File Sharing Options
There are many great file sharing options available, so we will help guide you.
When choosing a file share solution, there are a few things to keep in mind: Personal use vs business use, cloud security, document and photo sizes, pricing, and integrations / apps.
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Why Store Your Data in the Cloud?
If you're working from home, there are few things more important than sharing your work documents remotely with your fellow team members. Online file storage, syncing, and sharing services like those included here can play a huge role in accomplishing this. Computer systems have been steadily moving away from local storage to remote, server-based storage and processing—also known as the cloud. Consumers are affected too—we now stream video and music from servers rather than playing them from discs. By keeping your own documents and media in the cloud, you can enjoy anywhere-access and improve collaboration. We've rounded up the best cloud storage and file-sharing and file-syncing services to help you decide which are right for you.
These services provide seamless access to all your important data—Word docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, photos, and any other digital assets—from wherever you are. You no longer need to be sitting at your work PC to see your work files. With cloud syncing you can get to them from your laptop at home, your smartphone on the go, or from your tablet on your couch. Using one of these services means no more having to email files to yourself or plug and unplug USB thumb drives.
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What Can Cloud Storage Do for You?
The very best cloud storage solutions play nicely with other apps and services, making the experience of viewing or editing your files feel natural. Especially in business settings, you want your other software and apps to be able to retrieve or access your files, so making sure you use a service that easily authenticates with the other tools you use is a big deal. Box and Dropbox are particularly strong in this regard.
The range of capabilities of cloud-based storage services is incredible. Many of them specialize in a specific area. For example, Dropbox and SugarSync focus on keeping a synced folder accessible everywhere. SpiderOak emphasizes security. Some cloud storage services, such as Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, are generalists, offering not only folder and file syncing, but also media-playing and device syncing. These products even double as collaboration software, offering real-time document co-editing.
Distinct from but overlapping in some cases with cloud storage are online backup services. Some of these, such as Carbonite, are all about disaster recovery, while IDrive combines that goal with syncing and sharing capabilities.
Most cloud services do offer some level of backup, almost as a consequence of their intended function. It follows logically that any files uploaded to a cloud service are also protected from disk failures, since there are copies of them in the cloud. But true online backup services can back up all of your computer's files, not just those in a synced folder structure. Whereas syncing is about managing select files, backup tends to be a bulk, just-in-case play. With syncing, you choose the folders, documents, and media that you want ready access to and save them in the cloud for easy access. With backup, you protect everything you think you might regret losing. Easy, immediate access is not guaranteed with online backup, nor is it the point. Peace of mind is.
Free vs. Paid
Many cloud storage services have a free account that usually comes with some limitations, such as the amount of storage or a size limit on files you can upload. We prefer services that offer some level of free service (even if it's only 2GB) rather than a time-based trial, because that lets you fully integrate a service into your life for several weeks while you get a feel for how it works and what might go wrong with your particular setup.
What could possibly go wrong? Human error accounts for a good deal of cloud storage tragedies, but the dropped internet connection is another common troublemaker. And every internet service suffers the occasional outage. Ask around (or just look through our review comments), and you'll hear sad stories of how cloud storage can go wrong. One of the benefits of paying for an account is that it usually comes with additional support from the provider, so if anything does go wrong, you can get someone on the phone to help you resolve the issue.
There are many other reasons to pay for cloud storage, from getting a lot more space (a terabyte really doesn't cost all that much anymore) to being able to upload really big files. That last benefit is relevant to graphic designers, video editors, and other visual artists who often host enormous files. Other perks of paying for your cloud storage often include increased access to file-version history (meaning you can restore an important business proposal to the version you had before your colleague made a bunch of erroneous changes), more security, or more features for collaboration and teamwork. (sources: pcmag.com, datamation.com, computerworld.com)