This month, I will give an overview of some of the key features of Box (box.com), a U.S.-based company. Box is a completely different product, owned by an unrelated company, from the more well-known Dropbox. Box is heavily geared to the complex needs of the corporate world, versus the consumer-oriented Dropbox. Many of Box’s corporate customers are large, sophisticated enterprises with thousands of individual users within them.
Our firm has been using Box since its inception to host file documents. We do not use Box for documentary discovery applications, of course. For that purpose, there are plenty of highly developed and specialized programs on the market. Rather, we use Box to host and access file documents in the normal course — both for internal firm use and for collaboration with clients and third parties.
At its core, Box is a glorified cloud document storage system. It is, however, distinguished from some other programs by its numerous advanced and sophisticated features. There are too many to describe in this article and I will focus on the key broad features, which I think may be interesting to the legal community.
This is one of the key distinguishing features of Box. The designated administrator is able to set access permissions for each user from a highly developed and fine-tuned set of access levels. Levels can be specified for lawyers, other professionals, staff, clients, outside parties, etc. While many other programs have a similar feature, Box does it with great mastery.
In addition, access and other features for groups of users can be changed based on their designated category, without the need to individually change each user’s settings.
Activity updates and reports
This is also one of the key advantages of Box. Depending on the settings you choose to designate as the administrator, all or some activities on the file are noted and listed in the updates section. Each participant (called “collaborator”) always knows what others in the file have done to any document or commentary, at any point in time.
If you so choose, each time an activity occurs on the file, an e-mail is automatically generated from Box to each file collaborator, with a description of the update.
The security in Box appears to be one of the most sophisticated and secure levels for this sort of a product. Box has a dedicated team of security professionals who are highly knowledgeable about all security issues.
Just as importantly, the firm administrator is able to set the security mechanisms and options for signing in and logging into the system, ranging from the levels of passwords, to additional access codes, etc.
I am told that, impressed with its level of security, certain British government departments have made exceptions to local European rules that otherwise require government documents to be hosted in Europe, in order to store documents in Box, which is U.S.-based.
Commenting and tasks
Commenting on any specific document among file collaborators is a very helpful feature. As opposed to e-mail, a comment is attached to a specific document. The comment is e-mailed to the intended recipient —¬¬¬ Box does that automatically for you — but more so, the comment can be easily found in the future by viewing the document to which the comment relates.
When you click on the document, all the comments exchanged among file collaborators in relation to that particular document automatically show on the margin of the screen.
The same applies to tasks. A user may create and send a task to any other collaborator in the file, with a deadline and a description of the task. Box automatically e-mails the task to the intended user.
All tasks are not only easily located when viewing the document to which they relate, but the deadline feature brings up and reminds the relevant user about outstanding tasks.
Searching for documents in Box is very powerful, much more powerful than a typical local Windows search of documents in your network. Searches may be done across the system, and may be narrowed down significantly to a file, date, author, etc.
There are numerous software applications compatible with Box, many of which are free to add directly from the Box interface. This is another powerful feature. Having additional applications work directly with your documents in Box adds a significant amount of capability to what you can do. It enriches the user’s overall experience.
If it is important for you to have your collaborators — including your clients — access file materials on the go, Box’s mobility apps, which are available for all major smart devices and tablets, are stylish, elegant, and sophisticated in their features.
The advanced mobility features allow users to access many of the desktop features while on the go.
There are numerous other cloud hosting software programs on the market, including those specifically geared to the legal marketplace. If you do not explore any of them, you will not know what you and your firm may be missing.