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Using CalNet Special Purpose Accounts (SPAs) for Departmental/Group storage in Box


Items placed by any user inside a folder created by a departmental/group Box account will be owned by the departmental/group account. This also allows for easier management and retention of files as people join and leave a group.

You can create a departmental/group Box account simply by logging in to with a CalNet Special Purpose Account (CalNet SPA). A large organization can use Box accounts owned by multiple CalNet SPAs in order to maximize collaboration.

Table of Contents

How to set up a simple departmental/group Box account with a CalNet SPA

  1. First, use your CalNet SPA to login to
  2. Create a root-level folder named for the group, e.g., "MyGroup." All content for the organization should be held inside this folder. This is the folder that the co-owners will see in their personal Box accounts.
  3. Invite at least one co-owner to that root-level folder. This will usually be you, the person that's setting up the MyGroup folder. You might want to consider adding a second co-owner to be able to handle things when you're not available.
  4. You can now log out of the CalNet SPA. The rest of the steps, including managing who has access to the MyGroup folder, can be performed with the co-owner's personal account from here on.

    Note: This makes things rather convenient, as you'll no longer need to log into your CalNet SPA to work with this folder. Even when you're logged in as yourself, anything placed in the MyGroup folder, or any subfolders of MyGroup, will end up being owned by the CalNet SPA's Box account.

    If you ever need to change the co-owners, you can do it from a co-owner's personal account, or you can log in with the CalNet SPA and change it using that account.
  5. If the group currently has content in folders owned by personal Box accounts, transfer ownership of those folders to the group account; see "In Box, how do I transfer ownership of content to an organizational or group Box account?" below.

Assigning permissions in Box

It is important to give thought to your folder structure. Create a top-level folder to hold all of the materials that will belong to the department/group. There should be nothing but subfolders within this folder — no loose documents, except perhaps a Box Note that serves as a ReadMe file. Inside this top-level folder, arrange additional folders according to project name or by who should have access to the contents. You might even add a second level of organization folders that also contain only subfolders. (See example.)

Box employs a "waterfall" permission structure, which means that all collaborators on a folder have the same, or better, permission on any subfolders below. See the following examples.

Two important permission-related tips:

Simple Group CalNet SPA example

In the following example, the "MyGroup" folder is set up by the spa-myGroup CalNet SPA in order to hold all of the files that should be owned by the group. The co-owners of that folder can then add in collaborators to sub-folders (or sub-sub folders), depending on which folders each collaborator needs access to.


Departmental CalNet SPA example

In the following example, the Robotics folder is only used to organize the other folders in the folder managed by the CalNet SPA. (A single SPA can own multiple parallel folder structures like the one shown below. For example, there might be a "Nanotech" folder that's parallel to the "Robotics" one.) Note the Robotics Department Chairs folder. This allows collaboration by that group without any overlapping permissions in the actual departmental folders. Box collaborative folders are best seen as working relationships. Different relationships require different folders.



Multiple CalNet SPA example, for larger/more complex organizations

Some large organizations may find the use of a single CalNet SPA to be too restricting for their needs. They may have multiple groups that are heavy Box users, or simply have so many users that a more granular approach is necessary. In these cases, an organization could consider a multi-account approach, leveraging multiple CalNet SPAs. In the example below, the organizational leadership structure, standing governance bodies, and administrative offices could be served by a Box account owned by the central departmental administration, while individual groups, teams, or departments could use their own local CalNet SPAs.

If the folder structure were built to reflect the organization's organizational chart, you would have the Vice President owning the top-level folder with his cabinet below him, each with their organization or directors, managers, and staff below them. The Vice President would potentially get notifications of all activity in the organization. Not only would this be overwhelming, but it could potentially stifle collaboration, innovation, and productivity in the organization.

Instead, folders are created at each individual level, with collaborators and co-ownership assigned at various levels: 



In Box, how do I transfer ownership of content to an organizational or group Box account?

You may need to transfer ownership of content from one Box account to another for various reasons, including a change in leadership of a project or a desire to transfer institutional data out of a personal Box account into a university-owned "non-personal" account.

Shifting ownership of institutional data to an organizational or group Box account alleviates the impact on personal Box account quotas, creates cleaner staff transitions, and makes ownership of institutional data clearer.

The instructions below assume that all of the content you need to transfer is in one or more folders. If you have loose files in your account that need to be transferred, create a folder, move the loose files into it, and transfer it according to the following instructions.

To transfer ownership of a folder to an organizational or group Box account, follow these steps carefully:

  1. If the folder is currently synced, we recommend that you unsync the folder before proceeding.
  2. The owner of the source folder must be invited to collaborate on a folder owned by the target account (i.e. one of the subfolders discussed in the "Usage Examples" section above). The collaboration invitation must give sufficient rights to upload content to the target folder. See What Are The Different Collaboration Permissions And What Access Do They Provide? from Box Help.
  3. The owner of the source folder moves (not copies) the folder into the target folder. All content and collaborations move intact. (This is not true if you move individual files, rather than a folder. It is also not true if you are not the owner of the source folder.)


1. A manager named Darth Vader at has been using his individual Box account to collaborate with his team of engineers on their designs for a new space station.

All Fails - Project Death Star Engineering Plans2. The Empire Box team introduces group accounts, and Darth sets up the Death Star Engineering Team group account. Now he needs to move his project folder over to that account.

3. Following the instructions for group accounts (above), Darth sets up a root-level folder in the group account and invites his personal account with sufficient rights to upload, in this case, as co-owner.

4. From his personal account, Darth now moves the folder to the folder owned by the group account.

5. He then selects the destination folder.

6. When the move is complete, a confirmation appears in Darth's personal account.

7. From within the group's CalNet SPA, he can now see the folder is part of the Death Star Engineering Team folder, with the group account as owner.


For assistance with this process or if you have questions about Box, please contact CSS-IT's Box Support.

This article is an adapted version of two articles [1,2] from Indiana University's Knowledge Base. The contents are copyright by Indiana University and adapted with permission. Our thanks to IU for their helpful content. (And the red in the screenshots is due to IU's school colors, not Stanford's!)