cloud storage with collaboration
September 26, 2021 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I need to find a reliable, inexpensive cloud-based file sharing service for between 100G - 1T of files where ~10 people have upload rights to a shared location and 40 more people have read-only access.

A group associated with a research grant need a common place to share material. They tried Google Drive and didn't like it for reasons they couldn't articulate. They looked at dropbox and deemed it too expensive. It's entirely possible they're not using these services int he most cost effective way. I've been asked to find a plan C and the options are a bit overwhelming, each one with various tiers of service etc etc. I've looked at MS OneDrive, Box, Amazon, but my eyes are starting to glaze over. Most things seem to have a per-user monthly cost that's going to exceed their budget.

What I'm hoping for is a service were the per-user monthly charge only applies to users with write access and the ones with read access are on free accounts. Maybe that's dropbox and just a question of understanding the terms of service better.

Anyway, this is so not my area of expertise and I'm pretty sure they're going to complain about whatever I recommend (via past attempts to help them), so I'm hoping someone has direct experience with one of these services and can make a recommendation. Thanks much.
posted by roue to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you're going to need to figure out their problems in a bit more detail - both Google Drive and Dropbox, for example, let people without accounts - or with free Google/Dropbox accounts - download files.
posted by sagc at 4:44 PM on September 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with sagc: I really think that your colleagues need to be more forthcoming about their problems with Google Drive and with their general requirements. One cloud option to add to consideration is NextCloud ( which has functionalities similar to Box/OneDrive/DropBox/Google Drive.

But since you mention that this is a research grant, you might also want to consider offers you some storage and access, but has the added bonus of being able to integrate/interoperate with a slew of storage solutions (see: This way you use a mix of different services but pull them together into one research hub. That way you wouldn't have to find a grand unified could have multiple solutions to meet different file sharing needs.
posted by skye.dancer at 5:58 PM on September 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

What field? That's a decent amount of data, but well in the wheelhouse of many different solutions. What is the tech savviness of the uploaders vs the downloaders? Are they thousands of little files or a few big ones?

One of the institutions that these people work for may already have data sharing tooling ready to go, potentially paid for from the overhead of the grant.

There are also tools like Zenodo, which is associated with CERN.
posted by rockindata at 7:57 PM on September 26, 2021

Response by poster: It's bioinformatics, but they don't need raw read storage (until they change their minds). looks perfect. I'm going to try it out tomorrow and will look over Zenodo too. Thanks for the suggestions.
posted by roue at 8:04 PM on September 26, 2021

Are they at a university? This is a solved problem in house for any decent campus that has bioinformatics faculty, and data security concerns. human subjects protocols, and institutional or grant policy may be specific about where data lives and how it is secured. You appear to be reinventing the wheel here from scratch.
posted by spitbull at 2:37 AM on September 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just to extend the thought, my own and my students’ work is frequently supported by the NSF. NSF now requires a full data storage, security, and privacy protocol for any of the (human) data we create, before you get the funding.
posted by spitbull at 4:06 AM on September 27, 2021

Was also going to ask if this is HIPAA or other privacy regulation relevant data. Our institution uses Box because of the access tracking and granular rights-management. The MFA / SSO build in is also nice. We separately locally host 5TB/ faculty member for on-campus HPC and recommend Globus to move things around.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:56 AM on September 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Echoing what others have said. You need to get to the root of this and find out why some users did not like Google Drive. Otherwise, whatever the issue is, it is likely to pop up again even with your new solution. Nail that problem now and document it. Find out who who these users are and get them to express their issues to you. Only then move forward with your new solution.

Solve the people problem first. Then move on to the technology problem!
posted by jacobean at 6:50 AM on September 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Keybase accounts still come with 250GB of online storage for free, and it also has full-featured team chat. Everything is end-to-end encrypted unless you explicitly choose to make it public; in particular, the Keybase server itself cannot see what files exist in your account or what's inside them unless you make them public, and you can make shared files available to teams without making them public.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 AM on September 27, 2021

What kinds of material? Documents? CSV/spreadsheet data? Databases? "OneDrive" is for individual users - but the whole ecosystem of Microsoft 365 has additional collaborative capabilities - but, if they didn't like the pricing for DropBox, nor the workflow of Google Docs, then the probably won't like the combination of SharePoint Online/OneDrive/Teams/Stream/Outlook/etc.

But - as jacobean mentioned - solve the people and their requirements definitions first.
posted by rozcakj at 8:04 AM on September 29, 2021

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