With all the ways there are to share files on line these days, how can you be sure you are using the right tool for your needs and the needs of your business?
I recently saw an open request from a professional marketer who is looking for a file sharing solution. In responding to him, I thought I should offer my largely unbiased view on the subject. After-all, I have spent many years in the document management area first as an actual shuffler of paper and over the last decade as a purveyor of web-based document management solutions.
The right supplier for you depends on which of the four areas of document management you, your team or your company fall into. In each of these areas, I have a preferred supplier based on having actually worked for a couple, used all and sold against most.
Area 1: Basic file sharing
Are you simply looking to manage your files in the cloud? Looking for an easy way to share and access you documents, presentations and multimedia files from your smart phone/PC or tab while on the go? The three main contenders in this area are Sharefile, Box and DropBox – the latter being my preferred choice. I personally use DropBox to access proposals, memos, presentations and spreadsheets that I share with my colleagues, partners and suppliers. I have even started to use it to share pictures and video with friends and family. It is fast, convenient, free for most people and relatively inexpensive for data hoggers like me. What’s more is that it has very effective apps available on the three native mobile platforms that matter: android, iOS and BB with a great mobile browser adaptation for anybody else. Sharing is not limited to users of a certain device or “environment”. Everybody’s welcome. Once set up, you can sync your account to the desktop and you other devices so that you can access data from anywhere without taking up local storage space. Most importantly for me, it is far and away the most popular secure file sharing platform on the internet. No need to introduce DropBox as a new concept for most people you want to share with since they already have an account. If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a second to register for one www.dropbox.com.
Area 2: Project/role-based collaboration
As web, app and software developers my colleagues at Certatim need a tool to manage online projects involving multiple parties, large files and long to do lists assigned to different people. Basecamp is our tool of choice. For us and for most professionals in collaborative project management space, Basecamp delivers the most value because it is browser based, allows project managers to set up schedules, delegate and pass the ball as needed and has a great visual interface that is pretty intuitive. Again, the advantage is that “everyone is using it”. The brand owner, marketing agency, designer, web developer and video production studio involved with the typical interactive campaign probably already have Basecamp accounts. Don’t have one yet? Check it out www.basecamp.com
Area 3: Secure data rooms for deal makers
Rainmaking financiers, corporate attorneys and accountants responsible for due diligence need a secure workspace where every move is recorded. This niche market relies on virtual datarooms – an ultra secure breed of web software backed by live 24/7 customer service. In most deals, the stakes are high and indemnity is low, so parties have to be given very limited access to documents. For example, imagine a company is attempting to raise money to buy a competitor. Both companies, their banks, their lawyers and their accountants will ultimately share documents that could potentially expose the seller’s trade secrets if the deal falls through. Because of this, documents can be viewed in the browser with dynamic watermarking that identifies the user should they try to take a screen capture or a photo of the screen. Everything is securely encrypted and some even have two layers of authentication such as SMS+password logins or timed viewing of opened files. Older more established virtual data rooms still have legacy prices that can be up to three times the market rates for the same service. Many of these older services are linked to printing companies with poor tech support. Alternatively, newer players (some 215 of them in the US alone) are unvetted and untried. When money is at stake, these smallerupstarts can be a liability. I would advise going with a mid-level player such as iDeals Solutions. iDeals (idealscorp.com) is a good choice for users involved with cross-border mergers and acquisitions, pharmaceutical research, fundraising and financial due diligence. Multilingual customer service, free reskinning of the interface and the ability to remove files remotely from users’ computers even after they have been downloaded (!) puts iDeals ahead of the pack in this market segment.
Area 4: Hybrid/enterprise solutions.
Perhaps you feel that a single area listed above does not fit all your requirements. Maybe you like the idea of building in a virtual dataroom solution that is wholly owned by your own enterprise. Alternatively, maybe you may need other functionality such as form tools, live chat, listing services and community forums. In such cases, a tailored solution is the way to go. Technical agencies such as Certatim produce web software for companies that need a mix of the areas above. The advantage of using a tailored solution is that you own the licenses for the software and you can optimize your solution to fit your business. I would strongly advise against “enterprise” reworkings of licensed software. Tailored web software is easier to update and is guaranteed to be up and running as long as your business is in operation. The return on investment is also higher – you get a better solution for a fraction of the per-user costs associated with enterprise licenses.
If you are looking for a solution in one of the four areas mentioned – then I hope this article gives you a good start.