What it is

Box is a cloud-based file storage, synchronization, and collaboration service.  It can be used by groups for storing, creating, editing, and sharing data files, documents, and other digital objects.


A personal account offers 5 GB of storage and a 100 MB file size limit for free; you can pay for more storage and larger file limits.  Business and enterprise accounts are also available for a fee.  UW-Madison affiliates can participate in the Box pilot, which includes 50 GB of storage.

Sharing and collaboration

Users can share folders with other users, share files with individuals without Box accounts, and embed files in websites.  In addition to sharing and editing files, users can post comments and discussions and assign tasks.  You can also lock files while you are editing them.  Email notifications keep you updated about edits, comments, tasks, and uploads.  In addition to the web interface, there are desktop clients for Windows and Mac as well as Windows, Android, and Apple phones and tablets.

If you are the owner of a Box account used for collaboration, keep any private files you also store there separate from the files the group sees. One way to do this is to set up separate folders for shared and private at the top level of your folder structure and ensure that files always go in the appropriate area.


You can’t readily make links between documents in Box like you can on a wiki or website; putting related documents together in folders is the most straightforward way to associate them in Box. Before your group starts adding documents to Box, collaborators should agree on a folder hierarchy structure so that all parties know where everything goes and related files/docs can be tied together by their folder location.


To export files in bulk from Box, download the folders that contain them. It will be more convenient to do this if you have a well-organized hierarchy of nested folders rather than multiple folders at the top of your hierarchy. If you have installed Box Synch on your computer, you can also duplicate the files in your Box Documents folder and save them in another location on your computer.

Box does not give you options for exporting your documents in new formats. If you need to convert a file to a different format, you will need to do this in an application that can open and read the file.

If you have important information about what was done to create different versions of files that you need to preserve, there are currently only a couple of options for getting this information out of Box:

  • Take screenshots of screens in Box that display the comments, version information, discussions, etc.
  • Copy and paste the text from these items into a “read me” file.

Be sure to give the files you create using either of these methods meaningful names so you know which files they are describing. Save them alongside those files in the same folders.


It is always a good idea to keep multiple copies of your data in several secure places and in formats that will be usable over a long period. You can download folders in Box and save them in other locations. But, will this preserve everything you need?

Backups and Versioning

Box keeps a record of file versions, and users can restore a previous version.


Box is a member of the Cloud Security Alliance, and has provided safeguards to help ensure  HIPAA compliance.



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