In today’s always-connected workplace, work files can no longer stay at work when the day is complete. Small business owners, especially, must be able to access their important work files while on vacation, at home on the weekends, and on business trips. As a small business grows, file-sharing can help workers collaborate, keeping projects moving.
But in the war to win small business dollars, Cloud-based software providers are currently working hard to convince the world that their product is the best. Here are a few of the solutions that stand out from the crowd, as picked by the small business workers who use them.
“One of the best file-sharing tools for small businesses is Google Apps for Business, a conglomeration of web-based productivity tools that are very similar to commercial office suite software,” Ian Aronovich, co-founder and CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org, says. “The primary apps that Google Apps for Business comes with include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Groups, Google Analytics, and more, with features like conference scheduling, 24/7 phone support and up to 25 GB of online storage space per user account.”
PlasticPlace.net is using Google Drive to help coordinate workflow while preparing to launch a new website. “This is especially helpful for the CEO,” a spokesperson for the company says. “He always has a updated version of the spreadsheet/document in his folder.”
Google Docs provides a free, easy way to store documents in the Cloud. “I run a small marketing consulting business and have, in the past year, started using Google docs to share all kinds of files with clients,” Carrick Marketing’s Heidi O’Gorman says. “I’ve even used Google docs to collect data and tally RSVPs to client events.”
This free tool keeps the latest version of each file stored in the Cloud, where it can be accessed at any time. Eric Schlissel of GeekTek IT Services advises utilizing the service’s 500MB of free storage by signing up all of your various e-mail aliases.
“They give 500MB of free storage for every referral that installs the app on their computer,” Schlissel says, adding that Dropbox is also good for managing user access to files and folders. He points out that one downside is that it doesn’t have fine-grained controls.
Brad Jashinsky of Summertime Entertainment uses Dropbox Teams to allow its employees, contractors, and partner companies around the world to access its 4TB of stored information. “We previously tried using more programming-focused solutions such as GitHub, Subversion, and Mercurial,” he says. “The price and simplicity of Dropbox couldn’t be beat. We have the safety of always having a local copy of our data while having the ability to share any file or folder with two clicks. Dropbox also has great apps that work on all of our Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.”
“SugarSync supports password-protected shared files and folders, while allowing project participants to maintain a synced folder locally on their own computer, for when they need to work offline,” Nerds On Call CEO Andrea Eldridge says. “Changes are updated when team members are next online and instantly available to all team members.”
Branding strategist and ghostwriter Heidie Woods recommends Basecamp, a project management tool. “Basecamp is a very customizable experience,” she says. “I can create separate To Do lists for each item on my general To Do list for each project. I can separate project calendars to view each project/team separately or integrate all projects into one view – switching between project and calendar views as needed.”
Experts also point to the importance of preventing data leaks once Cloud-based file-sharing is in place. “One-third of employees in a recent study admit they move work files to file sharing apps without permission and the majority do not delete the data they’ve moved once they’re done using it,” a Symantec expert says. “While online file sharing tools increase employee productivity, left unmanaged they can put the business at risk of data spills.”