In the current world of technology, pictures, documents and files are no longer shared in the physical form. Most are transferred through online tools. While some files are harmless if leaked, others are confidential. Rather than sharing important files via email, it’s best to choose a secure file sharing service to avoid risks and safely hold and transfer files. Read on to learn what file sharing is and what type of online file sharing services is right for you.

What is File Sharing?

File sharing is public or private sharing of data in a network with separate levels of accessibility. Depending on the accessibility permissions, file sharing allows a select number of people to read, view or edit the file based on the level of authority the file sharer has provided. File sharing services typically allocate a certain amount of file storage per user per account.

Types of File Sharing

There are a variety of different types of file sharing. Here are some of the most common ways of storing and distributing files online:

File transfer protocol programs (FTP):

The most common file transfer system on the internet to date is known as the File Transfer Protocol or FTP. FTP is used to access or edit files among a set number of users with a password. The users can then gain access to the files shared from an FTP server site. Many FTP sites offer public file sharing or allow users to view or download files using a public password.

Example: Cyberduck, Firefox

Peer-to-peer networks:

Peer-to-peer networking involves computer hardware and software to communicate without the need for a central server. This type of file sharing indicates the direction of digital files over a p2p network where the files are located on one’s computer and shared with other members rather than on the main server.

Example: Instant Messaging services such as Skype are a type of p2p network

Removable storage media:

This involves anything that can be removable from a device or computer. The user can transfer or insert files from their device onto the removable storage media and then physically hand it to whomever they would like to share the files with. These can include an FTP server for security purposes, asking for a valid login and password from others to allow access.

Example: Memory sticks, optical discs, memory cards and removable hard disks

Online file sharing services:

Online file sharing services include web services that allow users to store or share data on the internet for personal or professional use. One member may upload photos, documents, PDFs, etc. to an online file sharing platform which allows others to download these files using the same platform.

Example: Dropbox, Resilio, Tresorit

Risks Involved in File Sharing

Now that you have seen the number of options with file sharing, you’ll want to understand the risks. With hackers and malware across the web, it can be worrisome to share your important or confidential files within an internet service. It’s important to understand the risks involved in file sharing and to stay cautious when downloading any file.

Risks include:

  • Downloading a file that contains malware
  • Downloading an illegal, copyrighted file
  • Using a file sharing app that requests firewall services be shut off
  • Accidentally placing sensitive files in public file hosting location

Benefits of File Sharing:

  • Simplified administration
  • Centralizes files for consistency
  • Keeps files organized and maintained

While there are risks associated with file sharing, the benefits can outweigh the costs for an organized, easy-to-use file sharing system. Another way to stay secure with file sharing is with secure data rooms.

A data room is a space that holds data usually in a secured form. It’s an advanced form of cloud storage or on-premise storage unit. This is the most secure file sharing system for businesses sharing classified documents. It can also provide a shared team workspace with a variety of ways to protect company data like digital watermarks.

Top Secure File Sharing Services

When it comes to file sharing services, there are a few essentials that users are looking for including reliability, safety and amount of storage. We break it down by the benefits and risks of file sharing and list the top 8 file sharing services, so you can determine which file sharing service is right for you.

Box

Box is a cloud sharing based service for businesses. Users can determine how they would like to share their content with others. This may be by invite to view and/or access to edit the files or users may upload their files to a shared folder and can then give others the rights to view said files. With advanced security controls, encryption key management and complete information governance, the program guarantees security.

Resilio

Formerly known as BitTorrent Sync, Resilio is a p2p or proprietary peer-to-peer file synchronization tool available for all major operating systems. It syncs files between devices on a local network or between remote devices over the internet. It offers high transfer speeds within the same network and many devices can be connected simultaneously. They offer no limit on the amount of data that can be synced, but there is a limitation to the available data storage on each device.

SSH (Secure Shell)

SSH, or Secure Socket Shell is a network protocol that supplies administrators with a secure way to access a remote computer. SSH provides a client-server architecture that connects an SSH client application with an SSH server. SSH was designed to send information such as passwords in plaintext in a secure and encrypted format.

SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol)

SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol is a separate protocol that includes SSH and works in a similar way. The difference between an SFTP and an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is, an SFTP is able to maintain a secure connection to transfer files. An SFTP can also traverse the file system on both the local and remote system. SFTP is preferred because of its advanced security features and its capability to draft onto an SSH connection.

Tresorit

panda-data-controlTresorit is an online cloud storage service that focuses on enhanced security and data encryption for businesses and individuals alike. Tresorit encrypts their files using client-side encryption before uploading them. “Tresors” are the encrypted pieces of uploaded directories. They automatically sync within the cloud as files while files are added or removed from them much like Dropbox and Box.com’s software service. Tresorit states that because of its end-to-end encryption, users can share protected files with others and work together on them while keeping the files synced and secure.

IPFS

IPFS or InterPlanetary File System, is a network designed to make a p2p method of storing and sharing hypermedia in a file sharing system. The IPFS protocol seeks to connect all devices with the same system of files. It can be most notably related to the World Wide Web but is also seen as a BitTorrent system that exchanges files in an encrypted manner. An IPFS is a storage model that is capable of exchanging data blocks throw p2p networks in an undamaged and unaltered format.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a popular file hosting service that includes cloud storage, file synchronization and personal and professional cloud software. Dropbox allows users to create a folder on that user’s computer, which is then transferred to Dropbox’s servers/other devices the user has Dropbox installed on for storage. Dropbox Basic offers 2 gigabytes of free storage space while Dropbox Plus offers 1 terabyte. Dropbox lets users send files to anyone, even without a Dropbox account.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a personal cloud storage service that lets users store giles and synchronize digital content across all devices. Google Drive offers its users popular services such as Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets which all allow editing access to documents, spreadsheets, forms and more. In terms of security, before any data leaves a device, it’s encrypted with the TLS standard. Which is the same standard used to encrypt connections to secure websites or the HTTPS protocol. Google Drive also enables two-factor authentication and users’ data is encrypted once moved internally.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is a feature in some of the latest Windows systems and does not require anything else to install. It synchronizes client’s data once the user authenticates their Microsoft account. This file sharing option is deeply integrated with the Microsoft Office suite products and saves files directly to the cloud. Users are alloted free storage space up to 5 GB, or 50 GB at $1.99 a month. OneDrive is the easiest option for Windows users and Office 365 users.

Amazon Drive

Amazon Drive is a world leading cloud provider, and offers a range of storage options. The cloud drive is simple and user-friendly. For all Amazon users, Amazon Drive offers 5 GB of free storage. After that, the first plan is $11.99 a year for 100 GB of storage and the second allows users 1 TB of files for $59.99 a year. A great perk for Amazon Prime users is unlimited photo storage. Users can create shared albums and organize by people or things. While it’s handy for storing photos, it lacks in management options. Users may only create a customized folder through the PC client, and Amazon Prime lacks an SLA, lifecycle management, and backup options. This service is best for small files and photo storing.

As you can see, there are a variety of file sharing options you can choose from. While there are risks and benefits of file sharing, securing your files is the most important thought to keep in mind. While some are more secure than others, it’s always a good idea regardless to install a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data so you can safely send emails, share files and receive files.

Sources:

Cloudwards | Lee Drozak | Egnyte | M-Files | Cloud Storage Advice | Resilio | Smart File | Best VPN | University of Pittsburgh | Tresorit | Medium | The SCO Group | FTP Today | Sky High Networks | Druva | Box | SSH.com | Digital Ocean | Tresorit | Hacker Noon | React CP | CloudBerry Lab | Intelligent HQ |