What is file sharing software?
A file sharing software is an application that facilitates the sending and receiving of files and collaboration among users via the Internet or a local network. File sharing software tools enable end users to exchange a wide range of file formats–such as text documents, images, and videos–and share access to storage space. It is commonly used to download and share media files with other people.
Collaboration used to involve people meeting physically, where they bring all their materials with them to plan and discuss things. In some instances, one meeting is never enough to accomplish everything. And to set up one meeting takes too much work, effort, time, and resources, not to mention the need to travel great distances. How much more if it’s a series of meetings? But that was then. Today, because of technological innovations like file sharing software, collaborating and exchanging opinions with colleagues from anywhere is not only a possibility but rather a common workplace practice.
This article–which is also an outcome of file sharing technology as this was written collaboratively with valuable inputs from experts and users–aims to provide you with a working knowledge about this wonderful, very helpful technology and answer questions like: What is file sharing software? What does file sharing software do? Why use file sharing software? And how does file sharing software work? Aside from providing some definition of file sharing software, it will also discuss some of the best file sharing tools examples, definition, pricing schemes, advantages, and purpose of file sharing software.
What are examples of file sharing software?
1. Dropbox Business
Dropbox Business – sample direct integration with a productivity software.
Dropbox Business is one of the examples of file sharing software. It is a premium version of Dropbox for business organizations, although the pricing difference, as well as looks and functionality, are not that significant if you’re a long-time user of Dropbox. These are among the reasons why Dropbox Business has become the most widely used file sharing solution in the corporate world.
More than 150,000 business organizations use Dropbox Business in their operations, such as National Geographic, News Corp., Macmillan, and Yahoo. Corporate users can share files, automatically have them synchronized, and readily collaborate with members of their team, as well as with business partners. Because of its wide-integration support, users can stay on top things of how their important data are shared, accessed, and used, while ensuring complete control of user activity and seamless productivity using most productivity and business apps. It offers generous storage space, dedicated live support and a high-level of security.
2. Google Drive
GoogleDrive – sample dashboard view of folders.
Google Drive is another popular file storage platform and collaboration software that allows users to store and access files anywhere on any device connected to the Internet. Offered free or with paid premium plans, this file sharing solution is indubitably the most used cloud-based storage application across the world. Key to its popularity is the convenience of storing all your data–music, images, videos, and text documents–in a single location.
It also offers users instant synchronization of store data in all linked user accounts and connected gadgets, anywhere, 24/7. Its support for file history provides users the option to either retain or undo the changes made. Empowered by Google’s technology, Google Drive draws heavily on most of its industry-leading apps and functionalities, such as Google Chrome and Gmail. It is also easy to use and is a typical choice among start-ups, SMBs, and freelancers who require a robust file sharing system that is not heavy on the pocket. It is also deeply integrated with all Google apps like Calendar and Google Docs to support team productivity and efficiency.
Dropbox dashboard – sample view of team folders.
Another widely-used file sharing solution, Dropbox is a cloud-based productivity platform designed to help teams and individual users gain better efficiency and productivity. For sharing and storing files, it provides reliable off-site servers and allows users to automatically sync files online, even across all devices used. For years, it is one of the leading names when it comes to file sharing and is a preferred solution especially among individual users since the service is provided for free, which already involves a generous data storage capability.
Over 500 million people worldwide use Dropbox for uploading and sharing files because it doesn’t have any restriction on how many files to be shared or how many users will be given access to the shared files. By harnessing the power of cloud technology, Dropbox has made data access, storage, and retrieval more effortless and efficient. It is also OS agnostic, meaning it can run on any system, whether PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android, further supporting productivity.
4. Apple iCloud
Apple iCloud dashboard for Windows 10 PCs
Apple iCloud is a cloud-based file sharing and storage system that allows users to store and manage multi-format documents, media, and exclusive Mac/iOS files and apps like iBooks, iTunes, Pages, and email servers. It is also fully automated and supports wide integration with third-party iOS and macOS apps through the iCloud API. To differentiate itself from the competition, the vendor added the capability of enabling users to manage their Apple devices when stolen or lost.
It helps allows users to save storage space in their devices as it automatically uploads the original (often larger) high-resolution photos to iCloud while creating a smaller version of each photo in the device. Its smart storage system is also notable as it allows users to organize their files by creating folders that can be tagged with distinct colors, which automatic update across all devices whenever changes are made. It is also designed for helping work teams easily collaborate with each team member.
