Are Free Cloud Sharing Services Secure? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Are Free Cloud Sharing Services Secure? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted on March 23, 2022 0 Comments

Before we get to free cloud sharing services, who doesn't love free things? (I know I do.)

Think about it.

You don't get to pay for free cloud sharing services, and if you squint hard enough and wear glasses, you might see some benefits.

Free cloud sharing services aren't necessarily that bad, but they aren't the best thing to happen to cloud sharing either—that's a spot reserved for Managed File Transfer (MFT).

Nonetheless, free things can be good too.

Let's start with those fluffy vanilla pancakes your neighbor brings over on Sundays—with maple syrup and all.

They're probably the sweetest things you've tasted—and they set you back precisely zero bucks.

Well, a free cloud sharing service sure is tempting. This piece will help you demystify these services, strip them down to the basics and see them for what they are.

Demystifying the Word "Free"

For a quintessentially capitalist, bottom-line based, and individualist world, the word "free" sure gets thrown around a lot.

The word free is just as free as the word itself; you can stick it before anything and sell it. Drive in America long enough, and you'll meet car yards with signs written:

"Free Chevy for 3,000 dollars only."

Alternatively, grab your iPhone, log onto your browser, type the first thing about cloud services that comes to your mind, and you'll be met with:

  • Free cloud storage
  • Free cloud security
  • Free cloud file transfer
  • Free cloud (just like that)

With the extent of free services out there, you can build your entire cloud security and file sharing tech stack on free services alone.

Mmm, wonder why nobody has tried out this genius idea yet?

Don't worry; before the end of this piece, you'll know just why. But first things first, let's answer what the word free means exactly:

You're Not Paying, But for a Crap Service

Once in a while, the internet will surprise you with a free cloud sharing service that has no strings attached.

But that's where the good stuff ends.

Yes, you might not be paying anything; but please come with your own customer service, data security, and stack up on blood pressure meds.

When they say that you're not paying for anything, take their word for it.

You're Not Paying, But for Mediocrity

There are a few free cloud-sharing services out there that are decent. DropBox, Google Drive, One Drive, and iCloud come to mind.

They're far from crap, but they're equally as distant from being good either, which is the most frustrating thing you'll ever experience.

Above everything, you get to miss out on essential features, necessary conveniences, state-of-the-art customizability, efficient customer service, and automation in your file sharing experience.

You Pay Later

More often than not, a solution will advertise itself as free to generate leads, then try to upsell you once you jump on their bandwagon.

This will leave you with the dilemma of living with a service you only liked for its price (or lack of) or migrating your entire system to another service.

You Pay in Other Ways

One word: ads.

With some free services, you'll be updating your "most annoying ads" list more often than you usually do.

This is because some free sharing service will make you pay by sitting through hours of (insert word for excrement) ads.

In some cases, you may have to pay in a different way. For example, your customers may not be happy with their user experience from the mediocre cloud sharing.

Hence, you'll be forced to spend more money on CX strategies.

Alternatively, you may have to spend so much time and person-hours repairing your systems that all your previous cost savings go down the drain.

The Good*

You might not believe it, but there are a few advantages that come with most free file-sharing services.

Often, you won't be struggling to find these so-called advantages.

Given that they're the only thing free cloud sharing services offer, they won’t forget to display them in bold and uppercase on their website (and repeat them any chance they get).

Some of these advantages are:

They Have A Slight Learning Curve

The basic nature of these free file-sharing services makes them very easy to learn. Anybody in your organization (from janitors to technicians) can share files on Google Drive, One Drive, DropBox, and I-Drive.

With these solutions, you won't be training your technicians; and if by some accident your technicians can't navigate file sharing on Google Drive, you have bigger problems than file transfer.

Affordable for a Small or Medium Business

Some free file services can meet the cloud demands of small businesses. By small, we mean businesses that don't transact valuable information, high data volumes, and those with very few employees.

Some Security Features Here and There

Although sharing files like credit card information on platforms such as One Drive makes your data a free target for malicious users, these services don't lack security features entirely.

Take Google Drive, for example. It has end-to-end encryption using AES-2 to secure your files at transit and rest. Unfortunately for these platforms, asking for anything above end-to-end encryption is asking for too much.

The Bad: 6 Reasons Not to Use Free Cloud Sharing

It won't be long after you've used some of these free file sharing services before their inherent disadvantages creep up and start showing in your systems.

Besides being unreliable, inefficient, and ineffective across the board, prepare to be on the receiving end of an almost non-existent customer service.

Oh! Let's not forget the sleepless nights you'll spend fixated on the vulnerabilities they bring to the table.

Some of these disadvantages include:

Insecurity Due to Limited Encryption and Data Protection Features

The data security features of most free cloud-based sharing platforms range from weak to non-existent.

Though these files can handle file transfers between employees, they can't handle file transfers for credit card information, protected health information (PHI), and personally identifiable information (PII).

Some of the features you'll be missing out on by going the free file transfer route include:

  • Granular controls
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Strict access control
  • Zero trust frameworks
  • Latest encryption and file transfer capabilities

Incompliance Due to Limited File Transfer Auditing Capabilities

Free file sharing services lack the capacity to handle the regulatory requirements of cloud file transfer in the 2020s.

