Cloud-Based Storage & File Sharing Platforms for Team Collaboration

The past year has seen an unexpected expansion of the remote workforce and with it new approaches to collaboration. While cloud-based file sharing and storage platforms were already an integral part of the productivity and collaboration systems of most businesses, the added challenge of remote and dispersed teams and departments means that deeper consideration has to be made about what platforms can deliver the fastest and most secure exchange and storage of sensitive company files and documents. 

The Advantages of Cloud Storage Services

Beyond moving and storing files, cloud storage services enhance operations for companies by allowing them to bypass expensive on-premise data centers for scalable file storage at a fraction of the cost. Already valued at $46.12 billion in 2019, the cloud storage services market is projected to reach $222.25 billion by 2027, underscoring the impact of Amazon, Google, Dell, and other major global corporations entering and dominating the market as public cloud providers. 

For companies with remote and mobile workforces, the benefits of using cloud storage services is at the heart of continuous productivity and collaboration. Providing real-time interaction, collaboration, and task management, cloud storage services with app integration support seamless workflow across software and applications.

Also read: Is the Subscription Model Best for Your Business?

The Best File Sharing and Storage Services

While there are a vast number of cloud storage services available out there, we are going to take a look at the services that include or integrate with collaboration tools. The five file sharing and storage platforms we examine below share many attributes, including business-focused functionality,  a concentration on ease of use, and the ability to scale the platform to your organization’s needs. Many of them offer a free option, so businesses can compare the features of each service to match their storage and collaboration needs without breaking the bank. 

Here are five of the best cloud-based file sharing and storage platforms currently available. 

Dropbox Business

Since its debut in 2007, Dropbox has been a leader in the cloud storage and file sharing market. That longevity has seen the file storage provider steadily expand its offerings and capabilities, including dedicating premium tiers for SMBs and enterprises. Dropbox Business allows users to create, edit, and share cloud content from Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, and Microsoft Office files. In this vein, the company also recently introduced Dropbox Paper, a co-editing tool that allows teams to edit documents in real time. Emphasizing collaboration and ease of use, the platform also provides automatic file backups, smart and selective syncing of files, offline file access, and the ability to recover older versions of files up to 180 days old — a useful feature to recover files and data if your business has experienced a security breach or natural disaster. 

The platform does have some flaws. In addition to being pricey (Business plans start at $16.58 a month for 3 terabytes of storage up to $20 a month for unlimited storage), Dropbox Business has been cited over the years for its less than stringent security protections. While it does provide two-factor authentication alongside AES 256-bit and AES 128-bit data encryption, Dropbox Business lacks zero-knowledge encryption — a double-edge sword as integration with Google and Microsoft Office would not be possible if zero-knowledge encryption were implemented on the platform. However, this potentially leaves end users data open to the prying eyes of the provider and hackers. Dropbox Business does, however, allow integration of third-party security software. 

Google Workspace

Formerly called G Suite, Google Workspace debuted in late 2020 with enterprise productivity and remote work collaboration as its core missions. Featuring Google’s entire platform of tools — Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Meet — Workspace is built on delivering a unified user experience. With Google Drive as the main hub, end users can share files and engage in real-time collaboration within Docs, Sheets, and Slides and over the video conferencing app, Meet, which allows up to 250 people on one call. Offline access to and syncing of files is offered on Google’s desktop app, Google File Stream, on Macs and PCs. In addition to form creation software and a shareable calendar, Google Workspace also allows document collaboration within its messaging app, Chat. 

For organizations looking to unify collaboration across one platform with built-in IT support, Workspace is an ideal solution. However, the lack of dedicated offline productivity capabilities as well as the absence of desktop versions of its suite of apps will be off-putting to some organizations. Some end users might also have a steeper learning curve wrangling Workspace’s apps into a coherent workflow. 

Google Workspace offers a free 14-day trial, followed by a $6-a-month Business Starter tier that includes 30 GBs of file storage. The custom priced Enterprise tier offers unlimited storage. 

