SharePoint vs. Box: What's the difference?

SharePoint and Box both help users manage and store content. Yet, to choose the right tool, organizations should first consider their integration and security requirements.

Microsoft SharePoint and Box both offer document management and collaboration features, but SharePoint is more complex.

IT professionals might struggle to choose between SharePoint and Box, particularly if their organizations are already Microsoft shops pushing for SharePoint due to its perceived ease of integration. Overall, both platforms are cloud-based and offer integration and security features. They also both offer desktop sync for offline document access, mobile apps and real-time editing for faster collaboration on files. User reviews rate them within a hair of each other on sites like G2.

Yet, SharePoint and Box differ in terms of ease of use, setup and specific security features. SharePoint offers many features geared toward enterprises, while Box aims more at small to midsize organizations that want simplicity.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is Microsoft's content and document management platform, designed to help enterprises organize files as they expand, generate more content and hire more hybrid and remote workers. The cloud-based platform offers a centralized repository to store files, manage workflows and let teams collaborate on projects.

Microsoft also recently released an enhanced version of SharePoint called SharePoint Premium -- formerly SharePoint Syntex -- which includes an outward-facing document hub for external collaboration, AI-powered document generation and a clause analysis tool to detect risks in legal documents like contracts.

Additionally, SharePoint lets users build team collaboration and intranet sites. Because SharePoint is a Microsoft product, it easily integrates with Microsoft 365, letting users save and share their Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

What is Box?

Box is a file-sharing and content management platform that offers a content repository and collaboration tools, like chat and sticky notes. It also includes workflow capabilities, developer tools and APIs to integrate with third-party systems, such as Slack, AWS, Google Drive and Microsoft 365. Users can also sync Box files to their devices, enabling them to access and work on files while offline.

Like SharePoint, Box lets users create permissions with identity, access and user management. Both systems also include retention policies and data governance features. Yet, Box offers Box Zones, which lets users store data in specific regions, such as the EU or France, to comply with data residency requirements for different jurisdictions.

6 differences between SharePoint and Box

On the surface, SharePoint and Box seem very similar, but the two products differ in many areas, such as ease of use, pricing and installation.

1. Ease of use

Box has long been known as an easy-to-use, straightforward platform with an intuitive interface that shortens the learning curve. Users also praise its simple implementation, maintenance and integration with other tools.

SharePoint, on the other hand, tends to be more complex, because Microsoft created it for an enterprise audience. It includes many features but requires users to be familiar with Microsoft's digital ecosystem to get the most out of the platform.

2. Search functionality

Box offers intuitive search functionality, and users say the experience is straightforward and generally reliable. While users can easily find files and documents by name, content or date, the search functions are not always accurate.

SharePoint, which still offers effective search features, tends to suffer from glitches that can prevent users from finding information. Users may need to fine-tune their search settings to get their desired results.

3. Integrations

Because SharePoint is a Microsoft 365 app, it integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products, such as Teams, PowerPoint and Outlook. This native integration offers smooth collaboration within the Microsoft ecosystem. For example, employees can use Teams to share SharePoint files for review.

Box isn't tied to any one platform, but it does offer connections to Salesforce, Google Workspace, Okta and other tools through APIs and SDKs. This platform-agnostic approach can make Box more attractive to organizations that are not tied to any one ecosystem or that want more compatibility across platforms.

SharePoint Box
Ease of use Complex, geared toward enterprises Simple, intuitive UI
Search functionality Effective but suffers from glitches Generally reliable search
Integrations Seamless integration with Microsoft ecosystem Platform-agnostic, connects with various tools through APIs
Customization Advanced customization capabilities Limited customization, simpler design
Security Extensive security features, complex permissions Zero-trust architecture, prioritizes usability
Pricing Starts at $6 per user monthly Starts at $15 per user monthly

4. Customization

While users can customize both SharePoint and Box, each platform requires a different level of expertise. Box offers less customization than SharePoint because developers designed it to be simpler. Users can still automate processes, create workflows and set up permissions in Box, but SharePoint offers more advanced customization capabilities. For instance, SharePoint users can create custom apps, automations and frameworks.

However, SharePoint's level of customization requires more expertise, maintenance and time to set up. Users that want to start sharing files right away may find this frustrating.

5. Security

Box and SharePoint both offer security features, such as encryption and access control, to protect users' files. The platforms employ disk-level encryption for every file to keep data safe at rest and in transit, and they offer secure permissions to control who can access files. Both also offer data loss prevention tools that help users flag sensitive data, apply stricter permissions and prevent unauthorized access.

Box offers a zero-trust security model to mitigate risks like account compromises, but SharePoint has slightly more extensive security capabilities overall. This increased security offers highly granular permissions settings, but its complexity can lead to glitches and usability issues. On the other hand, Box's prioritization of usability may require users to sacrifice some security.

6. Pricing

To use SharePoint, organizations must subscribe to Microsoft 365. Pricing varies based on the size of the organization, features required and licensing model. The lowest pricing tier starts at $6 per user monthly for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, which includes SharePoint and other Microsoft 365 apps, like OneDrive, Word and Excel, as well as 1 TB of storage per user.

Box also offers tiered pricing plans, but unlike SharePoint, it's a standalone service. When paid annually, the lowest pricing tier for businesses starts at $15 per user monthly and includes e-signatures, unlimited storage and integrations with third-party products, like Microsoft 365, Salesforce and Google Workspace. Box also offers a 14-day free trial for all its plans.

Ultimately, the choice between SharePoint and Box comes down to a tradeoff. Does the organization crave simplicity and not want to be tied in to any specific vendor, or does it want to easily integrate with other Microsoft products and require a lot of features, like intranet sites? Both platforms offer effective cloud storage, collaboration, security, mobile access and integration capabilities, so the choice boils down to organizational preferences.

Christine Campbell is a freelance writer specializing in business and B2B technology.

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