Would you keep using Dropbox at work – if it threatened your company's intellectual property?
The popularity of online storage sites is exploding. Many options exist; many more are on the horizon. Right now, the top 6 storage sites are:
All free services. They differ in the amount of free space given, and the features offered. A great tool for backups & file sharing.
But is it really a good idea to use these sites? What about privacy concerns? Is your information safe out there, on a cloud server somewhere, outside your firewall? With the constant backups these sites make, do your files remain on the cloud after you delete them?
Do the pros outweigh the cons?
PROS – Reasons to Use Online Storage Sites
- Free space! The amount varies by site – 2GB (Dropbox), 5GB (Box, Google Drive, iCloud, SugarSync), 7GB (SkyDrive).
- Earn more space by referring friends. Dropbox is famous for this. SkyDrive will give an upgrade to 25GB if you already have an MSN or Hotmail account.
- Syncing across platforms. Stored files are synced back to your PC or mobile whenever you access the storage site.
- Your files are available anywhere you're online. Stored files are accessible from any platform, provided the storage site has an app for that platform. Dropbox wins here, with apps for PC, Mac, Linux and mobile.
- Uploading files/folders is as easy as drag-and-drop to a specific folder. Some providers (Box and SugarSync, for example) will even let you choose folders already on your computer, and sync them automatically.
- Share folders or individual files with other people. Every storage site (except iCloud) lets you share links to folders or individual files with others – even if they don't use the same storage site.
- Major content providers like Apple and Google auto-store your purchases in their storage sites (music/books/apps in iCloud, music on Google Drive, etc.). Even better, these files don't count against your quota of space!
- Cheap expansion if you need more space.
- SugarSync charges business users $30/month for 100GB. Google Drive charges $5/month for the same space (but see the SugarSync note below regarding its encryption services). SkyDrive charges only $50/YEAR for 100GB.
- DropBox and Box.com offer 1,000GB for business teams ($795/year for a DropBox 5-user Team account, $900/year for the same 5-user team for Box).
- Extras for business users. Box offers project collaboration via comments and real-time updates on stored files. SkyDrive will open Office files stored on it using Office Web Apps. Google Drive does the same with its Google Docs.
CONS – Issues You Need to Know About
- Your files are not private. Giant problem. Google Drive has been called on the carpet for this, after their Terms of Service claimed they can do what they want with your files.
- Your data is not secure. Of the top 6, only SugarSync encrypts your files while transferring and storing them. (Dropbox encrypts stored files, but not during transmission.) That means every time you store files, there's a (slight) risk of corruption. Or worse, information theft if a server's hacked.
- Some storage sites may not work on your computer. Some won't work on Linux; some are PC-only. One (Apple iCloud) is Mac-only.
- Your data could be handed over to law enforcement by the storage site – but they don't all promise to tell YOU if this happens. (Source: ReadWriteWeb)
- You don't know when deleted files are removed from storage site backups (if ever). Constant backup (in case of file rollback) is great if you want to keep files safe. But if you delete one, it means copies are still out there. Dropbox and Google Drive say they keep deleted files for 30 days. SugarSync keeps the previous 5 file versions. That's a lot of time for a deleted file to remain in existence.
Be Careful with Your Intellectual Property
Every business has information they don't want to share (R&D, client data, financials, future plans).
Good rule of thumb: Don't put anything on an online storage site that you wouldn't want in the public domain. It's a risk you don't need to take.
That being said, storage sites ARE extremely useful for file backup and sharing. If you avoid uploading files which contain confidential business information, then by all means, use them!
Use our list of Pros to determine which site suits your business' needs. (We like Dropbox.)