Box aims to make IT comfortable with cloud file-sharing

Dan Levin, COO at cloud file-sharing vendor Box Inc., talks about overcoming IT's cloud reluctance and what sets Box apart from Dropbox and others.

Box Inc., a cloud file-sharing and collaboration provider, faces an uphill battle to win over enterprise customers who are reluctant to let employees store corporate data in the cloud. But Box's popularity among end users and the growing demand for its service give enterprise IT little choice but to give the company a look.

In this interview, Box's Chief Operating Officer Dan Levin talks about these challenges, market competition, and how he shapes the company's business and technology strategies according to customer needs.

What role do you have in helping sharpen Box's IT focus?
Dan Levin: Traditionally the COO is primarily focused in sales and marketing. We have a different approach here at Box. In the old world, it was fine to have one computer or device to give to your employees. In the new world, it's very difficult to behave that way.

Young employees' expectations are that technology should be incredibly easy to use and that it can solve business problems. They believe it's their right to use this technology. Box offers security, reporting and the control that the IT organization needs and wants to feel in control and comfortable while providing quicker business solutions.

What differentiates Dropbox from Box?
Levin: What Dropbox does is great, but it's not the same as Box.com. In a business context, Dropbox doesn't solve problems for a working environment. They don't provide the kind of administrative tools that IT requires.

Box … uses Active Directory. … [It] adds an administrative layer [and] enterprise tools for companies who want these types of securities in the cloud.

A lot of companies' IT departments are still very traditional and reluctant to adopt cloud. What can you say that might change their minds?
Levin: Today's knowledge workers are significantly more tech-savvy than ever before, but this evolution has largely been driven by consumer -- not enterprise -- technologies. Workers bring the expectations they have for consumer technologies into the workplace, and require software that helps them get their job done with the speed, simplicity and usability of the products they use in their life outside of work.

Cloud-based [software] allows employees to access content and tools from any device -- making them more mobile, nimble and productive. IT departments are no longer burdened with maintaining and upgrading hardware and software-- enabling organizations to focus on competitive differentiators rather than systems management and maintenance.

Businesses can quickly and easily try new cloud solutions out. [Box is] also not resource-intensive, and you don't need third-party consultants. Cloud solutions also are more cost-effective, go live faster, update seamlessly and frequently, and carry far less risk with implementation than traditional software or hardware deployments. Plus, there is no baggage when you cancel.

Box is audited by an outside firm that evaluates security policies and business processes. We want to make sure that our clients know that their data is secure and private. Box is supportive of the industry's efforts to develop security regulations and standards. … IT does not need to give up security, permissions and reporting.

What's in store for the future of Box?
Levin: Our vision for the future is, of course, for Box to be the system that businesses will [use] in the cloud to share and collaborate on content. ... Our focus is on building a healthy, growing and independent business for the long term. We'll do this by continuing to innovate on our core product experiences and technology, international expansion, building out our infrastructure to support our growing customer base, and expanding sales, service and operations.

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