Easy and secure file sharing - FTP alternatives without the security risks


FTP alternatives without the security risks

Quick and easy file sharing is essential to almost anyone who works with media content. But if you depend on free, freemium, or even some paid solutions, you could be taking risks with valuable IP. Here’s how cheap platforms come up short, and why a premium solution cuts the risks, and slashes the costs and hassle.

Security

Security

FTP was not built to be secure, as it doesn't have encryption, meaning that data is vulnerable and leaving your digital assets at risk.

Collaboration

Collaboration

Most FTP services don't allow for collaboration. DAMs allows you to collaborate using time-coded annotations to video files, highlight areas within images for review and more.

Saves Time

Saves Time

The average UK employee spends a staggering two hours each day searching for data. DAMs save an average of 70% of this time.


Easy file sharing

FTP

Whether you work in media, marketing, communications – or any other business – you’ll be well aware of the importance of file sharing. Fundamental to collaborative working, and to managing editorial and approval processes, the ability to share files to colleagues and collaborators is a pillar of any modern office workflow.

And yet, many businesses still struggle to recognise the importance of providing and managing a secure file-sharing platform. Either lacking a clear policy, or reliant on ageing and cumbersome tools, businesses suffer the inefficiency of slow and inflexible collaboration. All too often, the result is that staff take matters into their own hands, using freemium file sharing services to keep things moving.

Freemium services doubtless have their strengths. Anyone can sign up for a Google account, and use the space to quickly get files to colleagues or other stakeholders. But freemium services have their weaknesses, too, especially when compared to a purpose-designed digital asset management (DAM) or media asset management (MAM) platform. So what risks do file sharing sites pose, what features are they missing, and what should you be using instead?


How securely can you share files?

file sharing

Every file sharing service claims to be secure, but the reality is there are different interpretations of what security means. And when it comes to storing, transferring and sharing confidential records or valuable IP, many freemium services come up short.

Perhaps most fundamentally, many freemium sharing platforms were set up as services for individuals, and their access controls reflect this. Many lack advanced user management features, such as the setting up of team or project-based access, or the granting of different permission levels like contributor or author.

There are often issues around the protection of files at rest and in transit. The best security comes from encryption, ideally high-strength, and in place from endpoint to endpoint. Scrambling files in this way ensures they can’t be read if they’re intercepted through man-in-the-middle and other attacks on files in transit. If files are also stored encrypted, they can’t be read by the service host, or anyone who might gain access to their platform.

It’s also important to secure the sharing of content, for example, by protecting file links with a password. Freemium platforms often miss out on more advanced options, such as creating users and groups, adding download or time limits to links, or limiting access to certain IP address ranges. Collectively, these missing features reduce content owners’ ability to keep their files secure.

Enhanced security options explained


Collaborate and thrive

FTP and collaboration

Many freemium file sharing platforms exist as point-to-point solutions, solving the problem of distributing files, but failing to address the management and collaboration that often goes with it. As an example, Dropbox will let you share and synchronise a working folder, but it doesn’t support advanced metadata, or let you search based on it. WeTransfer supports file notifications, but not the ability to add comments, tag team members or mark up an image.

The lack of these features can prove a stumbling block to the very processes that file sharing is meant to support. It’s great if the London office can share content with an agency in Sydney, but if there’s no inbuilt support for version control, comments, feedback or approvals, there are still major obstacles to getting things done.

Collaborators needn’t be on the other side of the world to benefit from such in-line tools. The growth in home working has shone a light on the need for easy and seamless collaboration. And while platforms like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive can provide it for documents, marketers and creators need additional tools fit for rich media – such as time-coded commenting on video or audio.

The same is true when it comes to proper version control. While many platforms include rudimentary file history features, few offer support for iterative asset creation. Again, without version control, many teams are left with a partial solution, and the need to implement other fixes to keep on top of iterative processes.


