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Flexible user permissions for shared sub-folders

Currently all shared subfolders and files inherit the top level shared folder user permissions. In a typical enterprise environment it is very desirable to hide or reduce access to certain sub folder or sensitive documents while maintaining a common content folder structure/context. To effect that today requires numerous distinct top level folders that must be shared with each unique permutation of desired collaboration user rights/permissions. This greatly complicates collaboration file and content management and proliferates endless jungles of folders.

It would be incredibly helpful to allow the ability to set unique combinations of user permissions/access, at a minimum, at the shared sub-folder level, and ideally at the individual file level.

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29 answers

2
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I would like to add my voice to this comment thread. I appreciate the Box moderators' relaying customer requests to the product team, but I'm very disappointed with the product team's official response.

I agree with the philosophy that simplicity should be the guiding factor in designing all systems. But the Box product team seems not to understand that not allowing for more flexible sub-folder permissioning creates a great deal of complexity and restriction. I also appreciate that Box wants to avoid confusion, but there is clearly a sub-community of savvy Box users who will know how to use selective sub-folder permissioning appropriately. The correct answer to me would be for Box to invest in its architecture (as painful as that may be) to allow for both options. The original, waterfall structure will be applied to all users, and those who really want more flexibility should be allowed to have that ability in their accounts, even if it means paying more for their Box subscription.

Please consider this simple example of our folder structure requirements. We have an "Administration" folder where we keep track of different office Admin stuff (so we could have sub-folders for our New York and Hong Kong offices, for example). It naturally makes sense to structure our folder as follows:

  1. Administration a. New York i. legal documents a. entity formation documents b. lease information ii. employees a. compensation b. bios iii. IT/infrastructure b. Hong Kong etc. etc.

Let's say our COO needs access to everything. His assistant also needs access to most documents, but the assistant should not be able to see employee compensation or lease information. Under our current situation, we would have to restructure the entirely intuitive folder structure just to get around the assistant's viewing privileges. Also, let's say the COO never used to have an assistant and now has the need for one. If the folders are already set up, it would be an enormous task to figure out how to selectively change the structure so that the assistant can't view certain private information, without compromising the existing intuitive structure that the COO (and the whole organization) has been using for some time.

One of the big reasons my company chose Box over Dropbox was that Box at least had some ability to selectively permission information. In order to stay competitive, I would urge Box to seriously consider what so many of its users are asking for.

Eugenie Kim
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In order to be able to provide flexible subfolder permissions would require a massive architectural change to our product. 

Box was designed and built with simplicity in mind and our cascading permissions setup is a big part of that. 

At this time, flexible permissions are not on our roadmap but if we get enough demand for it that could change. 

Community Forum
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Flexible subfolder permissions is a core function for commercial users as there are numerous instances where it is in appropriate not to have users share some files/folders e.g a Human Resources folder that holds employment contracts. By not having this functionality it requires a much much more complex folder structure with very limited layers.

Few competing services provide this functionality (GDrive does), and it is something that we as a business are looking for

Che Charteris
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Che,

You are correct in that if a collaborator is invited explicitly at the sub-folder level, that sub-folder becomes a root level folder for that collaborator and is seen at the top of their All Files page.

Please know that I pass along all of the feedback, guidance and suggestions we receive here on the community forum to our product managers.

If there are any other changes / enhancements you'd like to see please let me know. I can't guarantee they will come to fruition but you have my word that your voice will be heard.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and thanks for using Box!

-David

Box Support
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I just joined Box and was very surprised to see that this is not a feature.  I would say that this service is anything but 'simple', coming from a regular FTP site.  However, of all the fancy functionality this new site offers, I would think that the ability to protect individual subfolders would certainly be a priority.  We currently have a very complicated folder structure holding over 27,000 files for clients, sub-contractors, and field technicians.  It is critical that some folders be hidden to certain users, and to restructure our site would mean countless hours of organizing files and duplication of hundreds of folders in multiple locations.  It just doesn't make sense.

