If you’ve ever worked from home, even just for your nine-to-five job, you know that it can be hard. You need to do more to achieve the same level of productivity as when you’re physically in the office. That’s even more so if your whole team or company is in different locations.
In this article, we will focus on best cloud storage for collaboration; for other tools, check our article on how to make remote work easy.
Sharing and changing files, working with colleagues in real-time, communication and task management would be difficult and frustrating, if not for software to help you out. Software like cloud storage services with app integrations. Let’s take a look at what’s important for collaboration, and then we’ll start with the rankings.
Best Cloud Storage for Collaboration 2018
What Makes Cloud Storage Best For Collaboration
The easy sharing of files is one of the most important features when it comes to collaboration. You also want to be able to share them quickly and to have content control. It allows you to restrict unauthorized file access when sharing, for example, password protected links, permission settings, expiry dates, etc.
There are lots of applications to help you when collaborating. Some are native to the service, while others are third-party integrations. The more popular ones are Google Docs and Office Online. Services that offer one or both get a plus in our book.
Without good upload speeds, your collaboration wouldn’t amount to much. Changes to files should take effect quickly, preferably in real time. Sync speeds are what makes that happen and the most desirable feature here is block-level sync. It allows for faster syncing because it uploads only the changed file portions and not the entire file.
We’ll also take value into consideration. There’s almost always a free plan which you can use to see how a service works, or at least a trial. Services differ in the number of plans they offer, and what those plans get you for the price. More features for a lower price is always better (check out our best deals in cloud storage for a bargain).
Of course, the security of your files is also of great importance. We’ll see if they encrypt data at rest server-side, whether they have native private encryption (read our best zero-knowledge cloud services article if you need that) and if they have two-factor authentication (2FA) which helps against stolen passwords, etc.
Now that we know our criteria, let’s take a look at the services that are best for collaboration.
Best Cloud Storage for Collaboration: Dropbox Business
Dropbox, launched in 2008, is one of the leading cloud services today, with 500 million users. However, Dropbox and its users fell victim to a big data theft in 2012. The service learned its lesson, though, and upgraded its security. Dropbox also invented and perfected block-level sync, and its speed is one of the best.
When you start using Dropbox Business, you’ll get a central team folder and all your employees have access to it. You can create subfolders and give access to individuals or groups. Users can also share by generating links. You can protect links with passwords, set expiry dates or restrict them only to team members.
There’s just one native productivity application, Dropbox Paper, but Dropbox Business is a partner with Microsoft Office, therefore Office Online integrates by default. With it you can view office files, however, if you want to edit, you will need a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. Besides that, there are third-party integrations for communication, workflow management, and others.
There are two plans for small businesses, Standard and Advanced. Both charge per user and require a minimum of three users. You can pay monthly — $15 and $25, respectively — or per year, in which case you get a discount. Standard offers 2TB of shared space, while Advanced offers unlimited storage. There’s also a free trial which allows you to try the service for 30 days before paying.
Other Reasons Why We Like Dropbox Business
Dropbox security measures are great, and you’ll also be pleased with its app integrations, ease of use and quick block-level sync which helps collaboration. That puts Dropbox in first place.
- Fast block-level sync
- Good file-sharing features
- User-friendly experience
- Limited reporting features
- No 24/7 live support
Simple, easy to use and aimed at home users, Google Drive boasts 800 million users, in no small part thanks to the integration with Google’s productivity suite, Google Docs.
Docs suite includes apps for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation. With those, it’s easy to collaborate in real-time with others. You can suggest edits, make comments, rollback to previous versions of the document and see what changes others made. Google has a vast community of developers and so its third-party library has a lot of applications, as well.
It’s easy to share with Google Drive, but there’s room for improvement as it doesn’t offer content control features like expiry dates or links. You can send your link by email or set up an access link. Google Drive is fast enough to allow for good collaboration. It could improve with the addition of block-level sync, however.
Google’s privacy has been somewhat in question because it was linked to the PRISM project. Still, Google denies giving access to the NSA. It also scans your personal files to give you personalized ads, custom search, etc. We recommend you use Boxcryptor if that is a concern (read our Boxcryptor review for more on this handy program).
Other Reasons Why We Like Google Drive
Privacy aside, Google Drive encrypts your files by AES-128 encryption while they are stored server side. It also protects you against stolen passwords using two-factor authentication.
Google is great when it comes to collaboration but it could improve its security, sync capabilities and sharing. If you want to know more, read our Google Drive review.
- Google Docs integration
- Huge third-party app library
- Price plan flexibility
- Weak content control
- No block-level sync
Box lets you share links with other licensed users without restriction, but if you have proper permissions you can share outside your organization. You can send an invite by email, or generate a link and then send it. With Box, there’s good content control, because you can set expiry dates and password protect links.
