Sharing documents online is second nature to most of us. We need to share documents to demonstrate the work we have done, to get comments and feedback, to enable us to collaborate with our colleagues, partners and consultants and sometimes to get our boss to sign, scan and send us back the document so that we can record another successful sale.
Whatever the purpose, I am sure that you want to know what is the best way of sharing your documents online. I will go through all the 7 options available to you:
Email is still one of the most used forms of modern communication. The first thing that you probably do in the morning is grab grab your smartphone to check email. If that is not the first thing you do then usually when you get to office you log on to your email client to see updates from colleagues and clients. One of the most common features of email, irrespective of whether you are using Outlook, Apple Mail or web based Gmail, Yahoo or Microsoft Live, are attachments. The ability to share documents by emailing them across to the concerned party is a widely used and accepted form of document exchange on the internet. This method does have limitations though. If you are emailing across big files that go beyond 10 - 20 mb then the lack of a good internet connection makes the process slow and cumbersome for the sender and the recipient due to the time it takes to upload and download the shared documents. If your documents are beyond 20 mb then its best you look at other options of sharing documents.
2. Google Drive
Google Drive enables you to save and share up to 15 GB of free data so you can easily upload your documents, irrespective of whether they are spreadsheets, word files or presentations, copy the link of that file and share it with others. No need to constantly attach the same document to multiple emails and clog up the limited space you have from your provider, just share the link. There are limitations however. Documents must be no more than 1,024,000 characters regardless of number of pages and font size and no more than 50 mb if converted to Google Docs. If you are sharing spreadsheets then they can’t have more than 400,000 cells with a maximum of 256 columns per sheet and no more than 100 mb. As for file size restrictions, they cannot be more than 10 GB per file.
3. MS Office Live
MS Office Live is a recent addition. It is essentially copying the model of Google Drive by allowing users to save their documents on OneDrive and allowing them to share these with users. If you run out of space in your free Google Docs account then I suggest you use the free 15GB provided by Microsoft for document sharing. As for file size restrictions, they cannot be more than 2GB per file.
Dropbox was actually the pioneer when it came to syncing and sharing documents across multiple devices. Just like in Google Drive or OneDrive, you can drop your files in your dropbox folder, copy the link and share your documents with multiple parties. The amount of free space provided by Dropbox is only 2GB which is the lowest amongst the alternatives. Also you cannot edit your documents online with DropBox like you can in Google Drive and OneDrive; the service is meant to purely store, backup and share your data.
Box is just like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. It enables you to store, backup, edit and share documents and other data on the internet. At 10GB, Box beats DropBox in the amount of free space it offers but falls behind Google Drive and OneDrive. As with the others, you can simply copy the URL of the document you want to share and pass it along to those you want to share it with.
EthosData is different than the above mentioned services because it is a Virtual Data Room provider that is used solely by corporations who always want to have control over the documents they share online. Given the unending need of sharing documents with outsiders and wary of their confidential information getting in the wrong hands, EthosData enables you to share your documents with anyone, check whether they have been viewing the documents that you shared and revoke access to those documents at anytime. As a paid service most of their users are fortune 500 companies, top global law firms and top global financial institutions. Most of their clients opt for a fixed rate plan that allows them to share documents upto 10GB with unlimited users. Given the sophisticated level of permissions that the technology allows clients also get a dedicated team to look after all their document sharing requirements at no additional charge.
7. Other Data Rooms
Just like EthosData, there are over a dozen other Virtual Data Room providers that will enable you to share your documents securely on the internet, however not all of them are created equal. A virtual data room is usually used when running multi-million transactions so it is essential that the company chosen hosts in world class servers like SunGard, has certifications such as SSAE 16 and ISAE 3402, does background checks on their staff to ensure that they can be trusted to manage your documents, and are already awarded for their work in the industry.
When deciding how to share your documents online, you must ask yourself whether the documents you are sharing are confidential or not. If they are not confidential and you do not mind others owning and circulating what you have sent them then you have plenty of free options available to you such as email, Google Drive, Microsoft Office Live, Dropbox and Box. However, if you are sharing documents that are confidential then you must consider the use of Virtual Data Rooms such as EthosData to protect, monitor and maintain security of your proprietary information.