Data Transfer and Sharing Apps – Uncrowned Knights of the digital world
Life appeared to be easier 2 decades back when one would insert a floppy disc into a computer, copy the required data, eject the disc, travel anywhere across the globe and use the data in the wafer thin 1.2 MB floppy disc or may be, copy the data from the floppy into the destination PC.
Wish the world was still the same but with the increase in the data size (1.2 MB is nowadays the length of a 1 minute audio piece or a 10 second video clip) and also the speed at and flexibility with which a user loves his data to be transferred, unfortunately the good (bad) old floppy disc doesn’t serve the purpose.
What comes next that serves the former part of the need is a high storage gadget. This family includes flash drives, portable hard-drives and other intermediate mass storage options. However, the latter part is still a partially unfulfilled need. Some offer speeds but then flexibility becomes a challenge. A user simply question – Why a dedicated gadget to transfer data from one device to another?
Can I not do it through some non-physical existence? Maybe over the web (emails weren’t good enough to carry a movie file along) or through some wireless mediums?While the whole world is getting acquainted with words like – Cloud, Wi-Fi, Hotspot, etc., is there a need for the data transfer piece to continue to struggle?
Well, the answer is yes and no. With the advent of Data transfer and sharing apps (Although a more common term is File transfer and sharing apps but I somehow don’t find the word file to be a comprehensive one), most of the challenges are addressed – size, speed, flexibility. However, end-to-end security and cross-platform OS support (pre-dominantly for Data Transfer)is yet a niggle for some apps.
Talking about it – there are a couple of category of apps. In a layman lingo, I shall classify them as Data sharing apps(These require an internet connection, for example – Dropbox) and Data transfer apps (These don’t require an internet connection, for example – Xender). The list of apps is pretty long. I shall grab an opportunity to mention many of them and further, compare few of the popular ones.
Dropbox, Box, Xender, Hightail, SHAREit, switchNwalk, ShareFile, SuperBeam, Egnyte, SugarSync, Google Drive, Onehub, Open Drive, Just Cloud, DropSend, Zapya, Software Data Cable, Send Anywhere, WifiDroid and the list is nearly endless.
Technically, 2 sets of comparisons – one amongst the Data transfer apps and other between Data sharing apps need to be created.
Let’s initiate with the first set – Data sharing apps
All the data sharing apps claim to be the best and why not! Who would like to claim anything else? For the user, the feel good factor is the ease of use, navigation as well as maximum utilization with minimum time and effort investment. In short, user always wants no pain and all gain. Google Drive and Dropbox are the most popular and user-friendly and have more or less competitive features incorporated.
Typically, the provider of on-line data sharing service has server farms for hosting the user data. The user is given an account that allows you to upload files to their remote servers. Further, the user can share links with co-workers and clients via a download link. However, the best online data sharing services are more than data hosting platforms. They are platforms for collaboration. The user can invite his friends, co-workers and clients to work on a specific file or folder. Everyone can make changes, add files and communicate ideas within the platform.
Most online data sharing services offer two or three plans – a free plan, a single-user plan and a business plan. These plans are tiered according to how much storage the user is allocated and how much bandwidth you’re allowed each month. The free plans typically only provide few GBs of storage and limited bandwidth, which is the amount of data that user can share and receive for his account.
Looking at the bandwidth allowed for the first non-free plan each service offers, which is usually called a professional plan or personal plan, the best online data sharing services include unlimited bandwidth on these accounts, but most data sharing services cap the bandwidth between 20GB and 7.5TB per month. Of course, more requirements can be catered to by doing paid top-ups. It is important to consider that each upload and download (by self or shared users) will consume the bandwidth.
The next parameter to look at is the maximum file size. Every data sharing service provider allows the user to share large files, but the maximum file size that can be shared varies a lot from provider to provider. Some services max out at 2GB, while others can share files as big as 10GB, and few have no limit to the file size.
Easy navigation and rich experience in sharing and accessing data through links (with and without password) and limit of access (for instance – only the receiver of email will be able to access)are required features from privacy standpoint. Also, considering the security aspect of it, these features help. Besides these, 256-bit encryption for when the data is in transit and when it’s idle on the servers. Encryption acts as a protective shell so that a hacker can’t view the contents if they intercept it at any point. In addition, if the service provider uses firewalls and virus scanners to protect the servers from unwanted external and internal attacks, it ensures the optimum level of security.
Other small but significant features that should be included are – remote deletion of data, tracking and control of data (how many times data was shared, with whom it was shared, when was it shared it and how much of the bandwidth quota it used), versioning, e-signature, conflict resolution by merging and managing overlaps, etc.
The second set – Data transfer apps
Data transfer, in a way is an extension or some may say, an alternative to Data sharing. Data transfer from one device to another with an intermediate physical medium or over the network is purely a data transfer example. Data uploaded in a repository (as discussed in the former section) and can be used in a collaborative approach makes data transfer happen when the receiver fetches or downloads the data from the online repository.
On a generic note, there are various types and categories of data. Types – Heavy and Light data. Categories – Contacts, Calendar, Documents, Apps, Audio, Video, etc. Most of the data transfer apps that are available in the open market use Wi-Fi hotspot as the connectivity medium.
Many of us do store contacts on an online account so while switching phones on the same platform, contact transfer is not an imperative. However, for cross platform it can be a challenge though there are many ways to deal with it. The data stored on the SD card is also not a great roadblock. The task is when the data on the phone needs to be sent to another phone. Also, for those non-tech savvy dudes who don’t get into intricacies of syncing and upload-download, data transfer apps turn out to be handy.
A variety of data transfer apps – free and paid are available in the open market. Xender and shareIT are amongst the popular ones.
The main areas to consider are the speed and the cost. Most of the popular apps promise speeds in the range of 3-7 mbps depending on the individual file size, total volume of transfer, the distance between the sender and receiver device, etc.
Security is also an obvious concern. In a typical data transfer service, the user of the app (sender or a receiver) can form a group between the sender and the receiver phones and the data is transferred only within the group formed. The sender can allow or disallow to send the data and similarly receiver can allow or disallow to receive the same. So, this level of security is taken care off. However, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Secure Shell (SSH) encryption are often desirable or even necessary for compliance purposes. User needs to check this before opting for the service.
In this arena, there is one data transfer service for naïve users (who don’t want to get into the trouble of downloading and using apps for transferring data) that is made available in the store. This is a data transfer service named switchNwalk and it operates out of a set-top-box like instrument which is in possession of a dealer. Once the customer has done his purchase of a cell phone, the dealer asks him if he would like to transfer all the data from his old phone to new phone. Upon agreement from the customer, the dealer uses switchNwalk box and facilitates speedy data transfer.
This kind of concludes the story of the uncrowned knights and they are referred so because they very much help the user to have the flexibility of carrying their data anywhere, anytime and anylarge (the actual term should be how much ever the size) at a zero or minimal cost assuring seamless service, user experience and above all, desired security.
In case of any queries, feel free to ping me.