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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Small Business File Sharing and Storage

Small Business File Sharing and Storage

As companies adopt more collaborative work practices, the ability to share document files and to prevent unauthorized access to those files is becoming more important.

To address these challenges, a growing number of small businesses are turning to file-sharing and collaboration platforms that help them improve the efficiency of their document workflows while reducing their reliance on email as well as their storage costs.

Centralized Files

File-sharing platforms allow companies to create a central hub for their documents, and to segregate those files by project, client or other key characteristics. This, in turn, helps people access and edit the latest versions of key documents without having to wade through lots of email messages or navigating complex folder structures on the company network.

File-sharing platforms also enable remote access to files so team members, contractors or even clients can download or update documents from outside the company network. This can be a valuable way to increase collaboration and efficiency without having to grant outside users broad access to company files or your network.

For instance, if you have a designer working on a presentation deck, you can create a shared folder that includes any background information the designer may need. As the designer develops the deck, team members can access it and offer any needed revisions. Once the project is completed, you can remove the outside contractor’s ability to access the folder.

Most collaboration systems are cloud-based, meaning your files are stored on the provider’s servers instead of yours. This often provides a higher degree of security, since large providers tend to have more sophisticated cyber-defenses than smaller companies (although nothing in cybersecurity is guaranteed).

In addition, a file-sharing platform will have redundant back-up systems to prevent the accidental loss or deletion of your important company documents.

Some systems offer basic project management tools such as shared task lists or calendars to help managers track the progress of specific documents or projects and understand at a glance who’s working on what (and how far they’ve gotten).

Types of Storage

As you begin shopping for a file-sharing system, it’s important to understand how the platforms differ from traditional storage platforms.

Sharing platforms allow users to view, edit or download files. You have the option to specify which users can view or edit files, and you can protect files with passwords or expiration dates. Each folder or document is assigned a web address to make sharing and access easier.

Storage systems, in contrast, offer a place to upload your files. You can password-protect folders, but the access control you can assign is less granular than a sharing platform would offer.

A cloud backup system will automatically upload files so they can be recovered if the local copy is deleted accidentally or a company computer is stolen or damaged.

File-sharing platforms are typically offered through monthly or annual subscriptions based on the amount of storage you use.

Consider Integrations

A number of file-sharing tools offer integrations with other common workplace applications including text chat services, project management or CRM platforms, or other cloud systems. This increases your overall efficiency by being able to edit and track documents without having to update other systems manually.

Popular file sharing choices for small businesses include Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and others.

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