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Box mobile app faces security concerns, feature gaps

Box has made strides with its mobile apps, but organizations still have concerns about file sharing on mobile and look for a few feature gaps to be filled in.

SAN FRANCISCO -- IT pros see a few challenges with the Box mobile app, including the ability to ensure security on mobile devices and a lack of feature parity with the desktop application.

Box didn't announce new features for its iOS or Android mobile apps this year, but customers are still clamoring for functionality that extends across all devices in the enterprise. Experts discussed use cases and challenges with Box's mobile app at the file-sharing company's annual conference, BoxWorks.

End users want to do more than just look at files on their mobile devices, said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research in Silicon Valley, Calif.

"They want to be able to interact with, edit and even create new content directly from their phones, tablets or wearables," he said. "And, in many cases, this mobile creation can even be better than on-desktop environments."

Indiana University has come up with creative ways to take advantage of Box's mobile functionality, said Bob Flynn, manager of cloud technology support at the university, in a session.

Box introduced Capture in 2015, an iOS app that enables end users to take photos, videos and scans and upload them directly to Box cloud storage. University employees use Capture to catalog damage in dorm rooms at the end of the school year and save the data in a structured format to shorten the auditing process. In the sports center, coaches travel alongside swimmers with an iPad and share video footage to critique the students' form.

"It's the kind of thing that we've never conceived Box would be used for, but our employees say, 'We can do this,'" Flynn said.

Hurdles of secure file sharing

For other organizations, the Box mobile app presents some obstacles.

A consumer services company in San Francisco, Calif. deployed Box to a subset of its user base that demanded heavier security around file sharing. Only a small percentage of that subset uses the mobile app, however, said the manager of IT client engineering at the company, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

"The security team is concerned with data loss and the fact that it's easier to lose a mobile device than it is to lose a laptop," he said.

Still, Box has a lot of bells and whistles to enable a higher level of protection on mobile devices, he said. For example, IT pros can configure policies to limit which devices access Box files and view user activity to track how people are using the app.

Berry Appleman and Leiden LLP, a legal firm in San Francisco, Calif., also has concerns about the level of security when sharing files via a mobile app, particularly because its end users deal with personally identifiable information and compliance issues that come with handling immigration cases, said Diego Casillas, product manager at the firm.

"If we're sending documents with [sensitive] information back and forth insecurely, you can imagine all of the risks," he said.

One breach and that's it; no one trusts you forever.
David KueiIT administrator at Xperi

The portability of the Box mobile app would be helpful for the inherently mobile paralegal and attorney roles, however, he added.

The lack of new announcements around Box Mobile this year may simply be because mobile apps need more diligent reviews to maintain a higher level of security. If Box were to release a mobile app version that compromised the integrity of data, that would be a massive blow to the company's reputation, said David Kuei, an IT administrator at Xperi, a semiconductor manufacturer based in San Jose, Calif.

"One breach and that's it; no one trusts you forever," he said.

Box mobile app feature gaps, roadmaps

Other organizations are concerned with inconsistent features between the Box mobile and desktop apps.

For example, Box mobile app users can only access Box Notes through an external link or find it manually in Box, said M. Michael Acosta, the director of mobile product management at Box.

"If you're trying to navigate the hierarchy on mobile, it's not the best user experience," he said.

Box plans to add more capabilities in the iOS and Android apps, including the introduction of Box Notes and offline support for Box Notes, according to the company. Later this year, the company plans to redesign the iOS app interface and user experience to bring it closer to the design of Android's interface. Also, later this year, the company plans to introduce intelligent push notifications in the iOS app, which was previously only available on the Android app.

The Box mobile app features would be helpful for employees at LN Curtis and Sons, an equipment supplier in Oakland, Calif., said Patrick Chan, senior desktop support analyst at the company. Salespeople use the Box mobile app to quickly reference contracts or vendor price lists, but mobile apps can only go so far, Chan said.

"When they really want to do work, they'll do it on their laptops," he said.

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