamless and productive experience. Box can integrate into other business and productivity applications without compromising these variables that make the Box Content Cloud so powerful. 

Wrapping up

Box is revealing what it finds most valuable in its Box Content Cloud, and I think many businesses, whether SMB or in the Fortune 500, could find its offerings most appealing. It addresses the critical need for enhanced security in malware detection by using machine learning and taking a proactive approach. On the defense, it includes an extra layer of security prevention by using machine learning to classify sensitive files in a security hierarchy. As someone with executive experience and who understands the amount of sensitive content passed around, I find the scalability most appealing to keep that sensitive information behind more locked vaults. 

I also think Box Notes is a great addition to the Box Content Cloud and, alongside the enhanced Box Mobile app and integrations into Microsoft Office and Teams, Slack, and Zoom, Box is making moves that enhance its position in the CCM space. It is hitting collaboration on multiple fronts—in the Box Content Cloud, on mobile, and integrating other applications. I think Box is strategic, and it has the numbers to show for it.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.