The small business cloud is the way of the future. Not only is it more secure (you won’t find your information lost after a total system failure), but it’s cost-effective, user friendly and helps your team connect. A cloud server for a small business can revolutionize the way a business functions – cut costs on IT teams, and creates a greater work-life balance (who doesn’t want that?). The only problem is there are so many cloud storage solutions to choose from. How are you supposed to know which is best? Don’t worry! You focus on running an awesome business, and I’ll focus on the tech-stuff. Below I’m going to outline some of the benefits of cloud computing and some of the top cloud storage services for small business.
Table of Contents
- What Is Cloud Storage
- Public vs. Private Cloud
- Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Business
- How to Pick the Best Cloud Storage for Small Business
- Dropbox for Business
- Google Drive
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Mozy Pro
- Carbonite Business
What Is Cloud Storage?
We’ve all heard about the very intangible idea of “the cloud,” but it’s a lot more easily explained than you think. A cloud is a group of remote servers, meaning instead of having information come directly from a personal server located in your office building or a something installed on your personal hard drive, it’s coming from another group of servers somewhere else. Typically, you use the Internet to access the cloud.
The cloud can be broken down into a couple of different functions – you can run programs or store files. Sometimes, a cloud service will do both, such in the case of Quickbooks’ phone app (a great solution for small business looking to track invoices and payments). Cloud storage is merely the storage aspect of the cloud. Think of it as a large external hard drive you connect to via a specific network (you’ll probably be using the Internet).
Small business cloud services usually have a couple different payment models. You can pay per-consumption (how much data you are using) or per month. It’s hard to tell exactly which system works best for your business as per-gigabyte costs are typically low, but cloud storage providers have operating expenses that pull prices up.
Public vs. Private Cloud
There are two types of Cloud storage solutions – public and private cloud. What you use should be based on the type of data your business wants to store. Public storage services provide multi-tenant storage – meaning your information will be stored with information from other companies also using the service. This data is typically stored in global data centers across multiple continents, meaning it’s more secure than if all your information was stored on one server in one area. For use of the public cloud, companies are usually charged under a utility payment model, meaning you pay for the data you use. Amazon Simple Storage Service, Google Cloud Storage Nearline and Microsoft Azure are all popular cloud storage services that operate on the public cloud.
Private cloud services provide a dedicated environment that’s protected under your business’ own firewall. This allows for companies to have more customization and control over their data; however, if data is stored in a singular place, you are much more susceptible to data loss from natural disasters or anything else that could damage your server. If your building has a flood or a fire, your data could be gone forever.
The third-type of cloud storage is hybrid cloud. This is a mix of both private and public cloud services. This model offers businesses flexibility and more data deployment options, but has more security because not everything is stored in an on-premises cloud. For example, and organization may store active used and structured data on their on-premises cloud but unstructured or archival data on the public cloud. Backing up your company’s archives on a public cloud is always recommended for security. If you lose information on your on-premises, private cloud, it’s not such a big hit because you have archives stored elsewhere.
Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Business
Cloud storage can really help a small business run in the most cost effective-but-functional way possible. Small business cloud storage improves collaboration across the team. Because everything is accessed through a remote server, teams can share and edit projects from wherever they are. Offices across continents can effectively collaborate, which certainly makes it easy for a small business to expand.
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Cloud storage also gives you a greater work-life balance. You can work from anywhere, at any time. According to a survey taken by Microsoft, 66% of small businesses need their employees to work anywhere at any time. Startups and small businesses often don’t have a large team – they need all hands on deck, which cloud storage makes possible.
Cloud storage also lowers costs while managing growth. Small business cloud storage is scalable. Upgrade your data limits if and when you need to without dealing with any expensive server upgrades. If you find your company no longer needs a large amount of storage, scale back and save. This gives your small business the opportunity to grow without needing to be absolutely certain it’s worth the expense. How many small businesses have had an amazing month, only to find sales stagnant a few weeks later. With cloud storage, upgrades and scale-backs are a cinch.
Cloud storage also cuts costs but has greater reliability. Think about it: a cloud service is constantly upgrading and working out bugs within their system. Unless you have a dedicated IT team (which eats away at your payroll budget), you probably let upgrades lapse. Cloud storage eliminates the need for IT maintenance on your servers – it’s included in the per-month or per-data charge. In addition, cloud storage is some of the most secure storage there is. Your information will not be wiped out with a flood, fire or in-site system failure. Your business will not be knocked-out for days because of problems with your internal server. Who wants to risk losing out on money because of technical difficulties?
How to Pick the Best Cloud Storage for Small Business
There are so, so many different cloud services out there; it may seem overwhelming picking which one to use with your business. When picking a service you need to consider a couple of thing like security (which can turn into a disaster), ease of use, cost and availability. Not all cloud services are created equal, but a few are typically regarded as the best in the business. Keep reading for 10 of the best small business cloud services.
