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Box.net finally gets desktop file sync

Storage service Box.net is now giving its business and enterprise users a way to sync up local desktop folders with their Box.net cloud storage. The feature is expected to trickle down to consumers soon.

Online storage and collaboration service Box.net is finally getting around to offering its users a feature that was long-overdue: desktop synchronization.

The feature, which rolls out to business users Thursday morning, takes whatever files you've added to your online storage account and ferries them over to a local machine. It also does the same thing going the other way.

In order to use it, users must be subscribers of Box's business and enterprise tiers, leaving those with the free and individual plans out in the cold. It's also Windows only to start with, though Box's CEO Aaron Levie, whom CNET spoke with on Tuesday, said that a Mac version will be ready in a few months time.

Box's new desktop sync app makes sure files from your box account get sent to your local machine and vice versa. It's currently Windows only. Box / CNET

Like any other file or folder you have stored on Box, the local instances of these items can be shared with other people in your Box workgroups. Levie compared this to being on a network share on a company's local Intranet, but one that lives in the cloud. "The vision is enabling a simple sync case that's collaborative. So even if I have 1 terabyte of data stored on my desktop, I only need to be syncing a couple GB of the most active stuff to my Box account," he said.

Along with synchronizing files, the desktop software can keep track of any changes, then send them to Box's news feed. This lets you see if a file has been changed or commented on through Box's Web interface. This is, in fact, the only place to see this information, besides your e-mail in-box--where Box can send notifications on when other people in your workgroup download, delete, or make any changes to files or folders.

For those who are curious, Levie says the file size limits for what can be synced up to Box's cloud storage through the sync app are the same as the Web version. This means you're unable to use the software to get around the rather arbitrary 2GB per file cap, which is a bit of a shame.

The new feature goes out to business and enterprise users Thursday morning. Storage alternatives with a similar desktop sync component include Dropbox, SugarSync, SpiderOak, Windows Live Mesh, and MobileMe to name a few.