Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

How to Choose the Best Online File Storage

How to Choose the Best Online File Storage

With remote work playing a larger role in the operations of companies of all sizes, online storage tools have evolved from a primary emphasis on storing files to, in most services, full-fledged collaboration platforms.

Using online file storage and sharing tools, you upload a document, spreadsheet or other type of file to the cloud. If you’re uploading it just for storage purposes, you’re done.

If you want to share the file, it’s easy to give permission for someone else to access it, either by sending them a link to the file, or adding their email address into the file sharing platform so they receive a notification that the file is available.

File-Sharing Advantages

Online file management and storage offers a number of benefits over keeping documents on a company-owned server and distributing them via email. For starters, it’s usually easier and more convenient to access a file online than having to download it and opening it locally.

For instance, if you are collaborating on a word processing document with a team member, you can create or post the document via Google Docs, Microsoft 365 or a different platform, and work on the same file together or sequentially. This approach ensures you can see everyone’s edits and, because you’re working on the same document, there’s no risk of someone editing an older version of a file.

Online file storage also allows team members to access documents from anywhere, a capability that has become critical as workers routinely work from home or other locations. With most services, you can access a file from any location, and any device, as long as you have a robust Internet connection.

Storing and sharing files in the cloud is typically less expensive than doing so locally because you don’t need to purchase, maintain and upgrade storage servers on your network. Online services are sold via a monthly or annual subscription, with rates varying by storage capacity (which is easy to upgrade as your company grows) and features.

Improved Security

One of the initial concerns about online for file storage (and cloud computing in general) was whether it would be secure to store confidential information on another company’s server. Cloud storage is generally more secure than saving files locally because providers are better able to invest in enterprise level security than most small businesses can.

In addition, it is easy to limit access to specific files or folders on your storage platform. For instance, you can grant team members access to folders and documents related to their function, or you can restrict an outside consultant from accessing any files that aren’t applicable to her project.

Features to Focus On

As you consider file sharing and storage platforms, keep the following in mind:

  • Ease of use. Most file sharing platforms resemble desktop file managers and enable you to add or download files simply by grabbing them and dragging them to their destination.
  • File encryption. You want to be sure your files will be encrypted during storage, not just during uploads and downloads. This helps guard against unauthorized access if your provider experiences a data breach.
  • Role-based security. Assigning roles and permissions by function makes it easier to prevent, for example, junior staffers from accessing your company financials.

Popular file sharing providers include Box, Dropbox, Google Docs, Microsoft 365, and others.

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