Should You Pay for File Sharing?

File-sharing software generally gets less attention than other types of tools. After all, unlike most other types of software we track here at Stacklist, file-sharing tools have only one key function. There are some slight differences between the tools, but many operators view them as interchangeable. This lack of clear preference, combined with the fact that every file-sharing software we profile has a free account in addition to paid plans, makes us question when and if companies should pay for file sharing.

Chaitenya Razdan, founder and CEO of Care+Wear, states, “We were using Dropbox and then we just ran out of space on it, so instead of paying for an account, we used Box. Now we've basically split it up so that company-specific information is on Box and external information we want to share is on Dropbox.” In this vein, it’s interesting to note that almost 40% of the Stacklist community uses multiple file-sharing services.

And if Razdan hadn’t been using Dropbox as a starter service, he probably wouldn’t have run out of space to begin with. Dropbox has a 2GB limit on its free account, while Box has 10GB of free space and Google Drive has a whopping 15GB--more than enough for most small startups, especially when you consider that Google Documents don’t count toward that limit. Over 70% of the seed-stage startups in our database use Google Drive, and we can’t help but assume that Google’s free plan is a strong incentive.

Once a company scales to a certain size, however, paying for file sharing becomes inevitable. So the question becomes who to pay first, and when?

The smallest step is to upgrade Google Drive. For a mere $2 a month, Google Drive’s storage space shoots up from 15GB to 100GB. $10 a month will get you to 1TB, with upgrades available if you need the space. Items “shared” with other users count only toward the uploader’s data limit, so with some careful planning these prices can be applied company-wide, though Google also has a Drive for Work plan that offers unlimited space for $10 per user per month.

Compare those figures with Dropbox and Box, neither of which have upgrades that are quite as incremental. With Dropbox, you can upgrade from 2GB of free space straight to 1TB for $10 month (for one user only), and from there it’s straight to the business plan which costs $15 per month per user for unlimited space. Box has a similar pricing structure: $5 per user per month will yield 100GB of space, and $15 per user per month grants you unlimited space.

It’s no surprise that Dropbox and Box become more popular among larger startups that appreciate the additional permissions and security features that come with the advanced plans. It’s worth noting that Google Drive has similar permissions, though Stacklist users report higher levels of satisfaction with Dropbox’s permissions. Alexander Shashou, Co-founder and President of ALICE, states: “With Dropbox’s business account you can really control who sees what, so you can make separate folders for clients and for your team. Everyone gets what they need. It's really great for large file storage.”  

All things considered, Google Drive stands out as is the best first choice for the average startup’s initial file-sharing solution. For the amount of data you get, the price is unbeatable, and if you’re just purchasing your first storage upgrade, chances are your priority isn’t having the most advanced permissions features.

When should you start paying for file sharing?

If you already use Google Drive and would prefer to stay on that platform, then when you upgrade is simply a matter of how much you value $2 a month for an extra 85GB of space. If you need the extra space, this seems like a no-brainer.

However, if you’d rather stick with Dropbox or Box, the choice of when to start paying is a bit more complicated. Both of those services only charge per month per employee, and at $15 month for unlimited space, both come out to more than Google Drive. If you’re maxed out on space in the free plans for either Dropbox or Box, and especially if you have a large number of employees or contractors who need access, it may be well worth adding Google Drive into your stack to avoid the fees.