File Sharing Options for Small Teams – A Comparison Of OneDrive, DropBox and a NAS
Your team needs to share files and collaborate. The once niche market for file sharing solutions has grown and there are many options to choose from. Today we are covering three very popular file sharing options for small teams. They are Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox For Business and an onsite NAS (Network Attached Storage).
I intend to go into detail on each of these solutions but for now; note the first two are cloud storage solutions hosted on servers away from your team and business, and the NAS is most often set up as an on-premise solution.
This is important to note and understand as the emergence of cloud-based software solutions are on the rise, however not every organization wishes to embrace the cloud. Finding an option which suits your business needs (and policies) is important when deciding on a configuration.
Cloud File Sharing With OneDrive for Business
To begin let’s take a look at OneDrive for Business. OneDrive is a cloud storage solution offered by Microsoft, often bundled with Office 365, however a standalone plan is available. The plans consist of three tiers shown below. Pricing and features current as of May 2016, USD.
|OneDrive for Business Online Plan 1|
|1TB of Cloud Storage|
|Office 365 Business Essentials|
|1 TB of Cloud Storage|
|Email and HD Conferencing (Skype for Business)|
|Office 365 Enterprise E3|
|1 TB of Cloud Storage|
|Email and HD Conferencing (Skype for Business|
|Microsoft Office Suite for PC/MAC/Tablets and Phones|
Good OneDrive Features
As you can see above the OneDrive for Business offers reasonable pricing per user. All plans include 1TB of storage for individual files up to 10GB in size. OneDrive for Business is a widely used solution for many reasons including:
Up Time – The use of Microsoft Enterprise servers comes with a guarantee your data will always be available, as opposed to your own server which may fail or crash more frequently.
Up To Date Productivity Software – The ability to bundle your plans with Office 365, which provides users the access to the latest Microsoft Office software, included in the price.
Ease Of Access – You can access your data from multiple platforms including PC, MAC, tablets and phones.
Offline Sync – The ability to sync your data on your device for offline use. Once you reconnect to the internet, any changes made are automatically updated to the cloud.
Problems With OneDrive
Despite its many critically acclaimed features I’ve found that OneDrive for Business also has its share of issues.
Most commonly encountered by our computer support specialists here at TUCU, are file sync issues with OneDrive. We’ve noticed that when a team begins to accumulate a large number of files, opening and sharing with others, the offline sync application frequently has sync errors. This can be harmful to a team as changes made by one user may not be circulated the other users.
Also, the upload speeds can be slower compared to competitors. If you’re updating and uploading a large number of files, it may take longer to complete the task with OneDrive.
Dropbox Business For File Sharing In The Cloud
One of the major competitors for OneDrive for Business is Dropbox Business. Dropbox Business performs similarly to OneDrive for Business. Where they differ is the amount of storage space and the inclusion of Microsoft Office products with most Microsoft Office 365 plans. Below is the pricing list for Dropbox Business. Pricing and Features current as of May 2016, CAD.
|1TB of Cloud Storage|
|30 days of file recovery|
|Unlimited File recovery|
|User controls and permissions|
|Unlimited file recovery|
|User controls and permissions|
|Enterprise features, mobile management and user training|
Positives For Dropbox
Dropbox offers many features and is currently being used by many small businesses for the following reasons:
- Dropbox was one of the first openly available free cloud storage solutions that served the needs of individuals on the move. With the growth of cloud storage in business environments, many personal Dropbox users naturally migrated to Dropbox Business to fill their commercial needs.
- Dropbox has a relatively easy signup process and an overall great user interface.
Problems With Dropbox
Despite the many features Dropbox Business has, there are some drawbacks which make us reluctant to recommend it to our Canadian clients. For instance:
- Dropbox servers are not located in Canada. There are many businesses in Canada which must adhere to regulations governing the collection and storage of personal information, and a common requirement is that data must remain stored in servers in Canada, making it impossible to recommend Dropbox Business to those clients.
- Lack of Cloud Collaboration Tools – Unlike OneDrive for Business and Google Drive (which will be covered in a future post) Dropbox doesn’t offer any real-time file collaboration for teammates to work together.
- Security Concerns – In the past Dropbox has had some security concerns, however those security vulnerabilities have been patched and resolved. Microsoft has a strong commitment to security and their long-standing primary clients – security-conscious business users.
File Sharing With A Network Attached Storage Device (NAS)
If you’re uncertain that cloud services are right for your business, or if you want a lower cost alternative to a Windows server, or to avoid monthly subscription fees, a Network Attached Storage Device, or NAS may be a good file storage and sharing solution for your team.
A NAS allows you to create your own private cloud network which only your team members have access to. You keep and share your data onsite, on your owned equipment. A NAS allows file access for onsite and remote employees.
Think of a NAS as the crossover vehicle of file sharing devices. It is more powerful than a USB stick or external hard drive, which are only suitable for individual use, not multiple users accessing files. It is less complex or costly than a traditional file server. It’s a great hybrid solution.
It is a piece of physical equipment which encloses multiple hard drives and attaches to your network.
A NAS is a great choice to replace an aging server that has no other purpose other than file sharing.
In most cases you would already have the infrastructure setup to host the NAS such as a computer network and internet connection, as well as a sturdy table or shelf to hold the device.
As with a server, you will need to backup your NAS and you can do that by:
- Backing up to an online backup service
- Backing up to an external hard drive
- Backing up to another NAS in a different location (suitable for a business with multiple locations with a NAS at each location, and data mirroring setup)
Benefits Of A NAS Include:
- Basically a one-time setup fee with no ongoing subscription fees per user.
- Affordable on premise IT infrastructure.
- Customizable security features such as shared or private directories, read only permissions etc
Disadvantages to using a NAS, such as:
- It is not as easy to setup as cloud based storage and you may need to hire IT Services to do this for you.
- If there is a power loss at your business site, you would lose access to the NAS until power is restored. As with all other computer networking equipment, we recommend the use of a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) that can keep the NAS powered and online long enough to save data and shut down safely.
Cost Comparison Of Cloud File Sharing Vs A NAS
Both a NAS or cloud service setup will have an initial setup cost, whether you do it yourself and pay in time and troubleshooting, or pay an IT Company to implement the setup for you.
Cloud options do not have equipment costs attached to them, however they do have ongoing monthly costs for the software subscriptions for each user.
Purchasing NAS equipment will initially cost somewhere in the range of $700-$1900 depending on your needs. As with all equipment, there may be occasional maintenance or repair fees in case a disk fails and requires replacement. A NAS does not have user fees or subscription fees.
No matter what method you choose, investing in technology is a way of business today.
Verdict & Factors For Consideration
In my opinion, the two winners here are OneDrive for Business and a NAS.
Factor For Consideration: How many remote versus local employees do you have? If your entire team is mobile, everyone will have to sync that data to their own local computers. This creates a lot of bandwidth congestion on your network resulting in slow uploads and downloads. In this instance, you may want to give some weighted preference to OneDrive.
Factors For Consideration: Data Privacy, Ongoing Fees. If you have concerns about data privacy and housing your data with a third party, or if you wish to avoid ongoing monthly fees, then you may want to give weighted preference to a NAS solution.
We hope this article was helpful to you and good luck with your IT upgrades.
Toronto IT Consultants: TUCU is an IT Support Provider located in Toronto ON, offering IT Consulting, IT Security Solutions, IT Support and Managed IT Services since 2003. For the SMB team ready to make some IT improvements, please call us for a free consultation. We can help you decide which cloud services, file sharing solutions, and technology platforms will best suit the way you work.