Justin Thielman
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Justin,

My sincere apologies for the inconvenience and frustration.

I have spoken to your Customer Success Manager and Account Exec about this matter. 

Here are our help pages on how to use FTP Box and an app which allows you to backup your Box account:

https://www.box.com/services/box_ftp_server 

https://www.box.com/services/browse/search/backup_box

Not sure either of those will be a 100% solution for you but I wanted to pass them along.

Please know that I provide all of the feedback, guidance and suggestions we receive here on the community forum to our product managers.

If there are any other changes / enhancements you'd like to see please let me know. I can't guarantee they will come to fruition but you have my word that your voice will be heard.

Thanks again for taking the time to post and thanks for using Box.

We very much appreciate  your business.

-David

Box Support
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David, it's great to see some participation from Box in this thread, even if it is for something other than the core concern of the users posting here.  

We are already seeing users within my organise move away from Box to alternate solutions as the user permission scheme is not flexible enough for them.  I have given up trying to persuade them otherwise, as I have no new news to pass along after a number of months now.

I follow the Box twitter feeds which are regularly full of all the great things that can be done with the product, but without the permission changes requested here by so many people, business will turn to alternate solutions.

I realise you are the messenger here, and do appreciate any posting you make, but it really would be helpful for a senior person within the business to share your plans in this area.  Without any news we will unfortunately assume the worst and continue to look elsewhere in the marketplace.

Paul

Paul Borrett
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Paul,

Thanks so much for your message and I appreciate your kind words.

And I wholeheartedly empathize with your frustration.

I have spoken with your Customer Success Manager (Mara) and Account Exec (Dan) and we're working on getting a senior person to respond to you on this matter.

Thanks for hanging in there for us and I will be back to you asap.

-David

Box Support
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Will,

We are absolutely listening and I personally provide the feedback from our community forum to our product management team in person each week as well as via our internal feature request tracking system.

We are actually awaiting an official statement on this which I will be able to post publicly here on the forum this week.

Thanks for everyone's patience and understanding.

-David

Box Support
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Hi David,

 

Okay thanks, thats really good to know. I realise this maybe a significant architectural change to the product but its one that badly needed. Looking forward to the announcement/statement.

 

Will

Will Barnett
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David,

 

I've been keeping an eye out for the announcement this week, but hasnt come as you said it would. When can we expect news on this please?

Will

Will Barnett
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We have been using Box for about two weeks now, and my colleagues are going through the learning pains associated when migrating from another cloud file sharing service. I have to say that there are many small things that could be improved enhanced. However, the flexible permission issue is perhaps the most critical one and needs to be addressed asap.

Pardo Mustillo
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We are continuing to use Box within our organisation, but only for specific individuals and in limited circumstances.  We are actively trialling an alternative solution in one function, and would certainly not back wider use of Box at this time, based on what we've heard from the team at Box.  I don't believe what we see as a shortcoming and recognised as a major limiting factor by the organisation, which is a shame.

Paul Borrett
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This is a deal breaker for us as well - currently we are small and can manage but as we are looking to expand in the near future we are having to look for an alternative product. Having to grant a user access to an entire folder tree when we only want them to access one specific file is unacceptable.

Roy McLaren SWM
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Any updates on this? I see that an announcement was supposed to be made a couple of weeks ago.

Scott Cameron
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We have to decide whether to renew our enterprise account soon, and the answer to this question will play a big role in that decision.  I suspect others are in the same boat.

Could a Box representative possibly respond to this thread with a simple answer?  There isn't much nuance here--either Box is working on this or not, so I'm not sure why it is taking so long to sort out.

Thanks in Advance.

Jason Beddow
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This issue and discussions about it have been going on for about nine months (t least according to this thread). Any update that you could provide to us would be greatly appreciated.

