A while back I wrote about Microsoft’s Skydrive service which provides some storage in the cloud that allows you to access your files from anywhere. There are plenty of others (Lifehacker has a good overview of some of the main players) but I was taken by both Box and Dropbox as they provide access from the iPhone.
At their heart both services provide online storage (1gb and 5gb, respectively, for free with other paid options) which you can upload files to from a web browser. Once up on the cloud you can then access these files anywhere. Additionally Dropbox also has the ability to synchronise files to any machine that you have installed their client on but that isn’t necessary. Neither service allows you to view the documents online – they still have to be brought to your local machine to view or edit etc.
Box and Dropbox have taken slightly different approaches to their iPhone implementation with Box going the native app route with Dropbox providing web based access. In practice this makes little difference to the functionality available and, as you can see from the screen shots below, they look almost identical. The one additional feature that Box offers is the ability to upload files but given that is limited to pictures on the phone it is pretty limited and of questionable value.
One area that is going to be a concern is that of security and whether you would trust these unknown providers with your data. While both are accessed over a secure connection once the files are on their servers who knows who has access to them. I guess that this is just a straight consequence of understanding and living with the risks of cloud computing.
Having played with both solutions the Box iPhone app is much slicker than that provided by Dropbox but not by much and overall I will be continuing with Dropbox simply because it provides a much easier way of uploading your files through a familiar interface, in my case Windows Explorer. This also has the added advantage of enabling offline access on all machines that the Dropbox client is installed. Therefore it is a great hybrid offering online/offline and mobile access.