File Storage and Sharing Solution — Box
Columbia's cloud-based Box service provides a simple and secure way to store and share files and folders online. Files stored on Box are easily accessible on any device and can be directly shared with other Columbia or external users. Users can also invite others to collaborate to review or edit synchronized content.
Please note: The Box service is currently in its pilot phase at Columbia. Please check back for more information regarding when it will be more widely available.
- Unlimited storage per user or workgroup
- Upload files of up to 5 GB
- Available on the latest version of major web browsers and mobile devices running iOS and Android
- Access to all files from your desktop or mobile device anytime you are online
- Offline access available for on flagged folders
- Individual permissions on files and folders, from view-only to full editing and collaboration rights
- Comment, assign tasks, and track changes in files
- Search full text within documents
- Content preview supports a wide range of file types, including images and audio/video
Best Practices for Box at Columbia
CUIT recommends these best practices for the effective use of Box at Columbia University. Please ensure that you review the Acceptable User Agreement before using Box at Columbia.
Internal (UNI) users are Box accounts created by Columbia University and attached to individual UNIs. All Columbia affiliates accessing Box should do so using their UNI account. External users are users who have been invited via a non-Columbia email address to collaborate on one or more of your folders or files. Certain types of content can only be shared with external users after receiving approval to do so.
Department Box folders should be owned and managed by a departmental service account. This allows for easy maintenance and hand-off to new co-owners when users change roles or leave the university. If you are currently the owner of a large shared folder that is used daily by a large group of people, you may want to request that CUIT change the owner to a departmental service account and set you as a co-owner. This will ensure that the folder persists if you change roles or leave the university.
Folder Structure for Granular Permissions
Since parent folder permissions always flow down to all child folders, you should build your department folder structure around your intent to grant access.
- Top-level department folder (two co-owners senior in the department, perhaps the Chair and DAAF), which contains:
- Shared Department content (everyone in the department has access)
- Finance Team Folder (only members of the finance team have access)
- Marketing Team Folder (only members of the marketing team have access)
By not granting broad access to the parent folder, you can easily maintain more granular access on child folders.
Folder Best Practices
- Identify folders by subject or project, not by person (ex: Brian’s Files).
- Do not create folders more than five levels deep. Burying records makes them harder to find.
- Use standard departmental or group abbreviations, such as HIST for Department of History or SON for School of Nursing. Otherwise, avoid acronyms.
- Consider appending “Public” to the names of broadly-shared folders as a reminder to users that contents will be accessible to others.
- Before creating collaborations, it is important that your department have clear guidelines on sharing content. What departmental content can be shared with all faculty and staff, what should be restricted, what can be shared only with approval from the chair, etc. These guidelines should apply to both internal and external collaborations.
- When creating collaborations, it is important to consider how long the collaboration will last and how long you will need access to the files. If you are the owner of the collaboration folder, have a plan for if and when the collaboration will end and how you will inform your collaborators.
- While working on a file in a collaborative space on Box, you may wish to lock the file to prevent out-of-date files or conflicting versions. This is most useful when you are editing a file in its native application (that is, on your local computer). You can choose whether collaborators can download a locked file. If you wish, set an expiration time for the file to automatically become unlocked, which can be helpful in cases where you forget to unlock the file when you are finished with it. Additionally, editors on the folder can unlock files that have been locked by other collaborators.
- Restrict sharing to only known collaborators.
- Use the Folder Settings to prevent anyone except folder owners and co-owners from inviting new collaborators. This only affects the specific folder, not any parent folder or sub-folders.
- Prevent people from downloading a file or folder. Send a Shared Link and disable download in the Link Settings. Alternately, give folder collaborators the Previewer permission level. Note that Editors will always be able to download.
- Shared links are used primarily for distributing content; when others will be working with the content, invite them as collaborators instead. When collaborating with others, be mindful of the settings you use for folders and files.
- Unless there is a strong need to customize, use the default URL generated by Box (with a random numeric string) for your shared link, rather than using the Custom URL feature. Customized Box shared links (those beginning with https://columbiauniversity.app.box.com/v/) that are set to open access (People with the link) and are not password protected are vulnerable to being guessed by computer algorithms.
- Regardless of whether it is a default or custom shared link, if you share any data that should not be public and need to set the access level to People with the link, set a password on your link.
- Whenever you create a shared link of any kind, consider how long the link will be necessary. If you can determine a time limit, set an expiration date to minimize future concerns about data exposure.
These overview guides from Box's Support Knowledge Base are a great way to get familiar with the product.
Quick-start steps for new users
- Upload Your Content to Box
- Collaborate with Your Team
- Replace Email Attachments with Shared Links
- Download Box Drive and Box Edit
- Replace Email Chains with Comments and Tasks
Box integrates with a wide range of software and apps, including Office Online and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). Windows' users can use Box's integration with Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Most file types can be uploaded to Box, however Box Sync will not recognize a handful of less common file types (i.e. .pst, .qbw.)
Box's Content Preview service (which allows you to see a snapshot of a file without downloading it) supports a wide range of file types, including all Microsoft Office types.