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Box Transition: Frequently Asked Questions

Northwestern is transitioning from Box, the University's cloud-based data and file storage service, to Microsoft cloud-storage platforms OneDrive and SharePoint, beginning in November 2021 and continuing in waves through late spring 2022. This page provides answers to commonly asked questions about the transition.

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General Box OneDrive SharePoint

General

Why is Northwestern moving away from offering Box as a file storage solution?

As the result of a significant change in Box's business model and new opportunities and capabilities in the Microsoft environment, Northwestern is transitioning users from Box to Microsoft's cloud-storage solutions—OneDrive and SharePoint. Northwestern offers cloud and on-premise file-sharing solutions, including OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, and the Research Data Storage Service (RDSS), that provide improved integration with other productivity tools. Box will be retired prior to the conclusion of the Box annual contract on August 31, 2022. 

What is changing?

With this transition from Box to Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint, you will experience a few changes, including user interface and collaboration features. Microsoft already offers many features available on Box, such as file-sharing, access control, and live editing. The Box Transition: Support and Education Resources page provides a list of online and self-help options through Microsoft and LinkedIn Learning. You can also register to attend Microsoft-led webinars featuring OneDrive and SharePoint.

How will Box files be migrated?

File migrations will be automated via SkySync, a centrally managed enterprise migration tool. There is expected to be little to no involvement by you to migrate your files to their future-state destinations. Learn more.

What type of Box data is moving to SharePoint?

Contents shared in a Box Organizational (Org) account (an account owned by a department, unit, or group) will move to SharePoint. The file and folder structure, sharing permissions, and versions that were in Box will be retained. Folders in Box Org accounts can be mapped to existing SharePoint sites; if no SharePoint site exists one will be created.

Box Org accounts are typically named for the organization and follow a pattern like "ORG-SCHOOL-[school name]-[department name]," and the email address in Box is listed as having an email@nubox.edu.

What type of Box data is moving to OneDrive?

Box files and folders located in an individual account (an account owned or co-owned by an individual) will move to OneDrive into a folder entitled _FromNUBox. Even content that has been shared with others in an individual account will move to OneDrive. The file and folder structure, sharing permissions, and versions that were in Box will be retained.

Where can I find Box files and folders in OneDrive and SharePoint after the migration?

Box files and folders located in an individual account (an account owned or co-owned by an individual) will move to OneDrive into a folder entitled _FromNUBox. Box Organizational accounts will move to SharePoint. The file and folder structure, sharing permissions, and versions that were in Box will be retained. Box Notes will be copied to OneDrive or SharePoint as Microsoft Word documents. Please be aware that minor format cleanup may be needed.

Will versions of my Box files be retained after migration?

Yes. Versions of your files and sharing permissions will be preserved for files and folders migrated via SkySync, the centrally managed enterprise migration tool.

Will Box Notes be migrated?

Yes. If you have created Box Notes, they will be copied to OneDrive or SharePoint as Microsoft Word documents. Please be aware that minor format cleanup may be needed.

What is the proposed timeline for moving files from Box?

Migrations begin in November 2021 and continue in waves through late spring 2022.

When will I be contacted about migrating my files?

Northwestern IT is partnering with schools and units to plan a migration approach and schedule. When your migration window is established, you will be notified two weeks in advance and receive multiple email notifications informing you of your migration date, what you need to do to prepare, and what support options are available.

How should I prepare?

Please take the time to review your Box content and delete data that is no longer needed. This effort may shorten your migration time. Learn how.

If you are unsure about what you can safely delete, you may want to check with your manager or school/unit leader. The University also has several resources that provide guidance. The University's Retention of University Records policy PDF icon and its aligned Records Retention Schedule PDF icon addresses questions related to retention requirements.

Will the SAFER (Sensitive Administrative Files E-Registry) application still be available for HIPAA compliance?

The SAFER application will be retired with the Box environment. However, the project team will incorporate necessary SAFER functionality into SharePoint Secure Sites. Learn more.

Where can I find support and education resources?

Visit the Box Transition: Support and Education Resources page for a list of Microsoft how-to guides and video tutorials and LinkedIn Learning online course offerings. Users can also register to attend a Microsoft-led webinar to learn more about OneDrive and SharePoint. View the webinar dates and registration information.

Are OneDrive and SharePoint secured enough to store documents that include sensitive or protected data such as personally identifiable information?