Also read: Pandemic-Era Productivity Shows Surprising Uptick for SMBs

Egnyte

Built on the promise of enterprise-grade filing storage and sharing, Egnyte’s value proposition is its dedication to data-centric security and governance using artificial intelligence for predictive insights while allowing users to access disparate content sources and applications in one place, from any device, anywhere. Using dashboards, Egnyte users can create and sync files, export files to different apps, download files to mobile devices, and engage in real-time collaboration with Microsoft Office and WebEdit integration. The platform, which has a reputation for being one of the most secure cloud storage services around, uses 256-bit AES encryption on all access routes and the TLS protocol to protect data in transit. 

A robust file sharing platform, Egnyte’s shortcomings lie in its hefty price tag and somewhat stingy file storage capacity. The platform’s first tier, Teams, is priced at $10 a month per employee with 1TB of storage, followed by the Business tier, which allows for hybrid (web and desktop) sharing with 1TB of storage in addition to 10GB of collective storage, at $20 a month per employee. Its Enterprise tier, recommended for 50 or more employees, offers advanced content protection and 50GB of collective, shared storage per employee with custom pricing. 

OneDrive for Business

Part of Microsoft’s Office 365 and the default cloud storage solution for Windows 10, OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Google Workspace. The platform, which works on both PCs and Macs, is centralized around collaboration and offers synchronization across devices and files, online folder backup, and integration with Microsoft suite of services (Office, Skype, OneNote, and Outlook) as well as third-party platforms to customize the user experience. 

A veteran in the cloud storage market, OneDrive is unique for its popularity as both a personal and enterprise-grade file sharing and storage solution. It helps that the platform offers generous storage options starting at a plain 1TB for $5 a month per user with an additional $5 getting each user unlimited storage. Business pricing is similarly low, with additional access to Microsoft’s suite of collaboration and productivity tools, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. 

Like many of its competitors, OneDrive uses AES 256-bit encryption to secure your data. OneDrive also features the free “Personal Vault”, which allows users to store sensitive files to a BitLocker-encrypted location. Files in the personal vault are not shareable and users are automatically locked out after a period of inactivity. 

Unlike many of its competitors, OneDrive for Business lacks the depth of third-party integration organizations might need to build consistent productive workflows in conjunction with CRM and other project management software. And, its limited offline access might be off-putting to end users who want the ability to access files without an internet connection. 

Box

Designed for enterprise storage and file sharing, Box underwent a refresh shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic last year. Featuring a new easier-to-use interface, the cloud platform features anytime, anywhere collaboration capabilities including real-time annotation of shared files and the ability to group files into collections. Box can also automate workflows, allowing users to set up simple rules from the admin console to run frequent tasks. 

In addition to AES 256-bit encryption, Box allows customers to manage encryption keys for greater privacy. Last year the company also introduced Box Shield, its automated proprietary malware detection and control solution. When malware is identified in Box, Box Shield automatically sends an alert to the end user, restricts downloads and sharing of malicious files, and notifies your IT team. 

Box, however, can be an expensive proposition for smaller businesses, with pricing starting at $5 a month per employee with 100GB of storage and integration with Office 365 and Google Workspace up to an Enterprise tier at $35 per employee per month with unlimited storage and sweeping security and compliance options. 

Data to Stay in the Cloud

As big name cloud providers have entered the fray, data storage and sharing has firmly shifted to the cloud, taking with it popular business productivity tools including CRM and project management software. It helps that emerging technologies such as AI and IoT (Internet of Things) are  bringing enhanced features to storage and sharing platforms to make them more efficient, economically attractive, and easier to use. 

While security remains an issue, the major file storage and sharing platforms that target the business sector are consistently enhancing and improving these features while allowing deep integration with third-party productivity and security partners. It has never been easier to work from anywhere on any device. 

Also read: UCC Tools are Helping Remote Teams Effectively Collaborate

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