Channeling the Cloud

For Microsoft Partners, Are Box and Dropbox Rivals or Opportunities?

Redmond's cloud storage frenemies continue to deepen their integration with Microsoft even as they beef up their own services.

In a perfect world, Microsoft would like to see its customers store all of their files in OneDrive for Business and use SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online to manage their information. But Microsoft long ago succumbed to the reality that the world doesn't revolve around Redmond. Hence, just as the company supports Mac OS X, iOS, Google Android and Linux, it has forged compatibility with file storage and sync services such as Box and Dropbox.

In their efforts to court enterprise users, Box and Dropbox formed partnerships with Microsoft last year. Microsoft has integrated the two companies' namesake offerings into Office, providing more fluid file access and the ability to edit and share files. Many new capabilities of those cloud services are offered on Android, iOS and Windows. Dropbox last year hired the Worldwide VP for Microsoft's SMB business, Thomas Hansen, for the role of VP of Sales and Channel, while Box launched the Box Partner Network four years ago.

Intermedia, which lets its partners offer their own branded Exchange, Office 365 and universal communications service, last month argued Box and Dropbox don't meet business backup and restore requirements, resulting in the need for customers to run multiple services. Many find themselves running any combination of Box, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive alongside the likes of Carbonite, CrashPlan and Mozy, according to the company.

Intermedia's alternative is its new SecuriSync, available as a standalone offering or as part of its Office in the Cloud service. It offers the file storage sync capabilities offered with the online cloud services and the backup offerings. Intermedia claims it has 6,000 active channel partners and says that unlike Box, Dropbox and Office 365, it allows for custom-branded offerings.

Nevertheless, Box continues to aggressively add new service offerings. Back in October, the company launched Box Capture, which makes use of the camera on a phone or other device for adding photos to business workflow processes. Last month Box added Box KeySafe, which gives customers control over their own encryption keys. The two iterations include KeySafe with AWS CloudHSM, which uses a dedicated hardware security module (HSM) to store and protect customers' encryption keys, and AWS Key Management Service.

Box also recently improved the service's collaboration features with new capabilities in Box Notes, such as version history and the ability to embed images or make annotations anywhere. Box officials argue their service is more than just a file-sync-and-storage service, saying it's a complete cloud-based content management system.

Dropbox, meanwhile, released a version of its service for Windows 10, allowing users to drag and drop files, to quickly access recent documents using Jump Lists, and to authenticate using Windows Hello. The company also released Dropbox Badge, which lets users see who's working on a file and offers support for team collaboration, and a beta of Dropbox Paper, which some have described as a potential competitor to Google Docs and Office Online.

Sometimes it's nice to be living in an imperfect world.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.