Pardo Mustillo
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Adding our voice to this request as we find the current system cumbersome.  We also have an Enterprise account and our users are very miffed by the current way box handles permissions.  The normal way that most people would organize and therefore restrict permissions would be to use ACL's that are based on increasingly specific permissions (equals more specific content).  When you categorize content you always go from general to specific.  That would make the most sense when performing searches.  Similarly, permissions are best on this notion as it allows easier organization of the data you are trying to protect with this same structure. Using the current scheme we have available to us requires users to create far more root level folders to secure and organize data than needed in a traditional hierarchical folder scheme as well as increasing the management overhead of setting permissions at each folder instead of being able to use traditional ACL's as in the WIndows or Linux worlds.

Brian Young
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We finally have the long awaited official statement from our product team on this topic. Thanks to everyone for hanging in there for us. I very much appreciate everyone's patience:

--

One of the most common questions we get from customers is if you can apply flexible user permissions on shared subfolders – meaning, can you change security levels and collaborator permissions for each file or subfolder within your account?

The short answer is that Box promotes a model where user permissions flow downward through the folder structure, reflecting the settings and security choices of the main root-level folder. We do so for a variety of reasons, but primary among them is a tenet we hold close: simplicity.  

For a folder owner, sifting through folder after folder to turn a collaborator's permissions off is not desirable, scalable or very much fun. As a collaborator, trying to understand why one document is editable, but another in a neighboring folder is not can lead to confusion and unnecessary complexity. When it comes to folder permissions, we're big fan's of Ron Popeil's motto: "set it and forget it!" Just add a collaborator at the folder level where you want them to start accessing files and assign them the appropriate permission level once and you're done. All the content added follows the same, original setting - which is just oh so easy to understand.

I know this may sound a bit tone deaf to the well articulated, well defined arguments and use cases we hear asking for new permissions capabilities (maybe ones you're thinking about right now), but these details matter. They prevent us from having to present overly-complex design - even for simple use cases - and they prevent overly-complex interactions which make for clunky code and slow load times. 

But don't worry, we can still help you accomplish what you need - a folder structure that gives file access to only those who should have it. We do it for thousands of businesses and millions of users worldwide, so let us give you a few tips and tricks:

Best practices for folder structure: 

_ http://success.box.com/best-practices/creating-your-folder-structure/_

  • You can expand permissions down the waterfall, but you can't contract them. The thing I like about Box's permissions is that the user experience is consistent across all devices, and each person who uses Box has a unique view into their content. They only see content they should be able to access- no more dead ends. 

    • A good example of this is a large construction company that is using Box to manage projects, contractors and compliance. They have created a top level folder for the main project managers, and invite different people to the proper subfolders. It provides a complete view for the selected individuals who need complete oversight, and granular control of how people are invited to different subfolders that correspond to parts of the project.
  • In this screenshot, you can see that I am sharing this folder with 2 additional people, and everyone in my project team also has access

flexible_permissions.png

Box Support
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Ugg. Just joined Box and found this topic.

I'm highly disappointed, even dismayed, that subfolder permissions cannot be set. The simplicity argument from Box is a cop-out carrying the tone, "we know what's best for you". As if given the option to set sub-folder permissions, business and enterprise users would be incapable of handling it. Even Windows has the option of simple file sharing or full-on granular permissions.

I wonder why competitors such as ShareFile have no problem with with providing such functionality?

Kevin Powick
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I understand box works as a waterfall structure and because of that you cannot change permissions down the line. I understand they will not change this due to would me a major overhaul. Why not allow users to password protect folders. The feature is available when I send out a link. Make it so only owners can password protect the folder. So in order to access a certain folder you enter the password to gain access. It is basically a workaround for the most commonly requested feature.

Keith Gibson
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My goodness, I wish I had found this thread earlier - it would have saved me a couple hours of headache trying to troubleshoot something that couldn't be fixed in the first place. The documentation regarding folder structure is definitely lacking when it comes to explaining this.
Anyways, I just want to show my support for Eugenie's opinion, I really hope Box addresses this shortcoming before it's too late.

Sam Chou
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Hi, I will also be very interested if this feature was added and I was actually wondering if someone from box support could give us some resent update on the subject?

cedric espenel