Northwestern’s contract with Microsoft contains the needed provisions and institutional controls to make SharePoint (via SharePoint Secure Site configuration) and OneDrive approved for HIPAA, PHI, and sensitive personally identifiable information (PII). However, each Northwestern Microsoft 365 (M365) user is responsible for ensuring they are following data protection protocols as required by the classification or sensitivity of the information they are storing in the platform. New controls will be added soon to prevent accidental sharing of PHI, PII, and other restricted data types outside of Northwestern to aid this effort. If you have questions about these controls, you can email security@northwestern.edu. To explore available options for your document storage and collaboration needs, please consult the Document Sharing and Data Storage Finder.

Box

How can I identity ownership of Box content?

Users can identify ownership of Box files and folders by viewing the information available under the file or folder's "Details." Instructions on identifying content ownership can be found at https://kb.northwestern.edu/75416.

How will I be able to recognize when Box content is owned by an account external to Northwestern?

Box content shared from Box accounts external to Northwestern can be identified by their appearance as gray colored folders with a globe icon.

folder illustration

Additional instructions on identifying Box content ownership can be found at https://kb.northwestern.edu/75416.

Can my Northwestern Box account be converted to a free/public account so that I can continue to use it to access content that has been shared with me by parties external to Northwestern?

We are finalizing a solution to ensure collaboration with Box users outside Northwestern can continue once our community is fully migrated. We will communicate details about this plan in late May or early June. Users will not be losing access to their existing Northwestern Box accounts as part of the migration. Post migration:

  • Users’ access, sharing, and editing permissions for content owned by non-migrated Northwestern accounts and accounts external to Northwestern will not change.
  • Users' owned content will have been transferred to a Microsoft file storage solution.

For co-owned Box content, who will be consulted about decisions related to handling that content?

The Box content "owner" is the primary decision-maker. Instructions on changing or managing Box file and folder ownership is available at https://kb.northwestern.edu/75416.

What should be done about website and Canvas course links which connect to content stored in Box?

Website administrators or web content managers will need to manually update links to Box content on their sites. They should update links to replace Box URLs. Instructions are available at https://kb.northwestern.edu/114953

What happens to shared content stored in individual Box accounts once a user leaves Northwestern?

Box accounts have never been deleted when users leave Northwestern. Individual Box accounts will be migrated to SharePoint. All account content (including sharing permissions) will be retained for three years after a user's departure.

What does "Read-Only" mean?

“Read-Only" access to Box content restricts editing; however, it allows users to view files and folders; change names, permissions, and collaboration settings; and reorganize files and folders, including new folder creation. Users with "Read-Only" Box access may also download or delete content.

What happens to a box account once the owner leaves Northwestern?

When a Box user leaves Northwestern, their individual account will be migrated to SharePoint. All account content (including sharing permissions) will be retained for three years after a user's departure.

During Box Migration planning, Northwestern IT identified accounts that are believed to belong to students, faculty, and staff who are no longer at Northwestern. These accounts are considered "disconnected" and will not be migrated. Box accounts are identified as disconnected if all of the following are true:

  • No NetID associated with the email address (the Box account identifier)
  • The account has not been logged into for one year or more
  • Shared content in the account has not been modified by other users in six months or more
  • New sharing of the account's contents has not been established in six months or more

Migration Leaders and Technology Leaders were given the opportunity to review the list of disconnected users in their areas. While disconnected user accounts will not be migrated, their account content will be retained in SharePoint for three years and access to their content can be restored upon request.

Will users be notified when shared folders that they do not own, but have access to, are migrated?

No. Users will only receive notice about migrations of content that they own. As shared content is migrated, users will see the content appear under "Shared" in their OneDrive accounts. Whether content is stored in SharePoint or OneDrive, users can access all the files and folders shared with them from OneDrive.

Users can continue to access other's shared Box content, with all their existing permissions, in Box until the content owner's Box account is migrated.

What should users do if they encounter a link to an inaccessible Box file that they suspect was owned by a user who has left Northwestern?

The content may have been moved to SharePoint. The user can search for the content in the “Shared” section in their OneDrive. 

Does Microsoft offer an alternative to Box Notes?

Yes. Both OneNote and Word may be used as an alternative to Box Notes.

Can I edit my Box content after my account has been migrated?

Once your migration begins, you have Read-Only access on your Box account.

  • Read-Only access to Box content restricts editing; however, it allows users to view files and folders; change names, permissions, and collaboration settings; and reorganize files and folders, including new folder creation.
  • Users with Read-Only Box access may also download or delete content.
  • Users' access, sharing, and editing permissions for content owned by non-migrated Northwestern accounts and accounts external to Northwestern will not change.

