Lessons from Box.net: Cloud Storage APIs Help Sync Your Life

Guest Author
Jan. 05 2011, 12:00AM EST

This guest post comes from Alex Willen, Business Analyst at Box.net. Alex works with the Box platform, improving its usability and evangelizing it to developers.

As phones get smarter and tablets become more ubiquitous, people need to access their content from more and more places. When files must constantly be transferred between multiple devices, however, the hassle of that process can easily outweigh the utility of being able to access your content anywhere. One solution is cloud storage - by having content stored online, there is no need to transfer files or make sure they are up to date. For cloud storage to be a truly effective solution, however, it must be integrated into all of the applications in which a user would want to access his content, which requires easy-to-implement, well documented APIs.

At Box.net, we've spent a great deal of time making sure our platform is easily accessible to developers, and as a result we've seen a great response, with more than two dozen mobile apps having integrated Box already.

Feedback from early adopters of our platform also contributed heavily by allowing us to streamline our documentation and the APIs themselves for ease of use. In addition, equally important to facilitating those integrations has been offering great sample code in a variety of programming languages. In my experience working with mobile developers, I've found that even some of the best apps are developed by very small companies or people working on them in their free time. Even those who recognize the importance of helping their users with content accessibility often lack the time to implement complicated integrations.

These kinds of integrations, though, usually comprise the same set of features - browsing files in the user's account, downloading files and uploading files. Because of this, it's easy enough to offer sample code that greatly reduces the amount of time developers have to spend integrating. Even if you're too busy to create your own, ask early adopters of your platform if they are willing to let you give out their code - much of our own sample code came from our developer community.

In the last year, we’ve seen others in this space embracing their platforms – several cloud storage services have released their own APIs, and some of the most popular mobile applications, like Documents To Go and Quickoffice (pictured above), have integrated with numerous cloud services. As the cloud storage industry matures, a well-developed platform will be essential to success. Once users become accustomed to being able to access their content seamlessly within all of the applications they use, services that only offer web interfaces will feel inconvenient and out of date.

While some integrations only leverage Box for cloud storage, we make sure to open up as much of our functionality as possible to developers. Public and private sharing, commenting, updates, search, and many other features can all be accessed through our APIs, because we want to enable developers to do as much as possible with our platform. As more cloud services open up their APIs, developers have to choose which are worth the time required to integrate. Features like these help set Box. Developers have plenty of choices, which is why we work not only to minimize the work required to integrate with Box, but also make our platform as versatile and powerful as possible.

Editor's note: See our directory for a list of the 41 storage APIs.

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