Pitchroom dashboard – User data room selection.
Unlike other similar types of apps, Pitchroom is a file sharing solution designed specifically to provide users with a safe digital showroom where they can showcase their concepts, actual product/service inventions, and other valuable offerings to potential clients or investors. Essentially, it is a virtual meeting place where business people come together to hear sales pitches, discuss business deals, and other related activities, while being assured of having a high level of protection for the confidential and proprietary data being shared.
Aside from sharing textual content, users can also embed/play videos and music, and post images, slideshows, and other related data. It also offers comments, polls, and feedback functionalities in real time to motivate parties to share their insights and overall user experience. Aside from these notable features, Pitchroom users will appreciate the individual branding support it provides as they can customize the virtual data room to highlight the essence of their innovative works–all with the aim of helping to close deals, win investors, and ensure success.
What are the benefits of file sharing software?
Even prior to the widespread use of the Internet, it should be noted that file sharing in its earlier forms is already a popular function of computer technology. Here are the key advantages of file sharing software for businesses:
- Digital Workplace. Digital file sharing is indubitably one of the underlying forces behind the earlier initiative to achieve a paperless office, which had already gone a long way today. In business, file sharing is a major business application used by millions of companies and individual users across the world.
- End-user. Usage of file sharing solutions differs in terms of the type of business or industry of the user organization (or individual practitioner). Businesses with the highest number of users include information technology, media, banking, telecommunication, education, utilities, and insurance. File sharing is also one of the must-have SaaS tools for small businesses.
- Convenience. File sharing, especially via the cloud, offers a wide array of advantages especially among users from different geographic locations and diverse timelines. It only takes a single click to transmit files to usually takes only one click to send numerous files to a group of users, while access is typically reliable and quick. Vendors also adhere to international regulatory policies and government laws, which also helps businesses uphold a high level of compliance to protect reputation and brand image.
- Time & resource savings. With file sharing technology, business resources–particularly money, employee effort, and time–become efficiently utilized like never before, while operational tasks are completed more quickly, with minimal room for error. File sharing apps also drastically hastened the nature of work collaboration, compared to sending business documents via snail mail or parcel.
- Ease of access. File sharing platforms are also instrumental in supporting various new forms of job arrangements, including work-from-home and third-party contracting. Employees and business partners who are usually on-the-go can readily access files wherever they are, whenever they need to do so.
What are the types of file sharing software?
After learning about the uses of file sharing software, let’s now turn to its different types. File sharing solutions are generally classified into several types based on their function. They typically offer most functionalities, especially the data transmission and storage. Here are the most common types of file sharing software in the market today:
- Cloud-based. This is presently the most preferred type of file sharing program, which provides more convenience and some of the other features that modern businesses require. Cloud-based file sharing apps enable users to send files, create folders, and collaborate with their colleagues anytime, anywhere as long as there’s an internet connection using any device they want to use. It also offers the advantage of having shared files automatically synchronized, which ensures that files being collaborated upon are instantly updated to help things move forward and projects get completed faster. Examples: Google Drive and Dropbox.
- Peer-to-peer. This type of sharing app allows the direct transfer of files from one gadget (used by one peer) to another (peer), thus the name and definition. Rather than using a single central server, this platform uses the computers in a network of peers (users) as a group of node servers. Large files are commonly split into smaller parts, which can be derived from numerous peers (called seeders) and will then be put together by the peer who downloads the file. Even prior to completing the download, the downloader is also acting as a seeder from whom other peers are retrieving the same file. Examples: Spotify and BitTorrent.
- Client-server. This type typically involves webpage, FTP sharing, and email. A client-server program commonly stores data in a central location such as a server and then transmits it to users or clients who ask for the data. Example: IBM Aspera.
- System-native. This kind of file sharing system operates as a native function of the operating system of a computer. It works as a built-in capability of an OS to share files among computers with the same OS, typically inside a local network. Examples: Mac OS and Windows OS.
What are the features of file sharing software?
Another crucial aspect of file sharing platforms is its major features. Although all of them have similar offerings, the differences lie in how each feature and functionality is designed to address user needs. Here are the common major features offered by the best file sharing software, including some definition and processes involved:
- File transmission. This function pertains to the transfer of data over a digital channel of communication, which involves either a point-to-point transmission or a point-to-multipoint transfer. The mode of transfer and its average speed are the key aspects of this process.
