10 file-sharing options: Dropbox, Google Drive and more

Sharing files with one or more colleagues can still be a hassle. We look at 10 online services that aim to make it easier.

Part of the Microsoft Live family of services, SkyDrive provides client apps for Windows and Mac that sync to and from folders on a client machine. Drag-and-drop uploading through Web browsers is also supported, but only for individual files and not whole folders; to do the latter you need to use the client software.

The PC client comes off like a poor man's version of Dropbox; there's no way to share files with other users except through the SkyDrive website. On the plus side, the website previews Microsoft Office-format documents using Office Web Apps; these files can be created directly in SkyDrive with Office Web Apps as well. Files can also be mass-distributed easily to users in your Hotmail contact lists.

7GB (25GB for users eligible for free upgrade) Free account max file size: 2GB Paid account storage space: +20GB ($10/month); +50GB ($25/month); +100GB ($100/month) Paid account max file size: 2GB File storage expiration: None Other paid options: None Time to upload 100MB file: 8 min. 37 sec.

SugarSync

SugarSyncClick to view larger image.

SugarSync, a competitor to Dropbox and Box, has a somewhat more complex usage model. You can designate existing file folders in your computer to be synced to the cloud and to any other computers you designate. SugarSync also creates a "Magic Briefcase" folder in the Documents folder; anything placed there is automatically synced across all devices registered to your user account.

A "Web Archive" folder, on the other hand, stores files from devices but does not sync them automatically if the originals are changed. This makes the Web Archive a useful place for files intended mainly to be distributed to others, so they're not replicated unnecessarily.

The desktop client also includes a file manager application that lets you see what files are synced into the cloud and across your devices, all in one place. Note that files in your account can also be browsed via the Web, with limited preview functions for some file types (e.g., music).

5GB Free account max file size: None Paid account storage space: 30GB ($4.99/month or $49.99/year); 60GB ($9.99/month or $99.99/year); 100GB ($14.99/month or $149.99/year); 250GB ($24.99/month or $249.99/year); 500GB ($39.99/month or $399.99/year) Paid account max file size: None File storage expiration: None Other paid options: Business plans include at-rest encryption; Outlook integration; user management; unlimited devices per user account Time to upload 100MB file: 9 min. 20 sec.

Conclusions

If you already have Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or SkyDrive accounts, it makes sense to use them as default choices for file distribution -- as long as you don't mind the restrictions on storage, or the lack of contact-list support in some of them. Minus might be an interesting contender in time, although right now its feature set is still very simplistic.

If you only want to share files, MediaFire is a good choice (although a major constraint with free accounts is that individual files are limited to a maximum of 200MB); in addition, it makes mass-mailing easy. RapidShare's lack of file-size limits is a plus, but its distribution tools leave a bit to be desired.

My top selections? If you're looking for a service that both syncs and shares files, SugarSync is a good choice, since it doesn't have file-size constraints and does have some remarkable pro-level features. For sharing-only tools, YouSendIt's got heavy restrictions for free users and ShareFile's got no free tier at all, but both of those services have excellent professional-level features. They, along with SugarSync, are the best of the services to grow into as needed.

Serdar Yegulalp has been writing about computers and information technology for over 15 years for a variety of publications.

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

This story, "10 file-sharing options: Dropbox, Google Drive and more" was originally published by Computerworld.

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