Box wants enterprise users to make better use of the cloud, but regulations and security concerns make it hard for companies outside the U.S. to take advantage of its cloud storage software in many day-to-day operations.
Today, the cloud storage provider unveiled Box Zones, which leverages regional servers to let enterprise customers use Box’s cloud services with Amazon Web Services or IBM Cloud servers located a little closer to home.
It’s the latest effort by the scrappy company — founded by former Mercer Island, Wash. schoolmates Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith — to stay competitive in the fiercely competitive business of cloud storage and collaboration services for big companies. The Redwood City, Calif., company, with a market value of $1.5 billion, competes against tech titans such as Microsoft and Google, as well as a range of newer cloud companies like consumer-focused Dropbox and enterprise-centric Accelerite.
The new feature means users don’t have to store data in Box’s U.S. servers to take advantage of Box’s syncing, sharing and cloud storage services. To the everyday employees using Box Zones, it should be pretty straightforward.
“Spoiler alert: it just looks like Box,” said Jon Fan, Box’s director of product management.
But for IT departments and those in charge of ensuring their company sticks to regulations, Box Zones means users can upload a lot more data to the cloud, along with all the benefits that entails like easier sharing, synced files and increased collaboration. They can also build apps that use Box’s services without worrying if that data is going overseas.
“Firms, particularly outside of the U.S., can’t fully take advantage of the cloud yet,” Fan said. “And they can’t do that because of the complex and evolving regulatory environments.”
With recent rulings around Safe Harbour laws limiting the amount of data European companies can store overseas, the new Box Zones program lets companies take advantage of Box’s services without running afoul of local laws.
However, Box Zones may not solve all the problems with storing data in the cloud. Microsoft is currently fighting the U.S. government to keep data stored in Ireland out of U.S. prosecutors’ hands, and has even spoken to Congress about the issue. But Box Zones takes a step toward more secure and compliant data storage for non-U.S. firms.
The new service is launching in May, initially taking advantage of AWS servers in Ireland, Germany, Singapore and Japan. Later, Box will build on their IBM partnership to expand the Box Zones project to the Netherlands, the U.K., France and Italy.
Box Zones users get the same feature-set as a normal Box enterprise deployment, with access to other specialized governance and encryption programs, but they have regional control. Pricing is incremental based on the size of the deployment, but final pricing has yet to be determined.