- Data Storage. Once a file is transferred, it is stored in a folder that file-owners/users can access using a browser-based or a mobile app, which can then be readily shared with fellow users. How much storage space you must avail will depend on your business requirements. For instance, if your team tend to share large volumes of data, it is best to select a plan with unlimited storage.
- Dashboards. A key component of today’s generation of sharing platforms nowadays is the intuitive, integrated dashboard which functions as the control center of all app activities, including file sharing permissions, monitoring, etc.
- Password Protection. Once a file is shared online, it automatically becomes vulnerable to various forms of malicious attack, which is why it best to choose a vendor with reliable data and user information security.
- Granular Access. A robust form of user protection control, granular access determines the access levels of users to ensure that only those with the proper clearance are allowed to access certain files.
- Data Recovery. Robust data recovery tools are deployed by file sharing vendors to address the common incidence of accidental file deletion. There are file sharing apps that offer file protection services that keep backup copies of stored files for a certain period of time.
- Support. Providing customer support is a staple offering of technology vendors, but it comes more crucial once the handling of sensitive business data becomes a part of the service being provided. So it is best to only deal with vendors with a reputable security record.
- File Version History. A usual issue when collaborating with a team online is keeping track of all versions of files being exchanged. This is why file sharing apps are keeping copies of every version of files being collaborated upon to enable users to still access older and deleted files if needed.
- Third-Party Integrations. File sharing platforms are not designed to function in a vacuum–they are supposed to be a part of the entire collaborative environment–meaning, they should have a wide range of integration with external apps, to ensure productivity and efficiency of work teams and client-partners.
What are the factors to consider when getting file sharing software?
Virtually every business, big or small, uses some form of file sharing tools as a way to drive efficiency and productivity. However, issues like security and compatibility concerns can jeopardize company operations. With so many vendors to choose from, with most, if not all, asserting that their file sharing solution is the best in the market today, how does a business decide which platform to adopt to address their file sharing requirements? Here are some pointers to consider to make a sound platform selection.
- List of features you really need. To make your trip to the grocery store efficient, it’s good practice to have a list of things to buy. The same approach should be applied when searching for a file sharing solution. Since your chosen application will become an integral part of your business, you must ensure that your selection will have the necessary features and functionalities that you and your work teams will need to enhance their productivity. This is why it is best to first talk to all your staff on which features that must be present in the app that you’ll select, and them consolidate all of them to create a short-list of must-have tools and features. If you have distributed teams, it should also offer the basic features of collaboration tools. This will make your selection process faster and more precise.
- Take advantage of free trial offers. Why buy software solely based on advertising alone when you can actually drive test one first before making an actual purchase? Choosing and using any new software is a resource and time investment so you have to make it right. Good thing most SaaS vendors are offering 30-day free trials or demo that you can readily avail to actually experience using some of the file sharing software that you’d want to use. This will help a lot in identifying which of the apps you’ve tried is the one for your business.
- Targeted Users. File sharing apps, like any other software solution, are designed with pre-targeted users in mind. Some are made for start-ups and small businesses, while others are built for medium and large enterprises. So it is also important to consider for what type of users a file sharing app is meant for, such as for the volume and other specific uses it is designed to handle, such as for SMBs, or functionalities it provides, like for businesses that require cloud-based access as they have teams mostly doing fieldwork. Another aspect to look for is whether the software offers scalability and flexibility, which can prove to be a great option for businesses seeking to grow along with the platform that they use.
How much does a file sharing software cost?
The cost of file sharing software depends on a wide variety of pricing plans, which include monthly or yearly rates and by quote. Here are the price points of some of the above samples of file sharing platforms:
- DropBox Business – Standard plan starts at $12.50/user/month, starting at 3 users, 3 TB of space, Smart Sync, 256-bit AES and SSL/TLS encryption, 120 days of file recovery, two-factor authentication (2FA), etc. Advanced plan $20/user/month, provides as much space needed, with sophisticated security and control features.
- Google Drive – Free for 15 GB, paid plans start at $1.75/user/per month with 100 GB storage, access to Google experts, etc., up to $278 for 30TB/user/month.
