On Monday, Box.net announced the Box Accelerator, which the company claims will deliver up to a 10x boost in upload speeds for files stored on its network, via what it termed an “an enterprise-grade global data transfer network.”
The network includes nine new international upload locations scattered across North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. Within the United States, the new upload locations will be found in in the Northwest, Midwest and on the East Coast, the company said. (Internationally, the new locations are found in Sydney and London.)
Box.net competes with other cloud-storage providers including Google Drive, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and Dropbox. The time spent uploading a file might not be as important, say, as the cost of doing so, but Box argues that the investment was justified in order to offer customers a great experience.
According to tests it commissioned from testing agency Neustar, Box had the lowest average upload time across all locations tested; uploads were processed at about 7 MB per second on average, the company said (it also posted the testing data here). It’s worth noting that Google Drive outperformed Box in both Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia; however, the tests found that Box.net uploads were nearly twice as fast as the nearest competitor (SkyDrive) in Chicago, for example.
The new Accelerator technology is available to all of Box’s business and enterprise customers for free, but it’s confined to the Box Web application.
“We’ve introduced an enterprise architecture that scales with the pace of today’s business and addresses the explosive growth of content creation and sharing,” Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive of Box, wrote in a statement. “As Box continues to expand internationally, it’s critical that we provide all our customers with a consistently great experience and rapid data access. Box Accelerator provides the fastest, most secure channel to connect businesses with their content in the cloud.”
What went into the technology? According to Box.net vice president of technical operations Jeff Queisser: “It’s much more on the software and the networking stack, and in general on the sites we’ve deployed both on the physical devices and the edge nodes we haven’t had a need for a dedicated backhaul.
“There’s two main components to this: picking the edge notes and how they operate, and two is picking the fastest possible path,” he added. “So on the fastest possible path Box is actually monitoring faster upload speeds and directing you to a faster path. That path is, most of the time, an edge node. Sometime it might be direct to both.”
According to a Box spokesperson, the company has applied for a patent on its intelligent routing technology, which analyzes user traffic based on several variables (IP address, browser and the operating system) to automatically determine the fastest path for getting content into Box.
“We’ll route you direct to Box when you add up all the hops if that’s the fastest network path,” Queisser continued. “The two main consumer operating systems really aren’t optimal for high bandwidth over long links over the Internet with some possibility for packet loss or long latency so a Windows or a Mac PC are not going to be as tuned to do that type [of thing]. Instead, we just present them with an upload to essentially a local server, and as long as your network stack is good enough to do that, then we accelerate that back to our origin.”
He said that the company could add more dedicated upload nodes, depending on user activity, “especially at all major cloud presences.” The company plotted the areas with the highest number of customers uploading data to determine the locations of the current Accelerators.