These services can't automate your file activity tracking, produce GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS documentation, or perform compliance management on your behalf.

By using these services to handle sensitive information, you're significantly broadening your margin of error and inviting regulators to your doorsteps.

Devoid of Enterprise Level Scaling Capabilities

Most of these free cloud-based file sharing services will not scale with your cloud data transfer growth unless they upsell you and make you pay.

They were created under the illusion that your data transfer, endpoints, and needs will remain the same for years.

As you continue growing while using these services, you can expect:

  • Even more strain on their feeble data security features.
  • Becoming an even larger target for malicious users.
  • More (and larger) cracks in your cloud data sharing infrastructure.

Peer-to-Peer File Transfer in Your Organization

Together with the Bring Your Own Device(BYOD) bandwagon, free file sharing cloud services will work to create a Shadow IT problem that will bring your file transfer and data security to its knees.

These services will incentivize an ecosystem where file transfer happens outside your data security framework through PDFs, emails, Microsoft Word files, and whatnot.

In IT, that's what you call a disaster—and not just any disaster, one that's waiting to happen.

According to a survey, the average employee stores about 2000 files in the cloud, 20% of which contained some form of regulated data.

Besides putting your organization's data security at risk and exposing your customer's data to malware, it will send hordes of regulators breathing down your neck.

Not Customized for Corporate Industry

One question you could consider asking yourself before considering some of the free file-sharing services is whom they were created for in the first place.

We'll help you out.

Everybody in general and no one in particular.

This prospect will make customizing these systems to your individual security needs close to impossible.

Remember, the file-sharing requirements vary from industry to industry and from firm to firm. In some instances, you may even need a proprietary solution custom-made to your industry, something free services don't offer.

Zero Automation Capabilities

Did you know that internal employees are responsible for 50% of all cyberattacks?

That said, it's essential to keep your hackers close but your own people even closer. Better yet, why not solve these issues and automate everything all together?

Sadly, these free cloud sharing services reduce the prospect of file sharing automation in an organization to a pipedream.

With these services, you'll never automate:

  • System updates and patch management
  • Compliance documentation
  • File transfer workflows
  • Application deployment

On the contrary, you may find yourself having to hire more workers to clean up on behalf of these systems—and end up inflating your wage bill while you’re at it.

The Ugly: 4 Reasons Why Free Cloud Solutions aren’t an Option

When the deal is too good, don't think twice. Think about your data security, customers, and reputation, then flee.

Remember, you can fix the bad aspects of free cloud sharing services in a day.

It's as easy as waking up one morning fed up, getting an effective Managed File Transfer system like MOVEit, and making all those issues a thing of the past in an instant.

However, the same cannot be said about the ugly aspects.

These issues will take years before you get back to where you were and an equally long amount of time before you catch up with your competitors.

Poor Customer Experiences

The efficiencies of poor or mediocre file transfer will eventually find their way into your customer experience; your clients won't like it one bit.

These inconveniences might be in the form of:

  • Delays due to downtimes.
  • Unreliability of your services due to poor file transfer.
  • Lack of convenience tools such as single sign-on.

Tarnished Data Security Reputation

Your B2B and B2C customers won't take it lightly once they find out that you use the same systems they use to store Thanksgiving photos (Google Drive and One Drive) to protect their PHI and PII information.

Once word gets out that your company doesn't take data security seriously, everything you've been building for decades can go down the drain in a few months.

If anything, your reputation is the most important aspect of your business, and you presumably don't want to be the next Facebook.

Non-Committed Company Culture

Data security does not lie in hardware, software, systems, or protocol; at the heart of the most data-secure organizations is a culture based on security.

And the best way to enforce such a system is by leading by example.

If you go on the market and choose the cheapest and least effective cloud sharing option, you'll be sending the wrong message to your teams.

Eventually, the lack of access control, Zero Trust, and consistent reporting will devolve into a culture that doesn't take cloud security seriously.

Eventually, without a sturdy security culture, your data security will fester into a cesspool of blatant vulnerabilities and cyberattacks.


Cyberattacks come with an insane cost both to find and to mitigate, and in some instances, there’s nothing left to save.

According to the numbers, 60% of firms go out of business after an attack.

For those that don’t, regaining customer trust after an attack is an arduous process. Free cloud sharing services do little to protect your firm from cyberattacks and in many instances make your data an easy target.

When Was The Last Time You Were Happy You Paid for Something?

Buying a service for free sure feels good. Nonetheless, there's something better than paying for a free service.

Nothing beats the feeling of a worthy purchase, assurance of money well spent, and the acquisition of a product you know you'll never regret.

As far as cloud sharing is concerned, Such a product should:

  • Encrypt your data at rest and in transit.
  • Automate your system updates and patch management.
  • Automate your compliance documentation.

Well, for this, look no farther than MOVEit. This is your one-stop-shop Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution that consolidates, encrypts, automates, and secures your file transfer.

Victor Kananda

View all posts from Victor Kananda on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.


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