It seems like such a simple thing but sometimes sharing files can be a hassle. Sometimes you just want to a listen to a song that’s on another computer in the house or maybe you need that report on someone else’s computer in the office. In either case you have a few different file sharing options so you can keep things easily at hand no matter what computer they’re stored on.
Some file sharing options are easy and others require a little more setup. There is no perfect solution however since each has it’s own peculiar ups and downs which we’ll discuss. You might even find out that a combination of different file sharing solutions work the best for your situation. You might even find transporting them the old fashioned way on a USB drive is the best for you. They’re cheaper and bigger than ever before.
Cloud Based File Sharing
The newest and perhaps the easiest method of file sharing is done by using a cloud storage service. Files you want to share are stored not on your computer but rather ‘in the cloud’ so they can be accessed by everyone on any device.
Pros of Cloud File Sharing
Access Anywhere: Sharing files using a cloud service have the advantage of being able to be accessed from any device. This means that you can drop a spreadsheet into your cloud storage at work and retrieve it on your tablet at home.
Easy Setup: Chances are you already have some cloud storage for file sharing and you don’t even know it. Most email accounts through services like Gmail or Outlook have cloud storage built in. It’s simply a matter of going to your ‘online drive’ and getting started. Windows 10 has the Microsoft cloud service ‘Onedrive’, built in.
Always On: Cloud based file sharing has the advantage of being ‘always on’. More traditional networking relies on the machine you want to get files to be turned on. Cloud storage never turns off so you don’t have to worry that Suzy, at the office, shut down her computer and cut off your access to her Access database.
Cons of Cloud File Sharing
Less Secure: If you’re thinking of a file sharing solution for sensitive company documents you might be wary about putting them out on the web. Keeping things entirely on your work computers lets you control the security and the number of people who have access.
Selective Sharing: File sharing on a cloud based system requires you to upload or ‘sync’ the files you want to share. This means that only the files you elect to share will be available on the cloud. So if you forgot to move that file to the cloud before you left you’re out of luck when you get home.
Setting Up Cloud File Sharing
To get started with file sharing over the cloud you’ll need to select a service. I prefer Google Drive and Microsoft Onedrive simply because they have the best features.
Google Drive: It’s hard not to have a Google account these days. If you have a Gmail or Youtube account then you have access to Google Drive already. All you have to do is go to drive.google.com and login. Here you can upload files for access later and share them with anyone via an email or a direct web-link. You can even setup a folder where anything inside is automatically shared with other people you give access.
Onedrive: Onedrive is similar but offered by Microsoft for cloud storage and file sharing. You get Onedrive with any Microsoft account such as the one you might have set up when installing Windows 10 or if you have an online Outlook mail account. Go to onedrive.com and log in to access it. Once inside you can upload files and share them with other people. Onedrive is automatically integrated with Windows 10, giving you a folder on the file explorer where you can see, use and upload files directly without using a web browser. Google Drive has an app you can download which adds this feature as well if you choose to go that route.
File Sharing Locally
Sometimes you want to stay off the cloud and share files with only a few computers locally. This more traditional approach is great for small offices and couple of computers around the house. You can easily do this by using Homegroup networking with Windows.
Pros of Local File Sharing
Share Everything: Using Homegroup networking allows you to access another computer directly which mean you’re not limited to just the files someone selected to share. You can set a large number of folders to be shared on the Homegroup so you can take what you need when you need it.
Private: Files shared locally aren’t uploaded to the web and you have greater control on who has access to them. Things like financial reports in an office should never be uploaded to the web and only be shared over secure networks locally.
Cons of Local File Sharing
Setup: Setting up a local network like Homegroup is a little less user friendly to get started with. There are more steps involved and you have to set up each computer separately unlike cloud computing where everything is done through your individual account.
Must Be On: The computer you want to get a file from must be on. If your office partner has that spreadsheet you need but turned their computer off and locked the door you’re in trouble.
Windows Only: File sharing by using Homegroup networking only works if all the computers are running on Windows. Cloud based file sharing works regardless of what device you are using.
Setting Up Homegroup Networking
To get started on Windows 10 do the following:
- Type ‘Homegroup’ in the ‘Search Windows’ box on the taskbar. A list will pop up and select the top option.
- Here you will be taken to the Homegroup screen where you can read what Homegroup does and how to get started.
- Follow the instructions to select what to share on your computer and how to connect to other computers. It’s fairly straightforward and you should be ready to go in just a few minutes.
- If you’re interested in using some of these more advanced features in Windows then I suggest a good reference manual to help you out. You’ll be surprised how a little knowledge about these features can save you and maybe your business valuable time.
All in all, file sharing makes lives a lot easier than it used to be, sharing files over discs (be they floppy or compact style).