With so many devices how can we access all of our documents, files, images, from one device to the other without having to email them to the other device, or carry around a USB thumb drive? With most places offering internet access including most smartphones, most coffee shops, office buildings, hotels, etc. etc. it makes more sense than ever to use a file sharing tool like Dropbox or Google Docks to store your files in the Cloud so that you can use them no matter where you are and what device you are using at the time. In today’s world of Cloud based everything, there is no reason for you to be emailing files to yourself or plugging and unplugging your USB thumb drives. Below is partial list of the most popular cloud based file sharing options out there now.
With each of these services you will have access to your most up to date files no matter which device you are using. There are different levels of security and different levels of user friendliness with each of the options. So, it is best to go with the one that you feel the most comfortable with.
In case it is not clear to the reader, the cloud part of cloud-based storage services just means you are storing your files somewhere other than your computer’s hard drive, usually on the provider’s servers. As someone once said “There is no Cloud. It’s just someone else’s computer.” Simply put, having data in the cloud just means that you have the ability to access those files via the Internet. Typically your data is encrypted so that while the data is traveling across the Internet to your device it cannot be accessed by someone other than yourself along the way.
Free Versus Paid
If you are considering using a free service keep in mind that free usually means no support. And if you are having difficulty accessing an important file that you need for a presentation in the next hour, you will be wishing you had someone to call to help you. You also are limited to the file size you can upload to your account when you use a free service.
Many paid services actually have a free account that you can start with to get a feel for how their service is. This is a great way to get your foot in the door. But you will be limited to a smaller amount of storage and will most likely have to upgrade to their paid plan soon enough.
LOWEST PRICE: Free unless you need to store more than 15GB of files not created with its online apps.
Leading office-suite collaboration functionality. Includes desktop-to-desktop file-syncing. Built-in OCR. Generous free storage space if you use Google productivity apps.
Can be confusing to navigate the many features and rules. Offline editing isn’t simple.
Part productivity suite and part syncing and online storage service, Google Drive also provides excellent collaborative office-suite functionality.
LOWEST PRICE: $1.99/mo
Clear interface. Clients for Mac, iOS, and Android, as well as Windows and Windows Phone. Can fetch any file from a PC. Excellent photo presentation with slideshows and tagging.
Not a share target for Windows 10 apps. Storage offerings shrinking.
OneDrive, the default online storage and syncing service for Windows 10 and Office 365, offers a lot of great features, as well as apps for more platforms than any of its competitors.
LOWEST PRICE: $5.00
Easy to use. Fast and responsive apps. Rich features set. Well designed for collaboration. Generous free storage allotment.
Lack some collaboration features offered by the best of the competition.
Syncing and storage tool Box is easy to use and highly customizable, letting you integrate your account with a wide range of apps and services.
LOWEST PRICE: $9.00/mo.
Certified for HIPAA and other standards. MicroEncryption technology. Easy to use. Scales from individual to enterprise. Sends secure messages. Full audit logs. Administrator Console for user management. File shares expire automatically. No local client, so works on any device.
Possible to accidentally remove Administrator power from all users. No control over private keys. No file-based sharing; must share entire folders. File transfer protected only by SSL.
CertainSafe protects your cloud storage with encryption that’s certified for HIPAA and other standards, yet it’s really easy to use. Individuals might prefer a free solution, but for any size business it’s a great solution for secure file storage and sharing.
LOWEST PRICE: FREE
Slick interfaces for apps and Web. Compatible with Windows as well as Macs and iOS devices. Account included with 5GB storage when you buy an iOS or OS X device. Easy to install on Windows computers.
Less straightforward than competing services. No music features. No Android or Windows Phone apps. Doesn’t adhere to file-syncing-service standards. Collaborative editing lacks expected capabilities.
Apple’s iCloud Drive cloud file-syncing and storage service is a worthwhile service, especially if you’re entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the competition from Google and Microsoft.
LOWEST PRICE: $9.99/mo.
Effortless file synchronization. Apps for just about every operating system. Tight OS integration. Dependable servers. Supports file-sharing. Shows history of actions. Allows access to deleted files and earlier versions. Good features for Pro users. Easy to install.
Dropbox is a simple, reliable, full-featured file-syncing and -storage service with support for real-time online document collaboration.The only downside is that it’s not cheap.
LOWEST PRICE: FREE (5 GB) or $4.99/mo.(30 GB)
PROS: Magic Briefcase” folder in the Documents folder; anything placed there is automatically synced across all devices registered to your user account. Large 5 GB free account space. No free account max file size.
CONS: more complex usage model.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent free account. Great for companies that are growing and will need more features & storage capabilities in the future.
If you already have Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or OneDrive accounts, it makes sense to use them as default choices for file sharing, but you will have some restrictions on storage and they might not have a support contact phone number for technical support. CertainSafe is a good choice if you have a lot of HIPPA compliance restrictions. SugarSync might be a good choice for a company that is growing and will have a lot of storage, file sharing needs in the future.