Friday, August 01, 2014

6 Things to Consider when Choosing a File Sharing Service vs an Online Backup Service

While many people use some sort of cloud service, the level to which they understand how their particular cloud service works may be less than they might think or like.  In light of recent posts about cloud services and how they can at times fail you, it is more important than ever to know what features a service provides to protect your data at all times.  The following information is provided to point out six common areas where file sharing differs from online backup.  While many of these features are provided by both services, they are provided in very different ways.  Knowing these differences can help you choose which service will best meet your unique needs.  In general, file sharing is used by individuals and groups to store their files and work collaboratively, while online backup is used by individuals, groups, and businesses to store files and provide disaster recover protection.  NOTE:  For the purposes of this post, file sharing and file syncing services are grouped together.

File Uploading Process
File sharing services upload files in the background as you move files into predesignated folders for the file sharing service, modify files in the predesignated folders, or if you upload them using the web interface.  In this way, file sharing services upload files steadily as you work, but are usually limited to individual files sizes of 10GB or less.  Online backup services upload files in the background but based on a schedule you set.  This means your files are uploaded all at once based on whatever schedule works for you.   Many people schedule backups late at night, or early in the morning, when they are not using their network bandwidth.  Online backup services are able to transfer larger files, and while each provider differs, many will backup individual files over 100GB in size.   

Types of Files
The types of files that can be uploaded to each service varies slightly.  In general, file sharing services allow you to upload files like documents, photos, music, and more.  By contrast, most online backup services allow you to upload those files as well as:

  • In use files - such as an email file being used like an Outlook account
  • System files - files used and locked by the operating system
  • Database files - another in use file that can be backed up without ever interfering with user interaction

Sharing Files with Others
File sharing services allow you to share files with others in a few common ways.  Some services allow you to create accounts for others to give them access to individual folder shares.  Other services allow you to give people access to folder shares without creating user accounts.  Most services allow you to create web links to a single file that can be emailed to a user which will send them directly to the shared file.  Most online backup services do not offer a way to share files with others.

Syncing Files Across Multiple Devices
File sharing services commonly offer the ability to synchronize your files across multiple devices.  File synchronization allows you to modify a spreadsheet on one device, and have the same spreadsheet on a different device update automatically once the device is online and connects to your account.   This feature is helpful if you access and modify the same files using different devices on a regular basis because it ensures you always have the most up to date version of each of your files.  One drawback to this feature is that if you make a mistake with a file, but do not realize it at first, each device will be updated to the new version of the file automatically.  If the file sharing service does not offer file versioning, you may be left without a viable version of the file, and you could be stuck trying to return your file back to its original state.  File syncing in online backup services is becoming more common.

File Versioning
The ability to access previous versions of files is a feature offered by some file sharing services.  File versioning stores previous versions of a file, either by the number of previous versions or for a certain number of days.  File versioning is important because it allows you to quickly restore an older version of a file if a mistake is made, or if a file becomes corrupted.  Some file sharing services charge extra fees to provide file versioning.  Online backup services provide file versioning at no extra cost because the service stores your data into sets based on the time and date of each backup.  This allows you to easily go back to a previous version of a file if you know when the file was modified.

Data Recovery
File sharing provides a constant copy of your files in their current state.  The only data recovery feature is restoring a previous version of a file if the service offers file versioning, or downloading all of your files in the event of a hardware failure or device issue.  Online backup provides automated data restore processes.  With an online backup service you can set up a restore and have all of your files download automatically onto your new device.  These files will have their original file and folder hierarchy as well as security settings.  An online backup service also offers the option to restore to a previous backup date if files become corrupted. 

Whether you choose a file sharing service, or an online backup service, you are taking a step towards protecting your data.  The six features listed above help outline the major differences between most file sharing and online backup services.  Using cloud based storage protects your data if your device is lost or stolen, in a natural disaster, in case of a physical failure, file corruption and more.  Cloud services have automatic features built in to allow you to set up the services and never worry about copying data to external drives and finding safe places to store the drives.  For information on the differences between our file sharing and online backup services, visit our Service Comparison page.  Remember, protecting your data in advance is much easier than recovering it later!  

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