Stanford Box is a new document management and collaboration tool that Stanford University offers to faculty, staff, and students. It has a number of attractive features:
- single sign-on using SUNet ID (not available with Dropbox or Google Drive)
- file sharing with both Stanford and non-Stanford collaborators
- 25 Gigabytes of storage (much more than AFS, Google Drive, or Dropbox)
- built-in data encryption for data on servers and during transmission
- ability to have workgroup collaborative folders
- compatible with iOS and Android devices
- increased usability with 3rd party mobile apps for editing and creating documents
These features really set Stanford Box ahead of alternatives
Stanford Box is a customized enterprise platform from box.com. For more information, go to http://itservices.stanford.edu/service/box .
The Emerging Technologies Team, in conjunction with the SUL User Support Forum, has been testing Stanford Box to see if it would be useful in the daily workflow of SUL (Stanford University Libraries) staff. Initially we were reluctant to add yet another resource-sharing tool to our already heavy arsenal; however, after several months of testing it has become clear that there is indeed a place for Stanford Box and its value becomes even more obvious as iPads and other mobile devices become more prevalent.
We began testing with the idea that Stanford Box would offer the ability to share files between different departments within SUL without jeopardizing the integrity of the file sharing and archiving server permissions. We were also interested in whether it would offer a more user-friendly way for staff to access their files and collaborate with colleagues while offsite or travelling and to determine how well it handles file sharing with colleagues outside of Stanford. During testing, Stanford central IT enabled workgroups for Box, which broadened our testing to include creating separate accounts for groups rather than individuals, and which included sharing folders with non-Stanford affiliates.
The SUL User Support Forum (staff who support multiple groups of SUL staff) conducted the evaluation. Additional testers were added as interest in Stanford Box grew and again when workgroups were enabled.
Several aspects of Stanford Box were evaluated:
- setup on computers, laptops and mobile devices
- file and folder sharing with both Stanford and non-Stanford colleagues
- remote file access on laptops and mobile devices
- third-party apps for reading, editing and creating documents
Our evaluation of Stanford Box resulted in predominantly positive feedback. Box can provide a greatly enhanced user experience in the following use cases:
- sharing files and folders with colleagues outside regular workgroups without the labor-intensive support from system administrators and IT support for access and permissions
- sharing documents with colleagues in a user friendly way by using the email addresses of collaborators whether they are Stanford or non-Stanford
- enhanced productivity for iPad users: using 3rd party apps with Stanford Box, iPad users can access documents with their computer\laptop and their mobile device, extending access to documents beyond the desktop
- workgroups allow multiple users to administer access to their own groups
However, a few precautions were also identified:
- Files uploaded to folders from collaborators will count against a user’s allocated space. In these cases, we recommend a workgroup account.
- Stanford Box cannot be used for restricted or prohibited data.
- Document collaboration will depend on strategies for versioning sequence in order to maintain multiple versions and user input.
There is already a growing interest in providing support and training for Stanford Box, for both desktop and mobile users. The SUL Mobile Users Group (SUL-MUG) has convened and is prepared to provide a forum for teaching, training, and demonstrations for mobile devices support, with Stanford Box highlighted.
We are recommending that Stanford Box be integrated into the suite of storage options for SUL staff. Along with the advantages stated in the results are the following:
- Using Stanford Box and its associated applications provides Stanford security.
- There is potential for enhanced mobile productivity.
- Training from tech support will be provided for staff using Stanford Box on computers, laptops, and mobile devices.