There’s one native application called Box Notes, and it’s among the best note-taking apps. Since there are no other native apps, Box compensates with a sizeable library of third-party solutions. It integrates well with both Google Docs and Office 365.
Box has the same sync-folder model pioneered by Dropbox, and it’s initial upload speeds are pretty good. It doesn’t have block-level sync so it’s subsequent uploads are slower compared to solutions that do offer it.
Box’s pricing plans are fair. With a price of $5 per month (they all charge per month), the Starter plan is the cheapest one. It offers only 100GB, which is not much for most businesses. The most popular plan, Business, gives you unlimited storage for $15. Business plus costs $25, and it gives more features in addition to all those in the Business plan.
Other Reasons Why We Like Box
Box doesn’t save on the security measures, it protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and your data is protected by AES-256 encryption while stored. Box even wraps your key with that same level of AES, which is a nice addition to its security arsenal.
There are lots of features that we like, but sync could be faster and pricing plans could offer more value. Read our Box review if you want to know more.
- Office Online & Google Docs
- Unlimited storage plan
- No block-level sync
- No annual discount
Egnyte does well when it comes to sharing, as befitting our top pick among the best EFSS providers. You can give four types of access when sharing a folder — owner, full, editor and viewer — to both groups and individuals. You can generate a link to share over social media or send by email. Control over generated links is great since you can use password protection, expiry dates, get a notification when a file is accessed and even restrict downloads.
It’s interesting to note that it offers native productivity options, unlike many of the other services we mention here. You can set tasks on files and then audit them in the “my tasks” tab. Like Box, it also integrates with both Google Docs and Microsoft Office. Microsoft options include the free Office Online app and Office 365 for desktop.
Egnyte performs a little slower than expected during initial uploads. When uploading existing files — pretty important when collaborating — it’s pretty fast, though. That’s thanks to its block-level sync algorithm.
There are no individual plans in Egnyte’s arsenal. Office is the least expensive plan, for $40 per month you can have a minimum of five users. Since it offers 5TB of storage space, this plan is very good in terms of overall value.
With the Business plan, you get 10TB of space, advanced role customization and hybrid cloud storage, if you need to store some data in the cloud and some on a local server. The Business plan will cost you $15 per user, with a minimum of 25 users.
Other Reasons Why We Like Egnyte Connect
To protect you against cybercrime, Egnyte uses AES 256-bit encryption before uploading your files. It’s not zero-knowledge though, because it decrypts your files in order to read metadata before re-encrypting.
- Good integrations
- Fast block-level sync
- Affordable pricing
- No Linux support
- Minimum of five users
OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s answer to business demands in cloud storage. Microsoft also offers a regular, stripped down version for consumers, which you can read about in our OneDrive review.
You can share content by email or generate a link that points to the folder or file. Users can restrict access to specific individuals and can set expiry dates, as well. There’s no way to create link passwords, though. You can see what content you’ve shared in the “sharing” column, but it’s not very convenient if there are lots of entries.
Since this is a Microsoft service, it’s integrated with Office Online. If you go for one of the Office 365 plans, you’ll get the desktop versions of the Office apps. You can use the library to integrate with paid and free non-Microsoft productivity tools. Still, you can’t search through the library like with some other services, and that makes finding the right tool difficult.
Initial file uploads and downloads are practically the same as with other services. The service sometimes lags when uploading changes made to files, because, you guessed it, there’s no block-level sync. Well, there is block-level sync for Office files, but only those. An interesting feature is the ability to block sync a certain type of file.
OneDrive for Business has a good variety of plans. Finding the right one may prove difficult since there are separate pricing plans for OneDrive for Business and Office 365. You can buy separate Office 365 and Business plans for a lower price than the more expensive Business plans that include Office 365, though you will not get all the productivity apps.
OneDrive for Business Plan 1 offers 1TB per user for $5. With OneDrive for Business Plan 2 you get unlimited storage and data-loss protection for $10 per user per month. Office 365 Business Premium gives you access to Office 365 as well as 24/7 phone and web support, and a host of other services. It costs $15 per month per user.
Other Reasons Why We Like OneDrive Business
OneDrive for Business encrypts your data at-rest with AES 256-bit encryption. It also uses transport layer security (TLS) to protect your data while it travels to its data centers.
You can set a policy for password expiration, but not strength. If you’re the admin, you can request 2FA. For more details on the service, read our OneDrive for Business review.
- Office Online
- Fast sync for Microsoft Office Docs
- No third-party app integrations
- Limited support
Whether you’re a small team or a big company, collaboration is important. You don’t want to lose productivity, you want to gain while not paying any more than you need to.
The right cloud storage service can help you reduce costs, keep your data safe and enhance productivity. Choosing the right cloud storage for collaboration depends on several factors like sharing, number of productivity apps, speed, value and security.
What’s your choice? Do you think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.