It doesn't matter how much we love the Internet and working in the cloud, we are still often tied to our desktops. But it doesn't have to be one or the other — emerging Enterprise 2.0 tools like Box.net's (news, site) new Box Sync are helping us kick the old habits.
Bridging the Desktop to the Cloud
Box Sync is a client tool that resides on your desktop, creating a folder in your My Documents folder. It allows you to select and sync folders from your Box.net site to your desktop. This is akin to a local copy — or cache — of your documents.
It's a two way sync, so you can upload new or updated documents into Box.net and download updated or new documents from your Box site. Changes to your documents are reflected in real time, so you can be sure you always have the most recent version.
This is great for teams who are collaborating on documents and have a central Box location to manage them. There are even alerts for team members when important documents are created or updated.
In addition, you can easily go offline, work on your documents and then sync them back up when you are re-connected to the network. And if more than one person has made changes to a document, or if a document has been deleted but you are still working on a local copy, there is a conflict resolution process to iron things out.
According to Box CEO Aaron Levie, organizations can implement some structure for rules and processes for the sync, but the primary goal is really just to help them easily get information from a number of disparate sources into a single location — in the cloud.
Box Sync has been in beta for awhile with a number of large organizations testing it out. Levie told us that desktop sync was a highly requested feature. It not only helps organizations get more information into the cloud, but it also supports a desktop driven workflow process as employees adjust to working in the cloud.
While it's a great start and makes perfect sense as a next step for Box, Sync is not feature complete. There is no check in/check out capability within the desktop client although Levie told us that this capability will come in a future update.
Check out the quick demo:
Box Sync comes free for business customers and is slowly being rolled out over the summer. The rest of the Box community will get a modified version later this year, although we aren't sure what the modifications will be.
The SharePoint Comparison
Box now has Box Sync — desktop and cloud connected. Is this a differentiator over SharePoint? No. SharePoint has SharePoint Workspace 2010, a desktop client that can connect to SharePoint 2010 sites and sync content to the desktop. There's also Colligo for SharePoint, which is another desktop client that enables organizations to sync SharePoint lists and document libraries to their desktop for offline use.
I think what is important to understand is that this is functionality that organizations need. Although we are probably connected the better part of our day, sometimes we need to be offline and we need a way to work on our documents and easily re-sync them back to a common repository.
Obviously the common repository is the key here. Box Sync is going to enable many organizations to get their documents and other files that are residing in any number of desktops into their Box repository in the cloud.
As an extension of the core platform, Box Sync will go a long way to supporting organization in terms of both increased productivity and cost savings.
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