How low can cloud storage go? Box has some new options

Photo courtesy of Flickr user getinet.

How do you cut the cost of free? It’s not an idle question in the cut-throat cloud storage-file-sync-and-share business. Box, which offers business-oriented services in this arena, just doubled the capacity it makes available for free for individual users from 5GB to 10GB. And for novice business users, it’s offering a new “Starter” plan that provides up to 100GB of pooled storage — with individual file size capped at 2GB — for $5 per user per month.

“We wanted to make it easier for new users either in small companies or small divisions of big companies to get in,”  Whitney Bouck, SVP and GM of Box’s Enterprise unit, said in an interview.

A business “SKU”  offers up to 1000 GB of storage with 5GB file size cap plus the user can opt for one of Box’s many integrations — say to Active Directory or Salesforce.com CRM. “Not every company needs all our advanced capabilities — reporting, custom branding etc, but may need one of them — this gives them that option,” Bouck said.

Dropbox to the left, Microsoft and Google to the right….

The cloud storage and file sharing market is nothing if not dynamic. Last week, consumer favorite Dropbox offered an extra 1GB of storage space to users of its Mailbox.com app who connect it to their Dropbox account. More to the point here, it is also making a concerted effort to convert people who bring Dropbox into the office into paying Dropbox for Business customers.

Said Bouck: “Our take on Dropbox is:  who wouldn’t want to sell into business? But let’s be real,  it’s a very consumer centric company just starting out here — they do reasonably well at the very small end of the market where companies are not regulated and don’t have to worry about a large array of users and granular policies. We don’t ever see them in the enterprise.”

And then there’s  a raft of other business-focused contenders from Accellion and Egnyte to ownCloud, not to mention minor upstarts like Google (with Google Drive) and Microsoft (with SkyDrive) all eying this market. With the latter companies, Bouck said customers that already use a ton of Microsoft and Google applications, worry about vendor lock-in gives Box traction.

Mission Difficult: Converting freemium to paying customers

Box now claims that it’s in use at 97 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. (In June, Dropbox said its product is used in 95 percent of those companies.)

And, to get the rest of the pro forma Box questions out of the way: Bouck had no comment on percentage of Box customers who pay; or on the company’s profitability; or on its long-rumored IPO.

As for cloud storage pricing? Hang tight, there will no doubt be more action soon.

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