Are you trying to figure out where to securely store your organizations files and documents? Being able to easily share files and documents with your clients securely is paramount these days.
In this blog post, we will be covering how to store files securely, how to share securely with clients, and how to collaborate on documents easily with your team.
We will also be doing a comparison of Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox to help you figure out what solution is best for your organization.
But, first let's review the traditional ways to store files.
Traditional Ways To Store Files
For many decades, the only place you could store files is on your workstation (desktop or laptop), server, or external hard drive.
Let’s review some of the advantages and disadvantages of that model:
Advantages To On-Premise File Storage
For organization that use large files, such as marketing firms, storing files in the cloud can be cumbersome because it can take a while to download or upload. This is where a hybrid model of storing certain things locally and then moving to the cloud can be helpful. If you have internet issues at your offices, this makes even more sense.
Disadvantages To On-Premise File Storage:
There are three disadvantages to storing files locally. First, when you have a power outage you servers and desktops cannot be used. Secondly, if you were to have a fire or break in, you files are at risk. And lastly, if you have an internet outage, if you are trying to access the server remotely, you will not be able to access it.
Accessing your files off the on-premise server can be tedious for another of reasons. As we’ve already mentioned, you are relying on the internet connection of your office to access the files remotely. You also have additional security concerns. One common solution for this is to use a VPN. This can work great but is an additional expense and hassle.
You cannot synchronize collaboration
One of the coolest aspects of hosting files in the local is easy ability for sharing and collaborating with your team or clients. When the file is hosted on your server or workstation, it’s hard to share it with a client (email is not secure) and it doesn’t allow for simultaneous collaboration with your team.
Hard to maintain (servers are one of the costliest technology pieces to maintain.)
If you’ve ever talked to your IT Manager or IT service provider, they will tell you that managing a server is probably one of the most time-intensive and complex form of technology you are currently using. Free up your IT resources to focus on other things or reduce your IT resources in general.
Back-ups are challenging
Backing up your local files can be a challenge to manage and you might need to back up multiple devices. The cloud still needs to be backed-up, but it can be much smoother than trying to maintain on-premise servers or workstations.
File Storage In The Cloud:
Advantages To Cloud Storage:
Almost every cloud storage provider allows you to securely share files with your team or clients. Some providers (i.e Microsoft 365 or DATTO Workplace) allow for much more in-depth security permissions and file & folder lock-downs. That being said, most providers allow for easy sharing securely both ways; to your clients and your clients sharing files with you.
One of the coolest parts of storing files in the cloud is the ability to collaborate in real-time with your team or clients. "Looking at the same thing" at the same time empowers you to really draw on each others creativity. Online file storage tools also do a great job providing ways to see revision history of your documents and restore back to old versions of a document.
Many people bark at the monthly cost of file storage, but if you were to amortize your server maintenance and upfront capital expenses, many organizations find that they actually save money hosting their files in the cloud vs. maintaining a complex on-premise document server set-up.
You don’t have to maintain servers
If you ask your IT team, they will probably tell you that your server maintenance is one of the most advanced and time consuming aspects of maintaining your overall IT infrastructure.
You still need to back-up the cloud
Microsoft or Google or any of the large cloud storage provider guarantees they won't lose your data and they provide redundancy in your data off the bat. However, in the fine print, you'll notice something called the "shared responsibility model" where these providers do not guarantee against loss due to negligent deletion or an accident on your part. If you accident delete something, Microsoft or Google cannot recover after their recovery window is over (usually 30-90 days). This is why we recommend our clients back-up any cloud service that is holding data of yours (email, files, CRM, etc).
Cloud Solution Comparison:
The three providers we are comparing today, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive are all very similar with their feature sets. In this comparison, we will be looking at the pros and cons that are different from each other.
Third-party app integration
Google in general does a great job providing each integrations to third-party applications. Google Drive as it stands has the most possible integrations with outside applications or softwares. What this means to your organization is that if you have a large tech stack of tools you want to all talk to you each, Google Drive probably can integrate. Microsoft 365 OneDrive and SharePoint have recently improved their file storage integrations quickly.
Amazing search capabilities
If you are Gmail user, you know how powerful Google's search capabilities are. I mean, they are famous for the term "just Google it" - They know search. Google Drive and Gmail both have very powerful search features that allow you to find what you are looking for very quickly. That being said, if your files and folders are organized correctly, the search features are less important.
Great if you’re a Gmail user
If you already use Gmail for your organization's email needs, Google Drive is a no-brainer for file storage.
Limited sharing capabilities
Sadly, Google Drive does not seem to have a lot of flexibility in how you structure file sharing and security set-ups. Their Business plans seems to give you a little more access but they only have handful of ways to set-up file sharing security. This could impact your organization if you are required to set-up file sharing in a particular way.
Smart sync option
Compared to other providers, Google Drive does not provide a smart sync option. To learn more about smart sync, click here:
Block-level file syncing
Unlike the other providers, Google Drive doesn't allow for block-level file syncing. This feature allows you to sync the updates to files or documents with having to upload the entire file every time. This is a critical feature if you create large files or documents.
Advanced security sharing
Dropbox similar to Microsoft 365 allows for some pretty advanced ways of setting up file security and permissions. This allows your organization to ensure your sensitive files are the most secure they can be.
Fast syncing between devices
Above none, Dropbox has the best and fastest syncing between devices features. If you are planning to store files locally (hybrid model), Dropbox does a great job making sure the newest version is available and updated quickly.
Compared to Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive/Sharepoint definitely has the most expensive of the three tools.
Dropbox doesn’t have its own office app
Google and Microsoft both have their own formats for word document, spreadsheet, and presenter (i.e. powerpoint). Dropbox can open either document type format for documents but doesn't provide their own. There may be errors or particular quirks of opening either format in Dropbox vs. opening in the formats native software.
If you are 365 user, so much integration
We moved to OneDrive/Sharepoint because it integrates so well with the rest of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. If you use Outlook or Teams or any of their other primary tools, using OneDrive or Sharepoint is a no-brainer.
Privacy / security
Microsoft has some of the clearest and strong language around their responsibility for protecting your data and restrictions on employees or partners to access your data.
Advanced security sharing (I.e. SharePoint)
Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint both have amazing ways to set-up your file security and sharing permissions. It can get complained at times, but it can really do whatever your security preferences or third-party regulatory compliance.
Confusion between SharePoint & OneDrive integrations
As we hinted at before, Microsoft 365 can do a lot but can get complex very quickly. There file storage solutions (either OneDrive or SharePoint) can do a lot but it's sometimes hard to implement and maintain the complexity. We definitely recommend your IT manager or IT provider support your needs here.
If you ever had to call Microsoft, you know their support can be challenging to work with. They will address your issue eventually, but you can be thrown around to many different people in the process. It's best to have your IT provider act as the middle person between you and Microsoft.
Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint currently are the file store providers we use. That being said, there are very good reasons to use the other providers. It really just depends on your organizations technology needs. We