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Box CEO: why we've got the right balance of flexibility and control

Box CEO Aaron Levie
Box CEO Aaron Levie
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For many companies, Box is a cloud service they're comfortable with because it gives employees the flexible cloud services they want to collaborate and share information but it also gives the IT team the control they need.

You might think the system you built on your intranet that locked down information was secure, points out Box CEO Aaron Levie, but people aren't actually using it.

"They went to email or FTP or a consumer service. What we advocate is if you can introduce things that are a little more self-service, things will be a little more open – but it will also create a little bit more sensitivity [about security] because it gives people the trust and the ability to control their information themselves.

"They'll put all their information in that sanctioned platform where you'll get more data and visibility; you get all of the analytics and all of the logging and awareness of what's actually happening to your data as opposed to having it go into outside system where you can't watch over it."

Box customer Gatwick Airport has made that mental shift in thinking about security according to CIO Michael Ibbotson. He brought in Box for sharing documents at board meetings but it's now used for all the planning for a second runway. He appreciates the way it lets him see how people are working. "I use Box to work closely with my team and I know when they have or haven't done what I asked them to because I'll find out whether they've even looked at or downloaded the file I asked them to work on," he notes.

When his security team didn't want to use cloud services, he pointed out that he could already email a file to a competitor from his 'secure' BlackBerry and what they needed to do was concentrate on education.

"Let's think about how we architect our BYOD design so people can use that service but we educate them about sharing information. They can copy that file onto a USB stick, onto Dropbox…But If you give them Box integrated with their laptop and tell them 'you put this file in this folder on your computer and you get it everywhere, on your laptop, your iPad, your iPhone' then they're more likely to use that and you have corporate control over it. If you embrace it and use the tools they're much more likely to buy into it and you can educate them about how and what to share."

But keeping users happy with an audit-friendly service like Box means keeping up to date with the alternatives, otherwise they'll switch to using the next new thing. The Gatwick IT team goes around the different departments to keep track of what they need now and what they're going to need next. "We have a very proactive IT team," Ibbotson explains, "we're building roadmaps of what they want to make sure our cloud services can adapt."

And if his cloud suppliers don't keep up, he's not locked in. "Think about the words "as a service"; it means we can choose to switch, as a service, to a different service any time we want. We can bring another one in, test it out with a core group of users and if it works for them and it works better than what we have, we can migrate people them across much more easily than we could when we built and owned all the equipment."

Easy to replace

Levie is very aware of that – not least because Box just changed one of the services it uses itself. "We swapped out our customer service provider from Rightnow to Zendesk, because Zendesk was delivering so much better value as a customer support experience for our support team. It took about a week and a half."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.