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Box now lets enterprise users stream files to the desktop

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Box customers can now try out a feature that lets them stream files from the cloud to their computers. Called Box Drive, it’s designed to make it easier for companies to do away with existing networked file sharing appliances and move all of their files to the cloud.

The feature works by downloading files onto users’ computers right when they open them. That means users who have hundreds of gigabytes of files shared with them don’t have to cram their computers’ hard drives full of all that data.

One of the key benefits of Box Drive is that enterprise users who are already used to accessing files from their computer will be able to use the same workflows that they’re familiar with to interact with all the files available to them in Box’s cloud.

In addition, Box Drive supports all of Box’s existing features, including its compliance and encryption capabilities, which is helpful for enterprise users with strict requirements in that regard.

The capabilities available in Box Drive make a ton of sense, since they allow users to easily interact with cloud files without having to change their habits all that much. So why did it take so long to bring the feature to market?

“This ends up being really, really, enormously complex,” Box CEO Aaron Levie said. “Because you have to get the local operating system to be able to create effectively a simulated network drive, but pull all of the data from the cloud.”

Box first previewed the feature during its BoxWorks conference last year but didn’t provide much in the way of details. The company has been alpha testing Box Drive with a select few customers over the past several months and feels that the feature is now ready for prime time. Levie said that Box Drive will be made generally available later this year.

This isn’t the first time that a company offering cloud file storage has promised to stream files to a user’s computer. Dropbox launched its Smart Sync feature for business customers that promises similar functionality, Google announced a similar feature called File Stream, and Microsoft said that it would be bringing a streaming capability to its OneDrive storage service this fall.

The content services company has been working toward this feature for years, Levie said. The technical foundation for Box Drive was provided by the acquisition of Streem, which Box purchased three years ago.

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