Dropbox for Business
Functions: File Storage, Sharing, Synching
Price: Free 14-day trial; $12.50/month for each user (minimum of 5 users); 1 TB of storage per user
You may have heard of Dropbox because it’s commonly used as a personal cloud. They offer free space to anyone looking to store files in the cloud, but they also excel when it comes to small business. Dropbox is a leader when it comes to file storage, sharing a synching, making it easy to share files across all of your teams, anywhere, anytime. Dropbox for Business bulks up its free offerings lending support to multiple users. You also get 1 TB of storage per user – which is basically a whole desktop computer’s worth. It also has centralized administration and activity monitoring, additional security settings and the ability to track and recover previous versions of files. Let’s be honest – there’s always that one employee who accidentally saves over something you really, really need. It happens, but not with Dropbox. Dropbox is also extremely affordable, especially if you only have a few employees.
Get more info about Dropbox on their website.
SugarSync for Business
Functions: Storage, Synching, Sharing
Price: Free 30-day trial; $55/month or $550/per year for up to three users; $125 for each users after three; 1 TB of storage.
SugarSync for business has a unique Outlook plugin that lets you keep your team emails completely uncluttered and free of excess data (quicker load times, hello!). Much like Google Drive is used on personal cloud, SugarSync lets you send a link to a file or folder rather than directly attaching it into an email. This is a great work around for sending large files when your email service has file-size restrictions. SugarSync for business works across a number of platforms including PC, Mac, iOS, Android and even BlackBerry (because, yes, some businesses still use them). You can share and synch files and folders across all of your devices and your entire team using this service.
Find out more about SugarSync on their website.
Functions: Storage, Synching, Sharing
Price: Free 14-day trial; $15/month per user with a minimum of 3 users; unlimited storage
Box is useful to small businesses because of its price point. Just $15 a month will get you unlimited storage. Can you ask for much more? Box’s goal is to foster collaboration within your team. Though you can synch and store, it’s not really catered towards that. The service does, however, centralize business data so your team can get important files when and wherever they may need them. Box also has a couple of great features including the ability to share screenshots and screencasts from your desktop (we’re assuming it won’t just be funny Facebook memes – we’ve all got some real work to do, right?). You can also search for texts in the content of a file, which is perfect if you forget which files have which information (I’m extremely guilty of that. I swear there was a file I needed somewhere, but where?). It also integrates seamlessly with a number of third-party services.
For more information, visit Box’s website.
Functions: file storage and sharing
Price: Individuals get 15 GB free, 100 GB for $1.99/month, 1 TB for $9.99/month, 10 TB for $99.99/month, 20 TB for $199.99/month and 30 TB for $299.99/month. There is no annual plan pricing.
Anyone who’s ever used Gmail has probably used Google Drive. It’s renowned for its personal cloud storage services and helps all of us get around that pesky 25 MB limitation in email attachments. Did you know that it’s also an excellent solution for small businesses? Google Drive includes a number of insanely helpful features that foster collaboration. It basically has Microsoft Word built into the system (you may recognize this as Google Docs), allowing you to create documents that your team can edit, save and share. You can even suggest edits for your entire team to see. Create spreadsheets, slideshow presentations and more.
Google Drive also allows you to store any type of file you may need. As a writer and designer who owns her own small business, I use Google Drive to store large Photoshop files and track invoices and project deadlines with my clients. Google Drive also lets you look at previews of files even if you don’t have the program installed. This is particularly helpful to businesses using Adobe Creative Cloud because clients can preview Photoshop and Illustrator files without having to install Photoshop or Illustrator. Google Drive is also already integrated into a number of programs you probably already use like Google Chrome, Gmail and Google +.
Learn more about Google Drive on their website.
Features: Storage, Synching, Sharing
Price: 15 GB free with sign up; 100 GB for $1.99/month; 200 GB for $3.99/month; 1 TB with Office 365 Personal for $6.99/month.
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Microsoft OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive, and it’s seamlessly integrated into Windows operating systems. If you’re a business who’s life and soul runs on Windows computers, this is the service for you. For example, if you use Windows 8 or Windows Phone, you can sync your system/device settings and apps and files and folders. Don’t be fooled by the integration, though – you can run Microsoft OneDrive on iOS, Mac and Android, too. Much like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive lets you collaborate and edit documents simultaneously and in real-time from any device – PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones (whatever your heart desires). You can also upload photos from your phone and tablet and have them synched with your desktop.
Microsoft OneDrive has a unique, Windows-only feature called Fetch that lets you take files from a PC as long as it’s connected to the internet. This is amazing! Imagine putting your PC to sleep at the end of a long work day. You get home to find out that you forgot to send yourself a file you desperately need. No fear – you don’t have to panic and drive all the way back to the office. You can access it through Fetch!
