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Summary:

Having followed the online storage business for quite a few years, I have become increasingly convinced that many of the startups will have to retweak their focus and find new opportunities to stay relevant and stay in business. Aaron Levie, CEO and founder of Palo Alto, […]

new-box-uiHaving followed the online storage business for quite a few years, I have become increasingly convinced that many of the startups will have to retweak their focus and find new opportunities to stay relevant and stay in business.

Aaron Levie, CEO and founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Box.net, agrees. He has decided to pivot his company away from the consumer and instead focus on business users. “We are going to be less about storing music and photos and more about focusing on storage for collaboration,” he said in an interview. As we had pointed out earlier, an ad-supported online storage model isn’t for the faint of the heart. Several, including AOL’s XDrive and Yahoo’s Briefcase, have shutdown.

Using storage as a hub for collaboration is something Levie and I had discussed in August 2008. We were both in agreement that swapping emails with big attachments wasn’t quite efficient. Still, it would be hard to beat email’s ease of use unless online collaboration was dead simple. Since then, Levie’s team has been quietly building on that idea and has come up with an easy way to collaborate.

The new Box.net is optimized for the business users and easy collaboration between work groups. In the new layout, instead of folders and files, you see people sharing those same files. You can easily see the latest activity on the folder, showing which files were most recently edited, commented or discussed.

previous-box-uiThe new user interface looks like a cross between Facebook’s News Feed and 37Signals’ Backpack. Box.net had previously made its storage service compatible with various other web services, such as Zoho and Scribd. This makes viewing and editing documents quite easy.

Box.net says it has about 50,000 business users, but will those be enough to keep the company from being crushed by big gorillas (currently) in the mist? Microsoft, EMC, and Cisco Systems are all going after the storage-collaboration market. A few days ago, rumors surfaced about Google’s GDrive, another competitor to tiny Box.net. (Related post: Why Google needs the GDrive to fight Microsoft.)

With such big opponents, things look tough for the tiny Box.net. There’s one thing its competitors haven’t got, though — Levie. By the time they wield their clumsy clubs, he’ll probably have figured out a way to outrun them.

  1. Very wise move as with Google’s move into data storage for personal users, these guys will have to change their business models.

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  2. The barrier all these online storage companies still face is access. The infrastructure will place an natural market cap on the number of possible users they can have – think of it as launching youtube in 1999. No matter how great it is, it’s just not possible to get millions of viewers on 28k modems.
    Similar story now in the age of GB sized files; it’s just not day-to-day practical to use online storage services…. in a mass market setting and even for most corporations. Hence this is a niche business at best, that could be snuffed out easily with the proliferation of cheap and easy on site personal data centers – the same way we’ve seen the recent proliferation of cheap portable hard drives.

    Patrick
    http://veryevolved.com/2009/02/why-do-things-go-viral/

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  3. Box.net is very creative about adding services that will build value for business users. They are nimble and understand the space and will continue adding services that business users will access. Their user interface is flexible, inviting,friendly and easy on the eyes.- I suggest that you add it as a shared application to your Linkedin account and see for yourself – it is an awesome combination.

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  4. [...] Read the original: Box.net Will Refocus on Business Users [...]

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  5. [...] Patrick is very evolved in response to Box.net will refocus on business users: “The barrier all these online storage companies still face is access. The infrastructure will place an natural market cap on the number of possible users they can have.” [...]

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  6. [...] Patrick is very evolved in response to Box.net will refocus on business users: “The barrier all these online storage companies still face is access. The infrastructure will place an natural market cap on the number of possible users they can have.” [...]

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  7. So box.net seems like it would be a great solution for somebody like my CPA friend who has an accounting practice along with one other full-time CPA and one part-time accountant. They currently have about 30G of client data stored on an in-house server, which is backed up daily.

    The size of a daily back-up is relatively small, with the exception of tax season – say march1st to april 15th.

    She is considering having an outside company take copies of her backups weekly and store them in an off-site location (she currently takes her nightly backups home with her on tape). But a service like Box.net’s seems like it would be a convenient way to retrieve lost data, or to access data if their internal server were unavailable.

    What would you guys recommend?

    Thanks!

    gary g

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  8. They are nimble and understand the space and will continue adding services that business users will access.

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  9. [...] But Box.net is betting the addition of collaboration capabilities and other features will make cloud storage irresistible to enterprise customers. It's a tactic that Box.net cofounder and CEO Aaron Levie has been pushing for the last couple of years, since shifting his firm's focus from consumers to business customers. [...]

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