You’re likely well aware that there are a host of cloud-based file synchronization and sharing services that let you store your files in the cloud and synchronize them across devices and share files with others. DropBox for Business, OneDrive, Box, and Google Drive all offer business quality tools for sharing and synchronizing files, but Citrix ShareFile is the first I’ve used that feels as if you’re working in a true client/server environment. Designed for companies that need to manage their files and maintain control over who can make changes, ShareFile also provides options for permanently or temporarily sharing files with those outside your corporate umbrella. Citrix ShareFile does all of this, and more, with simplicty and ease.
You can begin using Citrix ShareFile for free by creating a trial account, which is a basic business account supporting five employees. Five employees is the starting point for all business accounts—although there is also a personal account option that supports a single employee—and pricing for accounts varies based on the number of features you want and how many employees you’ll have using ShareFile. Individual accounts cost $16 per month, team accounts start at $60 per month for five users with an up-charge of $8 per month for each additional user. (Detailed information on Citrix ShareFile pricing can be found at the Citrix ShareFile site.)
Creating a Citrix ShareFile account creates a unique URL all your users use to access their files. Your business name is a subdomain of the sharefile.com domain. For testing purposes, Citrix set up an account for me, so my domain was jeffbattersby.sharefile.com.
When you log in you’re directed to your personal file sharing space and, as an administrative user, you’ll see your personal and shared folders as well as tools you can use to manage user accounts and their access to your data. The web interface is drag-and-drop, so you can quickly add a file to your Citrix ShareFile storage area by dragging a file from the Finder to your browser. As you’d expect, your folder structure can contain subfolders and every folder you create can have a notification upload and/or download action added to it, so you receive an email message any time someone uploads a file to or downloads a file from the folder.
One of Citrix ShareFile’s key features is its ability to let you create users and manage their access to your files and folders. Users you create are given a personal folder and a default set of permissions for folders you’ve given them access to, including creating folders, changing passwords or deleting files. You have the ability to fine tune this access, giving any user the ability to access reports, other user’s files, and change your ShareFile site’s look and branding, as well as about a dozen other settings.
Citrix ShareFile’s user management features are good and definitely versatile, but there is no way to create groups, put users into those groups, and then provide access to folders based on those groups. So, as your company grows, you may find that management of users becomes cumbersome. What you can create is something called Group Distribution Lists, which are used to notify or include users when when files are added to the system.
In addition to employees, you can also create Client users, which are users who are not employees but who you want to have access to specific folders so they can collaborate with you. Client users have limited, specific access to folders and have no personal ShareFile storage space, but they don’t use up any employee licenses. Used wisely, ShareFile clients can work as an excellent file collaboration tool with certain employees, non-employees, and consultants. Citrix ShareFile also offers a features called RightSignature that lets you securely send documents stored in ShareFile to anyone on any device so the document can be signed and returned digitally.
There are several options for connecting to your ShareFile account. Citrix offers apps for iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows. As mentioned earlier, you can create folders and add files using your web browser, and you can connect to FTP and WebDAV (https) file shares using the Go > Connect to Server menu in the Finder. Citrix ShareFile also offers a feature that allows users to check files out while they edit them, making it so that no one else can edit the file while it’s checked out. Information about which files are being accessed by what users using any of these sharing options can be downloaded and viewed using Citrix ShareFile’s excellent reporting tools.
There is much to like about Citrix ShareFile. It’s simple to set up and use, offers excellent user management tools, allows you to provide permanent or temporary access to folders or documents to users outside your business infrastructure, and offers many of the benefits of a client/server environment and file synchronization services without requiring that you maintain a server. What it lacks is good group management tools, which is the only thing that keeps Citrix ShareFile being a perfect tool for securely storing and sharing files.