Collaboration drives creation

FTP alternative

Today’s creative projects bring together internal staff, clients and external contractors, who all need a way to work together, review together and approve together. To make this easy, you need a DAM that can offer:

Streamlined review and approval workflows
Collaborate with colleagues or external clients
✓ Simple user management controls
Automated notifications and project updates

 


How do you manage it all?

File sharing

When compared to a purpose-built solution, all freemium file sharing platforms are lacking in user and asset management features. Even the paid or business versions of some platforms have rudimentary user control – for example, not providing granular control of team and individual permissions. And with staff often relying on free accounts, access and sharing controls can in practice be very basic.

The same applies when it comes to managing projects, folders and collections of material. Not all platforms support easily managed containers, making it far harder to organise projects, groups of contributors, and their security.

Again, free accounts make this particularly hard, but the use of free accounts betrays a bigger problem: the lack of a centrally managed, properly controlled platform. By driving staff toward ad-hoc sharing using free accounts, organisations risk losing control over where, how and with whom their precious content is shared. And when multiple file iterations are shared between stakeholders using several freemium accounts, chaos can reign.


File sharing solutions - compare and contrast

FTP providers

As we said before, file sharing platforms do have their uses. Some of the most popular come with strong features, but others are rather more limited. We’ve evaluated five of the most popular services on 38 criteria, analysing their management, access control and collaboration features. Here’s how they compare:

Box

Box was launched in 2005, and has grown rapidly in recent years. However, with ‘only’ 41 million users, it’s still one of the smaller freemium services. Box enhances its core file sharing functionality with collaborative working tools, and includes useful features such as metadata and version control.

 Box is one of few freemium services to offer end-to-end encryption. It also offers file conversion tools, and scores well for collaboration. However, it doesn’t support useful media features such as time-coded video or audio commenting and, like other freemium services, it’s blocked in China.

Drive

Drive is Google’s file sharing, storage and synchronisation service, offering 15GB of free storage to all personal Google accounts. With more than a billion users it’s the world’s biggest file sharing service, offering a good range of features.

Although it’s neatly integrated with other Google services such as Docs and Gmail, Drive doesn’t tick all the boxes for the secure storage of precious IP. It lacks end-to-end encryption and formal version control, for example. In December 2020 a rare outage took millions of users offline. And like many other freemium platforms, Drive is blocked in China.

Dropbox

Dropbox was founded in 2007, and now has more than 600 million users. It’s a freemium service, where anyone can sign up to a free account with just two gigabytes of storage. Different subscription levels offer more space and features to individuals and business users. There are about 14 million subscribers.

Like many other freemium services, Dropbox offers two-factor authentication and encryption, but this isn’t end-to-end. In theory, this allows Dropbox to decrypt and view customer data. Dropbox also lacks many of the features you’d get with a purpose-built asset management platform, such as file conversion, time-coded commenting and version control. It also misses out on bulk metadata features and AI tagging or transcribing. Managing large volumes of rich media can be time-consuming and expensive. But AI is increasingly being used to automatically identify faces, objects and/shots to improve search and discovery. While powerful speech-to-text algorithms can convert audio to text, supporting multiple languages.

Dropbox has been subject to some security concerns. Most notably, a 2012 data breach resulted in 68 million user passwords being leaked. Like many other popular solutions, it’s blocked in China.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s file storage and sharing platform, offered alongside the web version of Office. Installed by default in Windows, it’s no surprise that OneDrive has more than half a billion users worldwide.

OneDrive is comparatively rich in features, leveraging Office apps to offer multiple collaborative working tools. There’s also good control over metadata, but files aren’t end-to-end encrypted. The service is also blocked in China.

WeTransfer

WeTransfer differs from many freemium services in that it was originally designed to simplify the sharing of one or more files. By offering comparatively generous upload limits even to free users, WeTransfer quickly became a popular solution in the media and communication industries.

Although it’s easy to use, WeTransfer lacks important management features such as advanced metadata, version control – and even organisational features including folders. The service has suffered some security incidents, such as in June 2019, when some file links were sent to the wrong recipients for two days. In February 2018, web researcher Tony Webster discovered that the WeTransfer Plus branded service was open to abuse. WeTransfer is blocked in China, and in May 2020 it was ‘partially’ blocked in India.


