3 online storage and file sharing solutions for your practice
I recently took at a few online storage providers (I regularly use Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, so that’s what I’m writing about), and thought it might be interesting to do a comparison of them. Note: I’m not including iCloud because it is only available for Apple Devices.
This is my go-to. As a Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) user, it’s what I use to create and store all of my firm files. Google Drive is online storage as well as an office suite with documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations, and comes with 15GB of free storage. If you already have a Google account, you already have access to GDrive. It works on Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
For personal accounts, there are a couple of pricing options via Google One if you want more than 15GB of storage (which is shared with Gmail):
There are also different pricing options for the business solution, Google Workspace, that include a full suite of products: Google Meet, Calendar, Chat, Keep, Sites, and Forms.
I use Workspace and it’s great. Adding and editing users in my account is a breeze, and I can manage our Google Voice account as well, including adding extensions and using an auto attendant. The times I’ve had to contact support, it’s been fast and very helpful!
In my experience, Google Drive makes collaboration so easy. Working with other trainers on content for training provided by Intuit®, it’s so seamless to use comments, see version history, and access across devices and operating systems.
I use Dropbox mostly for photo storage. The non-photo files there are generally folders/files that clients have shared with me. I’m a firm believer in separation of personal and business regarding email (I use a hotmail account for social media and subscriptions, and a Yahoo account for utilities, streaming channels, and online shopping), so the only files I’m uploading to dropbox are pictures (full disclosure, so many of them cat pics) from my phone.
The search option for photos is stellar; I’m generally looking for a photo from a specific year, and because I’ve been using it for so long to upload pictures from my phone, I can scroll right to the month and year to find what I’m looking for. Looking for the picture of the bucket of 206 tiny toads my daughter and the neighborhood kids found? Let’s scroll to August 2009!
I have a Dropbox Plus personal account, but there is a family option and three options for business as well.
I can’t say that I use Dropbox for file collaboration as much as file sharing and storage, but it does have the ability to create and edit (Dropbox Paper, Word and Google Docs, as well as Excel and Google Sheets, and Powerpoint and Google Slides). Most of the non-photo files in my Dropbox are in folders that clients have shared with us.
I tested the Dropbox paper option and it seems like a great note taking option if you’re a heavy Dropbox user. Creating and editing a Google Doc was also really easy, but I can’t imagine using that if I’m already using GDocs.
It does offer version history and easy link sharing. One of the things I do love about Dropbox sharing is that I can set an expiration date for sharing and set a password for individual files. Some paid plans also offer remote account wiping, offline folders for mobile, and watermarks for documents.
I use Box only because two of my largest clients use it, and share folders and files with a large group of people. Similar to Google Drive and Dropbox, Box is a cloud storage option for files, photos, and documents. It has similar features like adding comments, assigning tasks, and privacy settings.
A user can decide which people can open and view specific folders and files, and which can upload and/or edit files and documents. Like Dropbox, the ability to put a password on a file and set an expiration date is optional.
While Google Drive and Dropbox seemed designed for individuals and businesses, Box feels more like it’s built for businesses. It offers additional features, including Box Sign to get e-signatures, Box Relay to build workflows and workflow templates, and services such as Box Consulting, Box Shuttle, and Box Transform that all help facilitate the move to online and ensure everyone gets trained.
Box offers online editing, using MS Office options or Google Drive, but I find the editing clunky and usually end up downloading the file to edit and then re-uploading it.
A few others to look at, that I keep seeing but have never tried:
- SugarSync—This one is similar to Dropbox, and has individual and business plans. I thought it was a bit expensive, and doesn’t offer true collaboration; only one person can work on a file at once.
- Mega—This is really an online storage option that focuses on security. It doesn’t offer collaboration, but it will keep track of file versions when an updated file is uploaded.
- Sync—Another storage-only option. It offers a trial so you can test it first, and pricing is reasonable. Sync is another provider that focuses heavily on security, and it does integrate with Office365 for collaboration.
One last thing. I don’t install the local apps for any of these on my computer to do syncing. In my tiny little brain, having to download an app defeats the purpose of using an online tool. I rarely need offline access, and if I’m someplace that I don’t have a cell signal or WiFi, that means I’ve done it on purpose, and have no intention of working or needing anything stored online!