Everything these days looks "cloudy" for IT.
- Cloud storage services offer affordable and flexible ways to store your company's data.
- Be mindful of the security concerns that come along with using cloud services.
- There are many cloud storage services available so be sure to pick the right on for you.
What are cloud storage services?
According to TechTarget, a cloud storage service is a way for people, including businesses, to maintain and manage their data. Many of these services have a model that is based on the amount of storage that you need. Their plans are usually flexible and scalable. They usually offer pay-as-you-go pricing. Cloud storage services allow you to back up and share files, store data, and some provide disaster-recovery services.
Why invest in servers and all that hardware (and the cost of supporting it) when you can simply rent space in the cloud? You get the convenience of 24/7 anytime, anywhere access to your data so you can focus on your business without having to worry about things that aren't your business, like managing technology.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is financial. There's no upfront cost. You can easily scale up or down as business conditions scale up or down. And you pay a regular fixed fee.
Security Concerns with Cloud Storage Services
Security is always a concern when it comes to putting confidential and competitive information in the hands of a third party. Data breaches and, worse, outages that result in data loss, are always a risk, no matter whether your data is housed in the cloud or in a server next to your office. Arguably, it might be safer in the cloud. As Outsource IT Headaches to the Cloud points out in The GlobeandMail, "Because large cloud computing companies have more resources, [...] they are often able to offer levels of security an average small business may not be able to afford implementing on its own servers."
Almost all cloud providers offer some free storage, but these are aimed primarily at consumers; there is no free lunch for a business of any reasonable size, although free trials are usually available. In addition to basic storage, most cloud storage services include:
- Web-based dashboards to access data files
- Mobile apps
- Data backup and archive
- Usage reports
- Drag-and-drop file transfers
- Email/live support
What are the benefits of cloud storage?
ChannelFutures gives a handful of benefits to cloud storage.
Cloud services buy a large amount of storage and can offer their customers savings. In addition, using cloud services ends the need for you to purchase hard drives for storage needs. These services also reduce the need for hardware onsite, and the management and monitoring of that equipment.
Cloud services can be more affordable because of their tiered pricing structure. You can select the plan that meets your needs based on how fast you store information and how often you back up that information. Services can provide you with storage for short-term and long-term needs. Those needs may determine what type of storage you need. If you determine that your current plan is no longer working, you can move to a different plan easily.
10 Cloud Storage Services for Business
Here are 10 cloud storage providers small and medium-size businesses may want to consider.
Offers a variety of tiers, including a 12-month free usage tier for new users of its S3 (Simple Storage Service) up to 5GB, and EBS (Elastic Block Storage) up to 30 GB. The breadth of options is largely why Amazon Web Services is considered a leading public cloud provider.
Business plan: $15 a month for a minimum of five users. The Enterprise plan is $35 a month per user, with unlimited storage.
Carbonite focuses primarily on backup solutions, with Pro Plan pricing starting at $269.99 annually. They also have server plans that offer more customization, beginning at $799.99 a year.
Plans start $12.50 per user, per month, with a minimum of three users and 5TB of storage space.
Bundled with various apps, in addition to 30GB of online storage per user, the basic plan is $50 per user, per year. The unlimited storage plan is $120 per user.
Microsoft offers a few different plans to choose from. A Business plan is $2.50 per user with an annual commitment for 25GB per user (1TB is promised for a future rollout) with 20 cents per GB additional storage.
Business plans start at $29.95 per year, per user for unlimited storage; there's a $60 discount if you sign up for the $299 annual plan.
Businesses can choose from three plans. The Small Business plan costs $20 per user, per month (billed annually) for 1,000GB storage (This plan supports two users.) The Enterprise offering costs $24 per user, per month and supports up to 100 users.
Synplicity's Business edition costs $15 per user, per month, for a minimum of three users, with an option to purchase unlimited storage.
Pricing for Zoolz ranges from $15 a month for 100GB to $75 a month for 5TB. One interesting feature is Cold Storage for inexpensive archiving of rarely accessed information.