We hear the words all the time. “It’s in the cloud.” They link to our smartphones and other computing devices. We send our most precious pictures and messages to them every day. Yet, for as much as our lives are connected to “the cloud,” most of us have little understanding of it, and even fewer know which cloud services work best for our professional needs.
Small businesses have unique requirements when it comes to storing and protecting data. Unlike large corporations with their own IT departments, small businesses must rely on cloud storage services providers to safeguard their data.
What is the Cloud?
It may seem like a strange question. However, it is surprising how many people use one who has no clue what it is. In short, cloud storage is a computing model that stores data on the internet through a service provider.
The customer pays a fee for storage space on their servers. The advantage is that the customer has secure access to their data while eliminating the need and the cost of having to set up their infrastructure. For a small business, it is an ideal setup.
What to Look for When Choosing a Service
There are several things that you consider when getting ready to pick a cloud storage provider. Selecting a cloud storage service is more than just having a place to place your data. The company you decide to put your trust in must have these features.
Data Center Setup
Having more than one location for their servers is essential to security. During a server breach in one place, all data needs to be transferred quickly to another set of servers. Storage services that do not have this feature or who have slow transfers of data, can lose some or all of your data.
High Powered Computers
Delays in accessing your data can not only cause you delays but cost you money. A cloud service with high-speed servers is a must. Make certain in your search for a cloud storage service, that they have the most updated and high quality servers.
Security has to be through the entire system and not just limited to one part of the cloud system. The host, network, and physical setup require full security feature protection to ensure your data is secure. Check what security features they have installed at each of these levels.
Service Level Agreement
Any cloud service worth its servers will have written agreements explaining their service, terms, and conditions. Pick a service that explains in detail what they do and does not provide. It is also essential to make sure that they have all their required certificates and licenses up-to-date.
Data storage is a highly complex business. If you are having difficulties with your service or have questions about what services they provide that will best fit your needs, easily accessible customer service is necessary.
Private server access
There may be times when your business expands or that you will need to have extra security. In that circumstance, it will be important to have the option of having your own allocated server. A storage service has to be able to expand along with your business.
Unexpected events do happen. If your service is interrupted by a natural or manmade occurrence, you must have it transferred quickly to another server within your cloud storage network. Remember, your information has to remain secure at all times, so check that a potential provider has contingency plans in place.
Small businesses must account for every dollar they spend. Depending on how many employees you have and your overall budget, finding the company that not only meets your financial needs as well as cloud storage needs
Which Ones are the Best?
We took the criteria into account and then cross-referenced it with the needs of small businesses. After examining what they had to offer, we decided that companies are the best cloud storage services for small businesses.
It probably comes as no surprise that a company as large as Amazon and caters to small businesses has an excellent cloud storage service. Just like the variety of products you can get on Amazon, the choices they have for cloud storage is every bit as impressive. Not only do they offer options on storage capability, but also in payment methods as well, including “pay as you go.”
Amazon’s security is second to none and has great customer support services. With a company this massive, you can rest assured that all their legal papers, certificates, and standards are up to date. Other benefits include secure file-sharing, website hosting, mobile data backup, business apps hosting, and gaming.
- Great Price
- Cross-platform capability
- Poor desktop application
- Need to insert credit card number to set up an account
Dropbox is one of the most established and popular cloud storage services. They have millions of customers and are so confident in their services that they offer a 30-day free trial. Dropbox Business uses 256-bit AES and SSL/TLS encryption, which ensures your data is protected.
Dropbox Business has many protection programs that will allow you to sync files and has a data recovery of up to 120 days if you accidentally delete the information you need. It is a little more expensive than some services, but it has everything that you would want.
- Easy to Use
- Difficult file location tool
- Cannot edit in real time
Google is continuously working on services for its clients. Over the past several years, they have expanded their cloud storage services to make Google Cloud Work one of the best available. Of course, one of the significant advantages of using a Google Cloud for Work is that most of your employees are already using their services.
Google offers excellent security and a competitive price at $12 per user per month. Along with syncing and file-sharing capabilities, The Google cloud allows you to work both on and offline. Coupled with excellent smartphone apps and support, Google Cloud for Work is a superb option.
- Can integrate the use of Google Tools
- Website creation tool
- Communication tools with client are not strong
- Only priced per user
When you have a company so tied to our digital lives as Microsoft, it is easy to incorporate cloud storage services, which they do with Microsoft OneDrive for Business. Microsoft’s main competitor in this space is Google, and they challenge Google aggressively, not only in service but in price. Microsoft charges a mere $5 per month per user, over 50% cheaper than Google. To upgrade to its premium services only cost $12.50 per user per month.
Yet, even with the inexpensive price tag, Microsoft OneDrive offers incredible services. Every user gets 1TB in storage capacity and can store files as large as 15G. Syncing and sharing files is every bit as simple as Google, and it also gives you the option to edit files through browsers. Each license covers 5 PCs or Macs and up to 5 smartphones.
- User friendly interface
- Ability to access files from anywhere
- Limited document size support
- Limited offline access
OpenDrive’s strength is its many services. It includes data management, project, workflow, and user management. OpenDrive also offers many of the standard services and provides 17 different ways to edit your files. Their most basic plan has 5GB of storage.
However, their premium plan at $29.95 is pretty pricey. Yet, for that price, you get unlimited storage, unlimited file size, and unlimited speed. The complete program also offers three users per account. Their services may not be for everyone, but if you have more than the average amount of storage needs, OpenDrive is worth considering.
- Good pricing
- Excellent web interface
- Difficult desktop interface
- Difficult restore settings
If your only concern is complete security and anonymity for both you and your clients, then SpiderOak should be on your list. This data storage service has a “zero-knowledge policy. Their customers get full privacy, full control, and absolutely no knowledge of the host.
For advanced business requirements, SpiderOak developed an excellent directory integration system. They offer both basic and premium packages for mid-range sized companies. Basic packages start at just $60 per year per user. Their premium services are more expensive, but their security is difficult to beat if you handle extremely sensitive data.
- Zero knowledge security policy
- Free account for up to 2G storage
- No hard copy backup service
- Can slow down your computer
If you have sensitive data and need to limit access to that data, not only by outside breaches but also by your employees, Syncplicity is a good choice. Syncplicity offers storage accessible through multiple platforms and can share data over an ultra-secure network, and the interface is straightforward.
However, if you want to allow access to your data by just a select few in your business, Syncplicity has developed unique avenues to do so. It offers strict usage reporting to enable you to see exactly who and when someone accessed sensitive information. It also allows administrators to implement policies and controls.
- Ability to share files with clients online
- Ability to use different platforms
- Can operate sluggishly
Go through your full inventory of needs. Account for all the data storage you will require, the security level you want for your business, and the amount of data transfer and file sharing done through in-house and mobile devices.
Once you have made a full accounting and checked every box, then do your research. Remember, a cloud storage service does not just hold your data, but your entire business.