Yes, we provide online file sharing as part of our Planning Pod app, but we’ve been using Web-based file sharing software and services for the last 5 or so years. And during that time we’ve made lots of mistakes and had a few epiphanies when it comes to the most efficient ways a small business can use an online file sharing program. Here are five things that we highly recommend when you use any online file sharing service or system:
1. Understand the limitations of the software
Every online file sharing software app has its strengths and its limitations. For example, I have used Dropbox for a few years now in order to store lots of larger files and back them up. It’s been a great tool, but one thing that it doesn’t do is back up my entire computer.
Here’s the difference. Most online file sharing programs will back up certain files or folders that you designate. However, not all will back up a replica of your computer … that is, they won’t make an identical, bootable copy of your computer’s hard drive – files, programs, settings and all – so if your computer crashes you can simply run the bootable copy on another computer or a new hard drive and it will set everything up the way you originally had it.
But here’s a way around that. You can use a program like Super Duper (for Macs) or Acronis or xxclone (for PCs) to create a full, bootable copy of your system and then store that in the cloud or on another hard drive.
2. Be aware of the software app provider’s backup protocol
Most online file sharing providers have a cloud-based solution, where your data is often stored in multiple locations and also backed up in multiple locations (a very lay way to say it, but that’s basically how it works).
However, you should read the fine print to see what their actual backup protocol is and how often they are backing up your data. This is important because, if the latest copy of your data is lost, then you will be left with whatever data you had prior to the most recent backup. Some providers back up data instantaneously, while for others there is a delay.
3. Read the legal terms & conditions regarding file access and ownership
This issue has gotten a ton of play in recent months because of the “fuzzy” legal language in Google Drive’s Terms and Conditions. Basically, the language is written to give Google permission to manipulate your data (store it, move it, etc.) as part of the storage services they provide to you. However, the language also says that Google has “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”
At first read this sounds a bit suspect. Google emphasizes that you have all rights and ownership to your own private files, but even legal experts don’t quite agree on what this phrase actually allows companies like Google to do with your public information and data. So, as a precautionary measure, just make sure you keep your data private at all times and only share it with trusted individuals.
4. Determine how you and your business will use the system at the outset
This may be the most important step in using an online file sharing app. A piece of software is pretty much an inert system until someone starts to use it. Applications like Planning Pod and Dropbox give you the ability to store things remotely, but they don’t lay out a process for how those folders and files should be labeled or named. This is your job, so before you dive in and start naming folders and storing files, it’s a good idea to have a folder and file naming strategy in place.
Many businesses have client codes, job codes and file codes for keeping track of physical files, and the same process works great for online file storing. Just come up with a simple system of how you organize your files and how you name them and then share it with any staff or vendors who you share files with, and this can save you tons of time trying to track down misplaced or poorly labeled files.
5. Train everyone who uses your files on how to use the app
A Web-based file sharing application that is intuitive to you may not be so obvious or easy-to-understand to your staff, contractors or clients. I have worked at companies where they threw a new software tool at us and basically said, “There you go. Figure it out for yourselves.” Which is the best way to not get someone to use it or to use it improperly.
When you decide on the best online file sharing app for you, learn it yourself first, create your process for naming/labeling and then gather the people who will be using it in a room and teach them the basics. I’ve always found it helps to have a handout of steps to follow as a take-away for people, and it doesn’t have to be a long meeting. Just long enough to communicate how the system works and how people should use it.
Want to see an online file sharing software tool that gives you the ability to do much more (like manage and store contacts, calendars, tasks and other key business details)?
Just try Planning Pod free for 30 days … it has more than 22 easy-to-use tools.