The Best Online File Sharing Services for 2018
For most people, sharing files online means attaching a document to an email. This is fine for small-scale file sharing, but what if you need to share large or numerous files or collaborate on files in real time? That's where online file sharing services come in.
Online file sharing services host your data on cloud servers for you to store, share and collaborate. You can upload files, then share them with co-workers and clients via a download link. The best online file sharing services also serve as platforms for collaboration that allow you to invite others to work on a specific file or folder. Everyone can make changes, add files and communicate ideas within the platform.
Our favorite file sharing services were ones that included unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth and large max file size sharing. Egnyte features several business-oriented features, along with its cloud backup system that you can setup as a hybrid system for the best data protection. Hightail features unlimited storage and sharing for its many collaboration tools geared toward creative types. Box is a straight forward file sharing service with comprehensive features that allow you to share anyway you require. Dropbox is a popular and economical choice for file sharing and features lots of integrations with other popular platforms. You can read more about each service in our reviews below.
Read all of our reviews for the best online file sharing services below.
OpenDrive Cloud Storage Review
One of the great features of online file sharing services is that you can test-drive the service with a trial account. This allows you to gauge how the service meets your needs before you decide to make a purchase. We evaluated many popular file sharing services and detailed our experiences so you don't have to do trials on every service yourself.
We looked primarily at how well you can share and access files, the security of your data and the file-tracking controls. We also evaluated features that make the service ideal for online collaboration.
Most online file sharing services offer multiple plans, including free plans, personal plans and business/enterprise plans. These are normally tiered according to how much storage you're allocated; the maximum file size you can send and how many users you want on your account.
Free and personal plans typically only provide a few gigabytes of storage and a limited amount of bandwidth. Professional and business plans are geared toward an office environment, offering much more storage capacity, multiple user accounts and sophisticated collaboration tools.
State of the Industry
Many online file sharing services are similar to online backup services. There is a lot of crossover in the purpose and function of these services. Both use server farms to store data. Many online backup services allow you to share files, and many online file sharing services act as a backup for your data by keeping copies on their servers.
The difference is that online file sharing services focus on collaboration and the inclusion of multiple people, with backing up data as more of an afterthought. In many cases, online file sharing services only store your data on their servers for a limited period (usually 90 days), while online backup services store your data indefinitely.
What Features Do You Need?
Share & Access Features
If your primary reason for getting a file sharing service is sending large-sized files, then one aspect you need to consider when looking at different services and plans is the maximum file size. Every file sharing site allows you to share large files, but the maximum file size that you can share varies a lot from site to site. Some services max out at 2GB, while others can share files as big as 10GB, and others have no limit to the file size. Some services specialize in sending large media files, while others are focused on sending smaller files quicker.
A few services have a maximum bandwidth, which is a limit on how much data you can transfer within an allotted time, usually a month. Many services have moved away from this model and offer unlimited bandwidth, but be aware of services that do have them, as they may impose overage fees. Usually bandwidth limits would apply only if you use the service's cloud storage for hosting.
The best file sharing sites come with interfaces designed around online collaborations with clients and colleagues through private share folders or complex digital workspaces. Private share folders simply mirror the contents of a folder with anyone invited to the folder, while digital workspaces offer a more complex platform for communicating ideas, suggestions and approvals in addition to syncing files.
Other important features include public share links that allow anyone to download a file using a URL address, device syncing for access to your files on multiple machines, mobile apps for sharing wherever you go, third-party apps that incorporate your account, plugins for attaching files seamlessly to emails and custom branding.
With so much data being passed over the cloud, security should be a top concern when considering these services. We looked at these services' security protocols to determine which sites are the most secure file sharing services. This begins with 256-bit encryption for when the file is in transit and when it's idle on the servers. File encryption acts as a protective shell around a file so that a hacker can't view the contents if they intercept it at any point. In addition, we looked at whether the service uses firewalls and virus scanners to protect the servers from unwanted external and internal attacks.
Another important security feature to consider is the remote wipe. This feature allows you to delete files remotely from any device synced to your account. For example, if an employee leaves your company or someone steals a smartphone synced to your account, the remote wipe feature allows you to remove the files even though you don't have access to the physical device. In addition, a password protection tool is one of the most basic security features for protecting files with customized passwords, ensuring that only people you want to receive files can download and view the contents.
It's important to know how many times you've shared a file, whom you've shared it with, when you shared it and how much of the bandwidth quota it used (if applicable). As such, we favor file sharing services that provide comprehensive audit logs, folder permissions, identity verification, file locking and file-access expiration settings. The best file sharing services allow you to control how you track the files, including how long share links are available.
