Box Accelerator will be available to all paying customers of the cloud service, which is built around uploading, downloading, syncing, sharing, previewing, and collaborating around files.
For international organizations, one trade-off to using Box is that all data is stored in two Silicon Valley data centers. Part of this announcement is the addition of nine new upload locations that bring the service closer to its customers in North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America, combined with new routing and file transfer optimizations. Box said it has applied for a patent on the routing technology, which analyzes user traffic based on several variables, including location, operating system, and browser preferences. This release is focused on the browser user experience, although the company plans to extend the same technology to its mobile apps and to API access from partner applications.
[ For a file sharing taste test, read Microsoft SkyDrive Vs. Dropbox, Google: Hands-On.]
Stefan Apitz, VP of operations at Box, said customers who have tested the new addition to the service have reported significant performance improvements. For example, Sony reported that file uploads from Japan were four times faster, he said. Domestic locations also benefited. The American Hospital Association said it saw six times better performance from Washington, D.C. and two times better from Chicago, according to Box.
When users first get their Box accounts, they typically upload a lot of content at once, so this speed improvement is important to improving the user experience, Apitz said.
Box Accelerator sounds a bit like the content distribution network technology companies like Akamai pioneered for improving website performance, which includes caching of frequently accessed files at geographically distributed locations, but Apitz stressed that Box's approach is different.
"This is different from a caching location because we never actually store the file," he said. "We're working on the TCP/IP layer to accelerate the transfer itself. We're taking advantage of Internet technology and ways to optimize the streaming of data ... but we make sure never to persist data outside of a [a user's computer or device] or one of our secure data center locations."
Box said benchmark testing performed by Neustar confirmed that Accelerator gives Box an edge over its rivals. According to the tests, Box had the lowest average upload time across all locations tested (2.7 times faster than the closest competitor globally, and 3.1 times faster than its closest competitor in the U.S.). On average, file uploads to Box were processed at 7 MB per second.
Compared with its popular but consumer-oriented rival Dropbox (currently trying to shore up its reputation for security following a breach), Box has always put more emphasis on meeting enterprise requirements for administration and access controls. Box positions itself as a challenger to SharePoint as the default corporate collaboration platform and recently made Forrester Research's list of cloud collaboration leaders, putting it the company of IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Yammer.
"Box continues to differentiate themselves by thinking beyond basic file sharing and sync services, and instead focusing on the needs of enterprise customers," Alan Lepofsky of Constellation Research said in a statement for the press release. "Today's announcement of Box Accelerator shows how they are building a cloud infrastructure that can scale to meet the requirements of the largest of global companies."
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