Microsoft OneDrive offers generous storage allowances at a very affordable price (it’s cheaper than competitor Google).
Find more about Microsoft OneDrive on their website.
Functions: Storage with a focus on security.
Price: Free 60-day trial; $7/month for $30GB; $12/month for 1 TB. Monthly or annual pricing.
Security is key when it comes to SpiderOak. Your data will be fiercely protected, which is super important if you’re dealing with customer financial information. SpiderOak touts a “Zero-Knowledge Environment” because it does not store password information on their server.
Think of it this way: a typical cloud storage provider encrypts your data as its uploading and stores the encrypted data on their servers. This is the hallmark of Internet security, right? Wrong. These services also store your password and encryption keys which makes your data vulnerable to anyone who has physical access to the servers. All it takes is one disgruntled cloud employee to steal your information.
SpiderOak doesn’t work this way. Your password is kept on your own computer – not on the cloud server’s. This way staff can’t enter the password and decrypt your sensitive data. This makes it safe from outside tampering, but you also better remember what your password is. You can’t retrieve it if you forget, and that could be a disaster in itself.
Visit SpiderOak’s website to learn more.
Functions: Online Backup for Mac or Windows
Pricing: Free 30-day trial; $40/month for 100 GB on unlimited computers; $12.99/month for extra backup servers. Discounts for yearly subscriptions.
Backups are essential to running a secure business, but having them on your own personal server is a risk. Anything can happen to a server in your office building. It cloud even get roasted from electrical problems or taken out by a random leak in your roof – you never know. This is why MozyPro is an excellent service. Backup the files you need to – from desktops, laptops or even your businesses own, personal server (hey, it never hurts to have two backup locations). Mozy can also backup data from Windows server applications like Exchange and SQL, and makes it easily accessible to your entire team. You only pay for the amount of storage, not the number of users.
Find out more on Mozy’s website.
Functions: Online Backups for Windows Servers
Pricing: Free 30-day trial; 250 GB for $270/year for unlimited computers (but not servers); 500 GB for $599/year for unlimited computers and a Windows file server. Add storage to any plan when needed.
Carbonite Business is similar to MozyPro and will backup files from both Windows and Mac PCs. Where you want to use Carbonite is specifically for backing up Windows-based servers. The “Business Premier” upgrade lets you back up files from your Windows file server, but I not able to handle Mac-based servers. The upside is its competitive pricing – less than $1 per gig per year. Carbonite also has a feature that makes it easy for those of us who aren’t so tech savvy to install. Valet Install will remotely install Carbonite’s software so you don’t have to do anything. No manuals required! Seriously, who likes reading manuals?
Functions: Online Backups for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris
Pricing: Free 30-day trial: unlimited storage for $10/month per user or up to 20 laptops and desktops
Those of us who use Linux and Solaris may feel a little left out when it comes to cloud storage solutions. Most cater to either Windows or Mac (see: Carbonite only working with Windows servers and Moxy ignoring the fact that Linux even exists). Where the competition fails, CrashPlan swoops in because it works with Windows, Mac and Linux and Solaris. It also has unique pricing. You can choose to backup an unlimited amount of data per single computer or choose how much data you need in advance and spread it across an unlimited amount of computers. This really helps certain business models. Some businesses may have a lot of employees that share computers, so it’s less cost effective to pay per user. Some businesses have a small amount of employees who each use their own device. It may be more cost-effective to pay per user in that instance.
Find out more on CrashPlan’s website.
Acronis Backup to Cloud
Functions: Backing up entire computers rather than specific files on a server
Price: Unlimited storage for $99/year (single computers, no servers); 500GB between 1-3 servers for $99/year; $499 for each additional server; 2 TB for $1,699 per year.
Backing up specific files and folders is definitely handy. Who knows what will accidentally get corrupted, deleted, edited incorrectly or somehow lost throughout day-to-day business? What’s even better than backing up your most sensitive files? Backing up your entire computer or server. Seriously, you don’t want to find out something is missing because your server had a total meltdown and you only backed up a portion of it. Acronis Backup Cloud is catered towards backing up entire computers, unlike their competitors who focus on backing up specific files and folders. In the event of a complete system failure, you’ll be happy you signed up from Acronis. You never have to feel like your information is vulnerable to loss again; however, if you only want to back up a few files, Acronis has that capability, too.
Find out more on Acronis Backup’s website.
A cloud storage solution can be whatever you want it to be. Pick one that works with your team – whether you need it for system backups, collaboration and sharing, or both. Once you decide which cloud storage service you want to use, DevTeamSpace can help you implement it across your business. It’s as simple as posting a request online – and even if you’re still not sure, DevTeamSpace can help you choose which service to use, too.
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