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 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 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 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 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 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.