Despite Risk, Workers Rely On Cloud-Based File Sharing Credit: Mail box image via Shutterstock

Dropbox is the file-sharing service of choice for most employees, new research shows.

A study by vertical IT network Spiceworks revealed that half of all small business employees are now using some type of cloud-based   file-sharing service on their own, a 17 percent increase since 2012. Among those employees, 93 percent are using Dropbox.

The vendors surveyed were more split on the file-sharing services they prefer. Dropbox led the survey with 40 percent, up from 28 percent last year, followed by Google Apps at 24 percent and Box at 10 percent.

Overall, the number of companies that approved the use of file sharing services has increased 5 percent from a year ago.

The study shows that security/compliance, accessibility and cost top the list of considerations small businesses take into account when selecting file-sharing services.

When it comes to hosted email, Google is still leading the way, but not by much. Of the 42 percent of small businesses using hosted email services, 32 percent are using Google, a 2 percent drop from last year. Gaining the most traction is Office 365, which has seen usage nearly double from a year ago to 30 percent.

"The survey results show that cloud-based services continue to be an integral way employees access information, communicate and collaborate during their work day," said Kathryn Pribish, Voice of IT program manager at Spiceworks. "Over the last year, we’ve seen that more companies are taking notice and formally adopting solutions that meet the ease of use and accessibility demands of their employees while maintaining corporate security, cost and compliance requirements."

The research found that the widespread availability of affordable, high-speed Internet access is driving the use of Web conferencing for many small businesses. More than half of those surveyed have an approved Web conferencing vendor or are planning to approve one in the next six months, with 49 percent of those using Cisco WebEx.

Many organizations have also adopted cloud-based collaboration services in the last year. Thirty percent of those surveyed have an approved collaboration tool or are planning to deploy one in the next six months. Of those companies, Evernote is used by 41 percent, and Basecamp is used by 19 percent.

The study was based on surveys of more than 500 small businesses from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, education, IT service providers, health care, retail and government.

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