I use file sharing all the time to ensure that my distributed team members have access to critical files, just as if we were on the same network in a traditional office. File sharing also enables solo business owners with no team to have remote access to files, which is critical when traveling.
File sharing gives you mobility, allowing team members to work from anywhere they can find an Internet connection. (And where can’t you, these days?) Having files in a single place helps you be more organized: Multiple versions being passed around by email don't muddy the waters.
Finally, file sharing makes it easy to collaborate. Employees can contribute without being chained to desks in a single office.
So, we know file sharing is helpful, but can you afford it? Many apps come with a free version and some pro versions run as little as $10 a month. Most are extremely easy to use, and many come with the added bonus of being not just sharing tools but also full-blown backup systems.
Here are a few well-known file sharing services on the market.
Dropbox has made its reputation on ease of use. Install the program in every computer within an enterprise, and files stored within Dropbox become instantly accessible to all users on the system. A folder-based interface simplifies file-management. Files to be shared can simply be copied or moved into a particular Dropbox folder, and specific users invited to share that folder.
A free 2-GB version of the app holds plenty of files so you can try it out. Upgrades cost $10 a month for 50-GB of storage and $20 a month for 100 GB.
Dropbox gets bonus points for its 30-day Undo History feature. Suppose you’ve deleted a file from your local drive. The undo function lets you back out through Dropbox until you get to the version you’d like to keep.
This service puts the emphasis firmly on sharing documents, unlike similar services, where sharing is a byproduct of storage.
Once a file is uploaded for sending, the recipient gets an e-mail indicating the document is ready to go. Each e-mail contains a unique link to the file. Paid versions can track delivery and downloads, which assures the sender that files have made it to their destination.
The free version of YouSendIt offers 2 GB of storage. The Pro version costs $10 a month or $50a year for 5 GB; Pro Plus is $15 per month for unlimited storage or $150 per year. Premium versions allow password protection on large files. A nice feature: The Windows desktop application can resume interrupted uploads.
Small business owners using OfficeDrop can get control of the paperwork jumble that too often holds them back from the real work of the day.
Users mail documents to OfficeDrop, where they are scanned and stored in the cloud. ScanDrop is free scanning software that allows users to upload paper documents directly to online storage providers such as OfficeDrop, Google Docs and Evernote.
The program makes it simple to access files, which are text-searchable. You can also sort by labels and organize them into folders.
Pricing ranges from a 1-GB free plan to a 75-GB plan for $75 per month.
Originally designed as an online backup system, Mozy functions well as a file sharing platform. Developers have put heavy emphasis on ease of use. They’ve designed a program that runs quietly in the background and requires little care and feeding.
Pricing is a bit different from other such services, working on a pay-as-you-go model. The desktop license costs $4 a month plus $0.50 per GB per month. Services licenses run $7 per month plus $0.50 per GB per month.
Mozy has a desktop app for both Windows and Mac operating systems. Set up the folders you want backed up, and the rest takes care of itself. You can set the timing of backups and cap bandwidth usage, which is a nice touch.
You can access stored files remotely, so this storage system is a simple mechanism for sharing files across multiple locations.
This service works in a similar way to Dropbox in that you share files on your computer’s hard disk with other computers or access the documents online. In case you need a pre-backup version, SugarSync let you restore from recent versions of a document. Synced files can be accessed from any location, making it possible to share files with remote workers, or to share with yourself when you take work home at night (not that you ever would).
Need to know who had their hands on a document last? SugarSync tags each version with the user’s name. Documents can be shared as editable or as read-only, giving you version control. You can share not just files but also whole folders.
Pricing starts at $5 a month or $50 a year for 30 GB, up to $25 a month. The next level is $250 peryear for 250 GB.