The best ways to share files securely make it simple and easy to share files using online services that are encrypted for security and privacy.
There are many cloud storage services (opens in new tab) and different ways to transfer files online (opens in new tab), but not all of these offer the level of encryption to satisfy the security protocols businesses need to ensure that their data is properly protected during transfer and sharing, especially larger organizations where security compliance is a very real issue.
The issue of secure file sharing has become even more of an issues now that remote working has become the norm for many, with organizations needing to properly secure data between employees when they share files (opens in new tab), especially in the face of an ever increasingly number of hacking attempts directed at them.
Therefore we'll look at existing popular apps and software that uses encryption by default, so that any information - and files - you send using these will stay protected and secured.
Here then follows our picks of the best apps to share files securely.
We’ve also picked out the best free cloud storage service.
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The best ways to share files securely of 2023 in full:
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pCloud is a cloud storage service with a difference in that it uses encryption to add an extra layer of security to your backed-up files.
There doesn’t appear to be any limit to the size of files you can upload to pCloud, so that makes it ideal not just for syncing files, but syncing large ones – and sharing them with whoever you want.
You can opt to pay for just cloud storage services annually. However, the company also offers a one-time lifetime fee which could prove very cost-effective in the long-term.
The encrypted option is an additional feature providing client-side encryption to password protect files as they speed across the net.
Another strength here is the wide range of supported devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android hardware, plus there’s a web platform to boot.
Read our pCloud review.
Signal is widely regarded as the gold standard of encrypted messaging apps, not least because its encryption engine is open source and available for anyone to inspect. That doesn't make it any easier to hack, but it does mean there are a lot more pairs of eyes looking at the robustness of the encryption methods.
Besides the industry-leading encryption on offer here, the app itself is fairly plain and basic in terms of visuals and appearance. It does support group chats though, as well as the sending of files and photos in addition to text, so you're going to be pretty well covered no matter what your needs.
Signal can replace the default SMS app if you want it to, but basic SMS texts aren't encrypted – you and the person you're chatting with both need to have Signal installed for the encryption feature to function properly, otherwise Signal doesn't have enough control over both ends of the conversation.
The app also includes several other useful features on top of the tight security, such as video calling, and disappearing messages that vanish after a certain time period (perfect for those conversations you don't want to stay on the record).
Read our full Signal review (opens in new tab).
SpiderOak offers a range of online backup and file hosting services that allow users to access, synchronize and share data using a cloud-based server.
The company places a strong emphasis on data security and privacy. They offer a cloud storage, online backup and sharing service which uses a ‘zero knowledge’ privacy environment. This means the client is the only one who can view all stored data. SpiderOak claim that even they cannot access your files.
SpiderOak’s main focus is on privacy and security. As a result, the tool itself offers a very basic design. This make the admin console and all central device management very straightforward to use. They also include a handy drag and drop feature for organizing files.
Users can access settings for all applications such as backup selection and sharing from the centralized device management dashboard. The dashboard also allows users to manage their accounts, set group permissions and gain insight into usage.
However, one limitation is that SpiderOak lacks some of the collaboration tools that are available from other cloud storage providers.
Prospective clients will need to contact SpiderOak’s Sales Team directly to obtain a quote.
Mozilla may be famous for developing the Firefox browser, but what many people overlook is that the company also provides the Thunderbird email client as a free alternative to Outlook to install on your PC.
It's both open source, and can be be installed on Windows, Apple, FreeBSD, and Linux machines.
That in itself would be good news, but it gets even better with the array of plugins available for it - and this includes the Enigmail plugin, which uses OpenPGP to encrypt and digitally sign emails that you send and receive.
The clear advantage here is that it means you don't have to learn your way around encryption protocols to create your own secure solution.
However, the disadvantage is that you need to use either Postbox or Interlink Mail & News as an email client (opens in new tab) to gain the benefit of Enigmail.
Resilio (formerly BitTorrent Sync) synchronizes files using the BitTorrent protocol. The advantage of this is that instead of having to share files via a cloud service like Dropbox, files can be synced directly between two devices.
Provided both your device and your correspondent’s are online, files can be shared in real-time and the connection is secured by 128-bit AES. BitTorrent is particularly good for sharing large files and folders as it was originally designed for that purpose.
Resilio offers three different service levels: Sync Home for individuals, Sync Business for business, and Resilio Connect for enterprises.
Sync Home offers the ability to manage multiple devices for yourself and even family members in an easy-to-use way. There's a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, with the paid-for pro version for individual or family use.
Sync Business offers various business-level plans depending on the team size. There are no bandwidth limits and end-to-end encryption is included as standard, along with file-level duplication and data reduction.
Resilio Connect is an enterprise-level platform aimed global companies.
We've also featured the best document management software.
Which secure file sharing platform is best for you?
When deciding which secure file sharing platform to use, first consider what your actual needs are, as sometimes free and budget software may only provide basic tools and saving options, so if you need to use advanced features you may find a paid platform is much more worthwhile. Additionally, higher-end software can really cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require from your secure file sharing platform.
How we tested the best ways to share files securely
To test for the best ways to share files securely we first set up an account with the relevant software platform. We then tested the service to see how the software could be used with different files and folders, from different devices, in different situations. The aim was to push each platform to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.
Read how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).