Find the right platform

FTP-competitors

If freemium platforms are lacking, what’s the alternative? Businesses that work with large asset stores need more powerful metadata, search and management features. Those who work collaboratively with multiple iterations of large media files need version control, in-line commenting and annotation. And those who rely on freelancers, agencies or globally distributed colleagues need fast and flexible sharing – without the risks of poor user control.

These are the kind of features you find in purpose-designed digital asset management (DAM) and media asset management (MAM) platforms. Designed from the outset to do more than just simple file sharing, a DAM ensures that a business’ digital assets are centrally stored, properly controlled, and securely available to only the right people.

Comparing consumer-grade file sharing products to Imagen’s asset management platform reveals the many ways in which businesses benefit from implementing a proper solution. Built to handle business-critical, IP-sensitive and other high-value assets, Imagen Go draws on our twenty-year history of media management to bring true security to a collaborative asset management platform.


What is a DAM?

A good DAM platform offers multiple features to help organisations stay in control of their digital assets. At the heart of it all, a DAM offers secure, centralised storage, combined with granular access control. This ensures that stakeholders can easily upload and organise files into a library of content, and maintain fine control over the groups and individuals who have access. A cloud-based DAM provides access to users irrespective of physical location, and it should support a wide range of devices.

A key attribute of any good DAM platform is a powerful search feature. That means being able to find assets not just by filename but by the metadata attached to it, such as creation or upload date, or tags – such as ‘interview’ or ‘Twitter’ + ‘Logo’ – that help users zoom in on exactly the right materials.

DAM platforms can also integrate directly with business processes, helping streamline workflows by automating the management of their associated assets. DAMs are also crucial tools for distributing those assets. During production or iteration they ensure that creative, management, and compliance stakeholders all have coordinated, easy access to the latest version. And once assets are finalised, they help distribute them to the teams, partners or customers who need them.


Why Imagen Go?

File sharing alternatives

When you outgrow freemium file-sharing services, you need a smarter video distribution platform. Imagen has over 20 years of experience in working with customers to implement innovative DAM solutions. Unlike the options we’ve looked at here, Imagen Go enables you to simplify, centralise, and automate media asset workflows with one intuitive content management platform.

Imagen Go distinguishes itself from freemium solutions with end-to-end encryption, including encryption of assets at rest within the cloud-based system. Granular, centrally managed access control allows tight management of individual, project, and team-based access. File sharing remains easy through emailable links, but security is maintained through password protection, and configurable download and time limits.

A DAM platform offers more than just file sharing, however, and Imagen Go is full of features to help categorise, organise and retrieve content. Assets can be marked with customisable metadata fields, for example, allowing easier sorting, filtering and searching – saving staff hours of digging around for mislaid content. Even among rival DAM solutions, Imagen Go leads the competition with unrivalled AI-driven automatic tagging, a speech to text engine, and powerful file conversion.

Imagen Go provides more than an answer to file sharing: it supports collaborative workflows with multiple tools for reviewing, iterating and annotating assets. Features such as version control and time-coded commenting on video and audio files enable smooth feedback and iteration during creation, editing and signoff. In-line commenting, and other inbuilt review and approval tools, ensure that stakeholders can discuss projects and their assets, whether they’re colleagues in the same office or working from home, or they work for an external agency.

With more features and far stronger security, an asset management platform such as Imagen Go offers far greater flexibility and control over your digital assets, and how they’re shared. Just as importantly, powerful collaborative working tools ensure that Imagen Go offers a complete solution.

Rather than just solving immediate file sharing needs, Imagen Go is a robust and reliable platform for managing dynamic digital assets. More than just a tool to get files from A to B, it simplifies and integrates related workflows, solving challenges surrounding security, user management and collaborative working. And more than just an ad-hoc lashup, it’s a powerful business tool, proven to improve efficiency and deliver a strong return.

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