How Box integration works with other enterprise apps

To get the most out of Box, use its APIs to integrate your enterprise applications with its cloud storage platform.

The key to making Box work in your organization is to integrate it with your existing applications using modern, open protocols.

Box goes beyond cloud storage, offering more of a platform for file sharing and collaboration. The company has aggressively integrated its service with other cloud applications and pushed enterprise-friendly security and management features. The idea is to have one single place to store and access data, no matter the device or application being used.

Box offers a set of APIs for enterprise application integration, supports SAML for single sign-on (SSO) and allows for bulk changes (such as new account creation) through CSV files. These features are familiar to those who work with cloud applications frequently, but other IT departments may need to update their infrastructure to take advantage.

Box integration with existing directories

SSO is key for an enterprise. Without it, you'll be managing a new set of user names and passwords for every cloud app in use. To integrate Box with your existing directory, you'll need a SAML 2.0-compliant HTTP endpoint. Then trade certificate and endpoint information with Box so that you can create the proper keys and make the connection. Once that is established, you'll have the option to turn off Box credentials as a login and rely solely on your central authentication by switching to the SSO Required setting. Box's SSO even works in non-browser based apps by opening a browser window for sign-on.

Box's SSO feature has some limitations, however. It does not support pulling more than 100 groups. So if you are counting on something like Active Directory Federation Services and a list of thousands of groups to keep track of who gets access to what files inside of Box, you'll need to simplify a bit.

You could do a bulk import using CSV files, but it's not a very elegant or immediate way to deal with security. Instead, consider an identity management provider such as Okta or Ping Identity, which offer a single cloud-based point of control for access to your cloud apps. These services also provide a level of automation not available with more traditional approaches.

Two enterprise application integration methods

There are two ways to provide integration between Box storage and existing enterprise applications: Box View and Box Content APIs.

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Box View enables on-the-fly conversion of standard business file formats, such as .doc, .ppt and .pdf, into the SVG image format, which all modern browsers support. This conversion makes it easy to view documents on a wide range of devices and operating systems.

The more compelling approach is with Box Contents, which allows programmers to build custom access to Box from enterprise applications. Box offers full software development kits for Android, iOS, Windows and Java, and there are community-built and -supported SDKs for C#, Ruby and Python.

Box is just one example of a cloud service that is pulling enterprises into a new era where we have Web everywhere while the network perimeter is crumbling. Remote workers and a plethora of Internet-connected mobile devices show the need to move on from VPNs and toward secure content access everywhere. The key is to make data available as a service, rather than through a specific storage point on your internal network.

This was first published in July 2014

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