Technology is everywhere. Some of it is for entertainment but a lot of the tech we use is more practical. Online document storage has been a lifesaver for me many times and I’m sure many people will agree.
The convenience of being able to access files from almost anywhere, the added layer of security, and the peace of mind of knowing that if something happens to your computer, your files are safe is essential. But not all cloud file storage tools are the same.
Each one is designed to serve a certain kind of user. Some are designed for businesses, some are meant best for individuals or casual users, while others are built with process optimization in mind. This guide will take a look at the best online file storage software in different categories.
What is online document storage?
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. When we say online document storage in the context of this article, we mean any platform that allows you to upload, store, and access your files when you’re connected to the internet.
Some of these platforms are designed for sharing with anyone while others are designed for internal file management. No approach is inherently bad. Instead, some features are more in line with your needs than others.
Before we get into the tools available, there are a few things every cloud file storage tool needs to have. These are non-negotiable.
What to look for in cloud document storage
The following list isn’t exhaustive but it outlines the major things to look for. Of course, all the software in this collection meets these requirements.
Supports multiple file formats
Documents come in all shapes, sizes, and file formats. You don’t want to use a platform that can only support a single file type and everything else throws an error or doesn’t allow you to preview it properly.
At least, the platform should support the main type of file that you use and a few others that you may come across. Ideally, it will be able to handle any type of file that you throw at it.
Accessible via multiple devices
Some cloud file storage platforms are designed for users that have strict security requirements. As such, they can only be accessed on registered devices. This can be a double-edged sword.
If, for some reason, you don’t have access to your registered device, you may not be able to access your files. Or, you may have to register another device and increase your plan limits.
While security is important, it should also be practical. For any cloud storage platform you choose, make sure you can access it via a single login without having to jump through additional hoops.
Integrations with other tools you use
This is one of the most important aspects to consider. On average, organizations worldwide use 110 software applications to keep their business running. Of course, larger organizations are skewing that number up but it’s safe to assume that smaller organizations use at least 15 – 20 pieces of software.
The document storage software you use should cater to that reality by integrating with popular third-party software programs you already use.
Best online document storage tools
UsefulPDF – Best for sensitive files and document automation
UsefulPDF is a cloud storage platform that provides a safe place to upload and store your files. Its main focus is giving its users the tools they need to create and automate document-related processes.
You can sign documents online, organize them into folders, automate the document generation process, and also share intuitive data collection questionnaires. The goal is to allow you to upload your documents, set up any processes that you want to perform, and have it humming in the background on autopilot.
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There’s a fully featured document editor in the application so you can even compose documents from scratch and save them as a template to be reused later. These composed documents can also be turned into an intuitive questionnaire that your clients, customers, etc. can fill out. Once they’ve completed the questionnaire, a simple or complex document (depending on your needs) is generated with their information. Again, this all happens in the background. Create the document workflow once and it keeps working for you.
You can then integrate with the other tools you use to send data or even completed documents where they need to go. Of course, you can collaborate with your team to create, share, and store your documents.
- Electronic signatures
- Document storage
- Folder management
- Permission levels
- Team management
- Audit trail
- Template creation
- Intuitive questionnaires
- Integrations with third-party software
- Brand customization
- Generous storage limits
UsefulPDF plans start at $15/m and vary based on the number of users on the plan and the features needed.
Dropbox – Best for storing large amounts of data
Dropbox is one of the most popular online file storage platforms available. It made waves a few years back through its referral program that gave users more space based on how many people they referred. Since then, it has expanded its services to include electronic signatures, team collaboration, and more.
You can get started with the platform for free and store a limited number of files based on the size of those files. It’s designed to make it easy for you to share your files with others, whether they’re a part of your organization or not. Just grab the link and share it.
Over the years, Dropbox has acquired other software services to extend its functionality. It owns HelloSign and DocSend. Now, you can take out one subscription and get a suite of tools.
- Upload terabytes of data
- Collaborate with your team
- Document analytics
- Track where documents were shared and with whom
- Electronic signatures
- File commenting and in-app notifications
- Desktop and mobile apps
- Watermark your documents
- Screen recordings
Dropbox has many pricing plans depending on which service you’re interested in. The core plans start at $11.99/m and go up from there based on the features you have access to.
Box – Best for enterprise/business cloud document storage
Box, in many ways, is similar to Dropbox. The major difference is the type of customers it serves – business users. As a result, the nature of its features is also different.
At its core, it’s a cloud file storage platform but it offers many additional features such as electronic signatures, a canvasing tool, file editing, commenting and collaboration, integrations with a large collection of third-party tools, and document process automation.
Since the focus is on business users, it, by extension, has an emphasis on security. You can share secure links with specific people and access other security-focused features. It can get a bit complex but it has things like multi-factor authentication, security keys, information rights management, and more. All of these aspects come together to deliver water-tight security for your document and processes stored in the cloud.
- Security management
- File storage
- Robust team collaboration
- Team management
- Electronic signatures
- Canvasing tool
- Work process automation
- File management and editing
- Large collection of third-party integrations
- Developer portal
It has a free plan with paid plans starting from $16/m per user for individual plans. Business plans require at least three users.
Google Drive – Best for document collaboration
Google Drive started an entire movement with document storage and collaboration. Previously, you’d need to share a document via email, someone would make edits and share the document with you, and the process would repeat until edits were done.
Google Drive created a suite of products that allowed you to handle all of that in the cloud in real-time. Additionally, you could upload and share files around the web, set permissions, and even invite specific users to make changes to the document.
Since then, many other platforms have adopted the core features that Google Drive provided. In many ways, it’s still the gold standard. As long as you have a Gmail account, you also have access to Google Drive.
- File storage
- Team collaboration
- File permission management
- Spam and malware protection
- Large app ecosystem
- Team permission management
- Video conferencing
- Apps for iOS and Android devices
Google Drive has a generous free tier with paid plans starting at $12/m.
Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud document and file storage platform that comes with all computers with Windows installed. As long as you set up a Microsoft account for your computer, you’ll have access to OneDrive.
It comes with many features that go above and beyond file storage. You can access native applications for Windows computers, Android, and iOS devices. There’s free storage of up to 5GB which is less than Google Drive but more than Dropbox.
The tool comes with robust search functionality, photo editing, and presentation tools, and works seamlessly with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite of products. It’s a collaboration and work management tool alongside a document storage platform. With that being said, it’s not quite as robust as Box when it comes to collaboration.
It sets itself apart by providing a large marketplace of third-party applications that integrate directly with OneDrive.
- Native clients for multiple operating systems
- Share files with a link
- Photo editing
- Back up windows devices
- Personal password-protected vault
- Integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft apps
It has a free plan for all Windows users and paid plans start at $6.99/m
There are many online document storage solutions available right now. This list is by no means a representation of all the tools you may come across. With that being said, it represents the different types of document storage platforms available.
Choose one that meets your needs. Is it a simple document storage tool like Google Drive or do you need something more secure like Box? Is document process automation something you absolutely need? Then a platform like UsefulPDF should be a good fit for you.
Let me know what you think of the tools in the comments and don’t forget to share.