Attaching files to an email is the most popular form of sharing files online. It's easy and free. You just need an email address, a computer and access to the internet. Unfortunately, email and regular mail share many of the same limitations. If a letter is too big, you can't simply slap a stamp on it and expect it reach its destination. You have to go to the post office or a courier service to ship the letter. Email is similar. With most email providers, if you try to attach a file that’s bigger than 10MB to 40MB, the email with fail to deliver. A file hosting service is like an online UPS, allowing you to share large files and collaborate online with colleagues and clients.
The best file sharing services offer much more than an easy way of sharing big files with your clients and colleagues – these are services designed to help you optimize your workflow and online presence, both within and without your organization. Whether you’re a single person who wants to collaborate with friends on a creative project or you need a service that allows your employees to collaborate online, file sharing sites have plans to meet your needs. Hightail, Box and Egnyte are file-sharing sites with a host of features designed to help maximize the way you operate and collaborate online. To learn more, read our articles about online file sharing services.
File sharing sites work by uploading your files to a file-hosting data center. Once the files upload to the data centers, you can share them privately by using an email plugin, creating share links, and collaborating through share folders and digital workspaces. Some file sharing sites allow you to share as much as you want while others limit your file sharing with monthly bandwidth quotas. Some allow you to share any file size and others have file size limits. Some have third-party apps that integrate with your account while others don't have mobile apps at all. It's important to consider your file sharing needs when sharing files online.
Below are some of the criteria you'll want to consider when choosing an online file sharing service.
Share & Access Features
Your monthly bandwidth represents how much data you can share and receive. Underestimating your file-sharing needs can result in extra fees or a frozen account, which would inhibit your ability to conduct business or work on projects with colleagues. The amount of bandwidth you need will vary depending on the type of files you need to share. If you share a 2GB video file with ten colleagues, you'll have used 22GB of bandwidth – 2GB for the upload and 20GB for the ten downloads. As such, the more bandwidth, the better – and the best file sharing sites offer unlimited bandwidth.
Next, you should consider the maximum file size. Every file-sharing site will allow you to share large files, but the maximum file size that you can share varies a lot from site to site. Some max out at 2GB while others can share files 10GB or bigger.
The best file sharing sites provide a platform for 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, email plugins for attaching files seamlessly to emails, and custom branding.
One of the unfortunate realities of an online world is the nefarious people who hack into data centers. As such, to keep your files from unwanted eyes, secure file sharing is vital, and this begins with 256-bit encryption for when the file is in-transit and when it's idle. File encryption acts like a protective shell around a file so that a hacker can't view the contents of the file after gaining access to the servers. In addition, you'll want to make sure that firewalls and virus scanners protect the servers from unwanted external and internal attacks.
One of the most important security tools is the remote wipe. With remote wipe, you can make sure that you can remotely delete files from any device attached to your account. If an employee leaves your company or a device is stolen, you can remove the files even though you don't have access to the device. In addition, a password protection tool allows you to protect files with customized passwords, ensuring that only people you want to receive files with can download and view the contents.
File Tracking & Admin Controls
Keeping track of your files is like keeping track of your finances. It's important to know how many times you've shared a file, whom you've shared it with, when it was shared and how much of the bandwidth quota it used. To track files effectively, you should look for services with comprehensive audit logs, folder permissions, identity verification, file locking and file-access expiration settings. These features give you control over how users attached to your account are able to share and edit files, as well as control over how long share links are available.
One of the most important file-tracking features is file versioning, which 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. The best file sharing services maintain every version you create while others will only maintain a limited number.
Help & Support
Most file sharing websites are intuitive to learn and navigate. This doesn't mean that you won't experience confusing functions or encounter frustrating problems. To help you learn how to use all the features effectively, your file-sharing site should have a FAQs page, user forums, tutorials and training videos. These are educational resources to help you optimize your account and get the most out of the site.
If you encounter an urgent issue, you'll need to contact a customer support representative. The best file sharing sites offer three methods – 24/7 phone support, live chat support and email ticket support. Just because your business closes down at 5:00 p.m. doesn't mean that you won't need to urgently send a file to an important client in the middle of the night. If you run into an issue sharing the file, you should be able to get help. While some file hosting sites include 24/7 support with their subscriptions, others require an additional fee.
It doesn't matter if you're looking for an online file-sharing site for sharing large files or if you want to collaborate on a project with a client who lives thousands of miles away, you'll find the best file sharing service to meet your needs on this site.