What happens to a Box account once the owner leaves Northwestern?

Historically, and today, when a Box account owner leaves the University their account is not removed. This has left us with a large number of accounts whose contents may or may not be needed.

During Box Migration planning, Northwestern IT identified accounts that are believed to belong to students, faculty, and staff who are no longer at Northwestern. These accounts are considered "disconnected" and will not be migrated as active Box accounts are. Box accounts are identified as disconnected if all of the following are true:

  • No NetID is associated with the email address (the Box account identifier)
  • The account has not been logged into for one year or more
  • Shared content in the account has not been modified by other users in six months or more
  • New sharing of the account's contents has not been established in six months or more

Migration Leaders and Technology Leaders were given the opportunity to review the list of disconnected users in their areas. Additionally, many Box Transition project communications ask end-users to notify the Northwestern IT Service Desk if content belonging to students, faculty and staff no longer at Northwestern can be reviewed or moved to another user’s account. While disconnected user accounts will not be migrated to OneDrive, their account content will be retained in SharePoint for three years and access to their content can be restored upon request.

OneDrive

Is anonymous sharing possible in OneDrive?

No. Anonymous sharing is not allowed in OneDrive. Enabling anonymous sharing from OneDrive presents a significant risk of accidental data exposure. If anonymous access to a file is required to meet a business need, items should be stored in SharePoint. Learn more about transferring items between OneDrive and SharePoint.

Can I access a shared file that belonged to someone who is no longer at the University?

Content stored in an individual OneDrive account will no longer appear in your “Shared with me” files once the file owner’s account has been deleted. OneDrive content is deleted once a user’s NetID is deactivated. Learn more about NetID expiration. If you attempt to access the file using a bookmark, you will receive a 404 error (file not found) message. If the shared content is stored in SharePoint, users with access to the file will retain it even after the owner departs Northwestern.

What happens to my OneDrive account when I leave Northwestern?

Your OneDrive account and its contents are deleted once your NetID is no longer active. Learn more about NetID expiration.

Does OneDrive have a storage quota?

Yes. Each OneDrive account has a storage quota of 5TB, with a limit of 250GB for individual file uploads. Also, each account is limited to 10,000 documents per folder.

What do the OneDrive icons in the desktop notification areas mean?

The OneDrive icons in the desktop notification areas, menu bars, Windows File Explorer, and macOS Finder tell you the sync state of the file or folder. Learn more about OneDrive icons.

Is external sharing allowed in OneDrive?

Yes, documents may be shared with external users via OneDrive. However, anonymous sharing (to anyone with the link) is possible only via SharePoint. Also, please remember that OneDrive accounts and their contents are removed when students, faculty, and staff leave the University and their NetID is deactivated. Learn more about NetID expiration.

SharePoint

How do I enable external sharing on a SharePoint site?

SharePoint sites provisioned after spring 2020 have external sharing automatically enabled. Owners of sites created before spring 2020 can send a request, including the site URL, to BOX-Migration@northwestern.edu.

What is a SharePoint Secure Site?

A SharePoint Secure site is a SharePoint site that is configured for enhanced security. SharePoint Secure Sites have built-in security features intended to manage and share folders containing sensitive data, including SAFER-managed data in Box. You can read and understand the different data-sensitivity levels outlined in the University Data Access Policy. Learn more about SharePoint Secure Sites.

Can Box Organizational accounts be migrated to an existing SharePoint site?

Yes. In preparation for the Box migration to SharePoint, Box Organizational account owners are provided a mapping document to indicate whether they have an existing SharePoint site. During migration, content in the Box Organizational account will be moved to the location of the current SharePoint site. If none exist, a new SharePoint site will be created during the migration process. To request a new SharePoint site before the migration, please complete the Collaboration Services Request Form.

Can I access a file that belonged to someone who is no longer at the University?

If the content resides in SharePoint, it will continue to be accessible after the content originator leaves the University. If the file owner has stored the content in OneDrive, the file will become unavailable after the departing person’s NetID is deactivated. Learn more about NetID expiration.

Does SharePoint have a storage quota?

Yes. Each SharePoint site has a storage quota of 25TB, with a limit of 250GB for individual file uploads. Also, each account is limited to 10,000 documents per folder.

Can existing SharePoint sites be converted to SharePoint Secure Sites so that SAFER folders can be migrated into them?

All of the “SAFER” settings can be applied to most existing SharePoint sites. The exception is if the SharePoint site is a group-enabled Team or MS Team. The group cannot be disabled from the site and will complicate the permission structure.

Last Updated: 9 December 2021

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