Shared drive for a growing, distributed business
February 13, 2015 6:16 AM   Subscribe

My company is growing quickly and we need a better shared file system than emailing documents back and forth. I have been asked to investigate options but don't know where to start or what to look for, and I am hoping the hive mind can provide some direction. Details inside.

We have between 10 and 20 employees. About half work out of an office, while the other half work remotely (sometimes on their personal networks, and sometimes from mobile hotspots). We have a combination of PCs and Macs, and a handful of various tablets (although support for tablets is less important because those people also have laptops they could use). Our business assets include lots of video files as well as more typical office files (documents, spreadsheets).
posted by philosophygeek to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Im not the IT guy, but the last two small businesses I worked for used Google. Plenty of storage, use your domain with Gmail, Google Drive shares everything. I think it is only 5 bucks per user per month for the business service. Plus, for that low price they will deal with all your technical problems.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:24 AM on February 13, 2015

My employer uses Egnyte for this.
posted by neushoorn at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2015

My institution just switched to Box, which is way, way better than I expected relative to the previous attempts at this. I've mostly interacted with the web interface but it has mac/pc sync apps as well as tablet apps, and has been pretty smooth to deal with (though perhaps my expectations were low). I personally use dropbox heavily and like it (probably >Box); I don't have any experience with dropbox business edition but I assume it is at least decent.
posted by advil at 6:32 AM on February 13, 2015

The other option is Dropbox. $7.50 per user per month at your size.

It really helps if you take a moment to think about how much actual stuff you need to store. At a certain point it become cheaper to roll your own; a Drobo for instance, is going to scale pretty well. But the real cost is managing and securing it; at a certain scale that's going to be somebody's job.

Basecamp is also worth looking at.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:40 AM on February 13, 2015

Roll your own: OwnCloud
Alternative: hosted SharePoint or OneDrive
posted by blue_beetle at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2015

  • Box is extremely flexible yet expensive
  • Dropbox is less flexible but more familiar to people
  • Google Drive is excellent price and functionality wise, and better if you have Google Apps for business
  • Owncloud, Seafile, and PyDio are all different self-hosted file sharing options that work pretty darn well

posted by BrandonW at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2015

We use Dropbox in a situation very similar to this (well, more employees actually). It works great.

People who know what they are doing can use the Selective Sync feature so not all their files get pulled down to every computer (i.e. don't pull 10GB of sales demos down to your ultrabook with a 250GB drive), but for people who are either less savvy or less interested in fiddling with it, they just install Dropbox and get invited to shared folders as appropriate for each project they're working on, and that's that.

Compared to traditional file shares + VPN it is mindblowingly great.

We messed around a bit with Google Drive, but the web interface was very much unloved by a lot of people. Box seemed to cost more (although the plans are not directly comparable to Dropbox's), offered a bunch of features we'd never use, and doesn't have a Linux client, so it wasn't much of a serious contender.

Depending on how many people are going to use Dropbox, if you are a really small / limited-budget company, you can actually coast along for quite a while on the 10GB free accounts and then upgrade when you hit the capacity wall.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2015

We use Google Apps / Drive + Podio.

I wonder if Slack is something that might work in your case.
posted by Nevin at 7:28 AM on February 13, 2015

Thank you for the suggestions so far. One of the worries I have with something like Google Drive is that, if the user doesn't edit the doc in an online tool, they need to re-upload the modified file to Google manually. Is that a problem that others have solved? We have an appreciable number of non-tech-saavy and ADD people who are unlikely to remember that step consistently, and I worry about low compliance leading to people just sending emailed docs again because they don't trust that the drive documents are the most recent version.
posted by philosophygeek at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2015

That was the exact reason we ended up not using Google Drive; it really wants you to use it in conjunction with Google Docs and it's a bit... kludgy if you don't. There's a roundabout way to get access via WebDAV but it's not an official feature or even especially reliable. It's just not the way the product is meant to be used.

If you're making the jump to doing everything in the cloud, including using Google's apps, it's really awesome and I have a lot of respect for that approach. But it's a big change for people used to traditional desktop apps and file organization. Dropbox and similar file-sync services that use a desktop client are less of a workflow change.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2015

Some combination of Office 365 and Dropbox or Box may be what you're looking for.
posted by dfriedman at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

What SharePoint allows you to do might make it more useful to you long term -- with SharePoint, you can set permissions for each set of documents (or spreadsheets, or whatever), you can host online InfoPath forms (like a ticket for service), you can set up workflows on a given document. That last is really cool: you can send a document around for editing and/or comments by a number of people, or just for approvals. It's an intranet site, which you can customize almost any way you want -- my home page has a set of big colorful HTML buttons that are links to the pages users use most often.

The only thing is that SharePoint needs an admin, so it doesn't become "where documents go to die" -- as I have heard someone on here refer to SharePoint.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:59 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Metafilter itself uses Dropbox plus Slack.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2015

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