File versioning is critical for share folders and digital workspaces because it allows you to reverse errors and unwanted changes. Instead of overwriting the previous version of a file every time you save changes, file versioning maintains the earlier version. Every time you make a change to the file, you create a new version of the file. Some file sharing services maintain every version you create, while others only maintain a limited number.
Additional Features to Consider
After evaluating the core features online file sharing services offer, we looked at a few additional features that may be important for businesses.
e-Signature: Many file sharing sites provide a platform that allows you to accept and receive electronic signatures on documents. This streamlines many business practices by eliminating the time wasted on traditional mail. You can send a contract to a client and have it signed in minutes, as opposed to waiting days or weeks for the mail to transfer the contract.
Custom Branding: Some online file sharing services allow you to customize your sharing platform to match your brand. You can change the color scheme and upload logos so that your clients feel secure when they download a file you're sharing with them. This reinforces your brand and builds trust with clients.
Help & Support: To help you learn how to use all its features effectively, your file sharing site should have some educational resources meant to help you get the most out of the service. This may include FAQ pages, user forums, tutorials and training videos.
If you encounter an urgent issue, you'll need to contact a customer support representative. The best file sharing sites offer 24/7 phone, live chat and email ticket support in case you run into an issue outside of traditional business hours. While some file hosting sites include 24/7 support with their subscriptions, others require an additional fee for this service.
Common File Sharing Questions & Answers
I'm going to echo Eric's suggestion of Office365 (O365). As it is Microsoft's worldwide shared SharePoint environment, it can provide the collaboration and document management up to an enterprise level. Beyond that, there are MANY 3rd party products that provide an almost dizzying array of capabilities. Depending on your specific needs for "job booking", there is likely something that can work for you. If not, you may want to look at also subscribing to MS's hosted CRM (also through the...Read More ▼
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Passwords are required in order to disable many of the functionalities in a pdf file - though I do not know any that disable printing. A question would be - what would you be sending your client that you need to ensure they can't do anything with something that you give them? I am not very techie, and trust me, if I want to use something from a document, I can do it. I would not be spending your time worrying about that, and trust your customer to respect your data. Or maybe they...Read More ▼
Unless you're comfortable with technical system administration, I would recommend one of the storage solutions like Dropbox. There are lots of variations on that concept that offer several gigabytes of free storage. What I've done in the past for this type of scenario is setup a simple VPN connection (OpenVPN+Tunnelblick) so when I'm in RoadWarriorMode I connect my laptop to the VPN and I can browse the files like I'm on my home network. The biggest problem is performance. Copying a 5 - 8...Read More ▼
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List of 13Best Online File Sharing Services
Egnyte is a business-focused cloud storage platform complete with file sharing and collaboration tools, making it a comprehensive, all-in-one service. Egnyte includes sophisticated administrative controls for management and IT. The backup aspect of the platform allows you to set it up as a hybrid system for redundancy and the best protection.
OpenDrive offers a good cloud storage and backup solution for individuals and businesses.
Dropbox is one of the best-known cloud and file-sharing services available that offers storage and syncing for all your files, except email and calendars.
SugarSync is a cloud service that lets you sync your files in the cloud and access them from your computer or mobile device.
Sharefile is a file-sharing service that offers unlimited file versioning and custom branding for its clients. Learn more about its capabilities in our review.
DropSend is an FTP file transfer service that lets you collaborate with other users in share folders.
Onehub is an FTP hosting service with a priority on being the "hub" of your online collaboration. While most FTP websites provide the ability to create share folders that allow multiple users to edit, view or share files privately, Onehub takes this concept and expands it for an exceptionally comprehensive digital workspace that optimizes remote collaborations.
Box is a cloud and file-sharing service that lets you store your files and collaborate with your colleagues and clients.
JustCloud has a good combination of features to help you convert to business cloud storage and offers a simple file sharing solution for both public sharing and within your organization. It gives you full administrative control, allowing you to control how much storage and bandwidth your employees use.
SendThisFile is an FTP hosting service where the express purpose is right in the name – sending files. As an FTP file transfer service, it provides an easy way for you to send files that are too big to attach to an email. The best feature is the unlimited file size.
4shared is an easy FTP hosting service designed specifically for sharing videos, music and photos.
Hightail offers business cloud services for small businesses but has the capacity to scale with your business as it grows. This service has many features that we looked for in cloud services and provides a secure way for you to store and share you company's important documents.