- DropBox – Basic plan is free for 2GB storage, with 30-day history file recovery, shared folders and links, etc. Plus plan at $9.99/user/month for 2 TB storage, with Smart Sync, remote device wipe, 30-day history Dropbox rewind, etc. Professional plan at $16.58/user/month for 3 TB storage, with full-text search, AutoOCR, shared link controls, viewer history, watermarking, etc.
- Apple iCloud – Free plan for 5GB storage. Its most popular plan is 50GB at $0.99/month, which is best for file storage and backup. It also offers a 200GB plan at $2.99/month and a 2TB plan at $9.99/month, which can be shared for up to 5 family members.
- Pitchroom -Offers a free plan with 1 branded data room, 50 MB storage, up to 10 users. Pro plan at $19/month, 3 branded rooms, 500 MB storage, up to 10 users. Business plan at $99/month, 5 branded data rooms, 5 GB storage, up to 10 users.
What are the potential issues with file sharing software?
Similar to other software technologies, file sharing platforms are also susceptible to several problems that may originate externally (fraudulent use or access to files) or internally (faulty software design, technical glitch, etc.). Some examples include the following:
- Security. File sharing apps–being one of the most helpful and used technologies today–are a common tool used in cyber attacks, both by professional hackers and ordinary individuals. For business users that must ensure the protection of confidential personal data of their customers, it is never an option to compromise their security. Which is why it is best to choose only from tested and reliable vendors that provide high-grade security protection, plus robust features like granular access.
- Technical skills requirements. Team members and business partners typically have varying degrees of technical know-how, so it is inevitable that some novice can’t cope up with the file sharing knowledge of advanced users. There’s also the challenge of data control, such as keeping track of shared documents. This is why minimal training or some form of mentorship is necessary to put everyone on the same page in as far as technical skills in file sharing and content management are concerned.
- Copyright Infringement. Numerous files shared over sharing platforms, especially over P2P, will always be plagued with copyright issues since both hackers and non-technical users will be liable to criminal suits if caught sharing proprietary files, mostly involving software apps and movies.
What are the latest file sharing software trends?
From the very first form of file sharing such as removable media, bulletin board systems, FTP servers, and IRC, people have been exchanging files and documents both for business and personal use. Today’s modern file sharing technology is generally attributed to the emergence of the first peer-to-peer system, Napster, in 1999. Most trends in file sharing software tend to involve two general aspects: the average file size continuing to reduce, while file sharing and storage systems keep on advancing in terms of speed and capacity. Here some of the current trends in file sharing software:
- Social Integration. Social technologies are already an integral part of the entire file sharing users worldwide. In fact, the efficient integration of file sharing, especially videos and images, are now a key element of many social media optimization strategy.
- Compliance. The recent enforcement of EU’s GDPR had prompted companies and websites worldwide to update their privacy policies and features. In this world of continuing compliance to stricter digital access data laws, all forms of technological applications are greatly affected, which include file sharing platforms.
- Mobile-friendly. File sharing solutions should be accessible via mobile gadgets. Mobile accessibility, nonetheless, should also include mobile user-friendliness to help ensure a seamless user experience.
- IT control. File sharing applications are also introducing an increasing number of administrative features, such as activity reporting, oversight, and remote wipes, mainly providing similar benefits of document management solutions. Providing enterprise-grade control, which empowers the IT team to restrict the sharing and access to confidential data across multiple devices, has become the norm to further ensure protection and security.
- Expanding collaboration. The use of collaboration via file sharing apps is further increasing in terms of features and functionality, which is why vendors are busy innovating in this regard.
- Centralized file systems. An increasing number of sharing applications are building centralized databases where files can be shared externally and within the users’ domain. Hosting all business data on a single location enables businesses to easily classify them, not to mention the provision of a more secure storage system.
Do You Need File Sharing Software?
It’s time to go beyond the question: what is file sharing software? Do you, in fact, need it? If you’re using email and the ubiquitous Google Drive, you and your team are already practicing some semblance of file sharing. In short, file sharing is inherent in your organization even without you deliberately adopting the tech. Dedicated file sharing solutions, however, take this culture of collaboration to the next level with deeper collaboration and more transparency. So, you’re only taking team productivity to the next level when you opt for a premium file sharing software. You can’t go wrong with it. Especially that you have plenty of choices out there, beginning with the best file sharing software in our database, as reviewed and recommended by our team of experts.