Top 10 cloud-based file-sharing terms you need to know

Margaret Jones

There's no shortage of cloud-based file-sharing services on the market, and there's an even greater number of cloud terms for IT to sort through.

If you're foggy on what these terms mean, what each service offers and which options are enterprise-friendly, you aren't alone. Check out these definitions of cloud terms to start sorting things out.

Public cloud
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of cloud-based file-sharing services, it helps to have a basic understanding of where it all starts: the public cloud. A public cloud is a hosted service that provides resources such as applications, compute power and storage space to individuals and organizations over the Internet. Some services are free, but in most cases customers pay per use or through a subscription model. Either way, public cloud can be a good option for enterprise IT, because the providers assume the hardware, app and bandwidth costs.

Cloud services
Any service provided over the Internet is a cloud service, the most common of which are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Most cloud-based file sharing services fall in the SaaS category. PaaS provides on-demand software testing and development environments, and IaaS lets IT run, manage and automate server-based applications in the cloud.

Mobile cloud
As its name implies, the mobile cloud extends data, applications and services to tablets, smartphones, laptops and other endpoints over the Internet. Mobile cloud lets users access their applications and data without having to store them locally.

Online file-sharing service
Some of the more popular mobile cloud services are of the online file-sharing variety. These services offer users ways to store documents, photos and more in the cloud and access them from any device with an Internet connection. Users can also share these files with others without having to email them or use other file-transfer methods.

Now that we've covered these cloud terms, let's take a look at some of the most popular cloud-based file-sharing and storage services:

Box (Box.net)
Box began as a consumer-focused cloud storage platform, but the service has since added several enterprise features, such as Active Directory management and integration with other productivity applications. Box not only competes with cloud-based file-sharing services such as Dropbox but also with collaboration platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint.

Dropbox
Dropbox is a cloud service that lets users store data in the cloud and syncs that data across multiple devices. On the desktop, its folders integrate with Windows Explorer, and mobile apps are available for all major platforms. Typically considered a consumer-focused cloud-based file-sharing service, Dropbox also offers an enterprise option, Dropbox for Teams, which provides more storage.

Google Drive
Google's entry in the cloud-based file-sharing and storage market is Google Drive, which integrates with Google's other services, including Google Docs, Gmail, Google Analytics and Google+. It lets users access files and apps through a browser.

iCloud
Apple's cloud storage service is iCloud, which lets users store everything from contacts to photos to music and makes that data available across all the user's Apple devices. The service is available on Macs with OS X 10.7 and up and iOS devices running version 5.0 and newer. In addition to offering data storage, iCloud also provides users with an email address, the Find My Phone feature and automatic device backups. Users can also save their iTunes, App Store and iBookstore purchases in a digital locker and download them to their other Apple devices.

Octopus
VMware Octopus, now in private beta, is an enterprise alternative to consumer-focused cloud-based file-sharing services. Like Dropbox, Octopus offers data synchronization and sharing services across devices, but it also gives IT the ability to define and enforce security policies.

Windows Live SkyDrive
Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive offers users document storage and sharing. It has many of the same consumer-focused features as other cloud-based file-sharing services, but it also lets IT admins control permissions and determine which users can see which files. In addition, SkyDrive integrates with Windows Live Hotmail.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Ten cloud file-sharing definitions IT pros should know or view the full guide: The ultimate guide to cloud-based file sharing

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