File Sharing vs File Service: The Difference Matters

 

It is time to set the record straight — File Sharing and File Services are NOT the same thing.

  • File Sharing is the ability to share a file with somebody else.
  • A File Service is a structured service to secure, organize, and manage access to files.

File Sharing is a subset of File Services, if not a separate offering.  File Sharing is a feature, while a File Service should provide an integrated means of storing, security, sharing, and managing information.

In Google Apps, both Sites, Drive, Video can be used for File Sharing.  In both services, you can create and/or upload files in all three services and manage permissions that allow others to view and/or edit the files. Google Drive, however, can also be configured to provide a File Service.  With desktop and device agents, you can use the folder and permissions structure in Google Drive to provide users direct, integrated access to files and the access will appear ‘native’ to their computer or mobile device.

In other words, Google Drive can look and feel like a file server, even though it runs as a cloud-base service and offers additional capabilities.

DropBox, Box, and Egnyte are cloud services that can also be configured as File Services.  They run separately, however, so if you want these file services to integrate with other cloud applications, you will be investing in Single Sign On and, possibly, integration services.

With Sharepoint as a major component, Office 365 offers File Sharing along the lines of Google Sites.  SkyDrive, Microsoft’s File Service, is not an integrated part of the Office 365 suite.  Users must run SkyDrive in personal Windows Live accounts.  In effect, this creates a collection of personal file services, not part of the managed domain environment, through which uses may share files.  This is a very different service than an integrated, domain managed file service.

Conclusion

By understanding the differences between File Sharing and File Services, you can better assess the user experience of each service and best match the service to the needs of your business and your end users.

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