Cloud storage isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact it’s been around for years and years (which is a long time given the rapid pace that technology evolves). However, the pure accessibility of cloud storage right now is so much better than it was even a few years ago. Below are five reasons that you should consider cloud storage for your business. Personally, I use Dropbox all the time. I find it really user friendly and there’s so much support (not only from Dropbox but more importantly from a massive following of other companies that make integration with Dropbox really quite seamless). All the examples below are based on Dropbox, but any of the other cloud storage contenders could be substituted in each of these five reasons.
1. Cloud Storage is a great way of keeping your data safe.
When I first started investigating cloud storage several years ago I was really concerned about security issues. “What stops Dropbox staff from reading my files?”, and more importantly “If Dropbox looses my files what do I do then?” Both of these are very valid questions with potentially scary answers. However, in time I realised that my fears were essentially unfounded, especially when you put a few strategies in place.
For starters, your information if probably safer on a Dropbox server somewhere than it is in your office. The chances of your office burning down, your hard disk failing to work one day or something equally as catastrophic is scarily high. On the flip side, Dropbox have built an entire brand on keeping your data safe… they don’t want to loose your data for fear of eroding their good name. With this in mind I picture your data sitting in a secure server room, fire proof, earthquake resistant, backed up in multiple locations, protected with the best anti-virus measures available. Like me, I’m sure that you are starting to realise that your data is safer with a company that specialised in protecting data than sitting under your desk at work.
To be fair, its not all champagne and roses. Dropbox has had it’s fair share of issues. It’s been hacked at least once and someone accidentally turned off password authentication at one point, but these issues are essentially the same for all cloud based providers as well as your own system at work.
2. Cloud Storage cost effective.
I was at the Post Office just last week. While in the queue I found myself staring at the thumbdrives they had on the counter, each on sale for absolute peanuts. What I realised was that data is dirt cheap these days, but lots of data is very cost effective. This notion isn’t new, we’ve been offering bulk pricing on commodities since the dawn of economics, but let’s think about it from a global corporation point of view.
Dropbox will give you 2GB of storage for free, that’ over 4oo photos (~5mB). Other providers can give you more or less than that. On that free account you also have the benefit of having your data backed up, protected from web threats (virus, worms, hacking, etc) and saved on mega-bulk storage. If you tried to recreate the same environment as an individual it would cost you a small fortune.
Even on the paid plans the cost of storing all your data is not that hefty all things considered.
3. You can access your information from almost anywhere.
The main reason I use cloud storage is so that all my data is available all the time, from virtually anywhere. This is priceless. Gone are the days when you were carting around a portable hard drive (I still have a couple in the back of a cupboard) or even a menagerie of USB drives on your key chain. These days I can access my documents when I’m at home, at the other end of the house, in the office, on the road, interstate or even abroad.
It’s worth mentioning that I keep my personal and professional documents in at least two separate cloud storage accounts, and both are synchronised with most of my devices. Some examples of how well this has worked for me include:
- A client asking for another copy of a proposal when I was on the road. When I arrived at my destination I just logged into my Dropbox via the web, pulled out the file and emailed it across to them.
- Last time I was interstate visiting family there was a power surge at home. I was able to pull up a saved version of my house insurance information when I was 800km from home and sort it our with my insurer over the phone.
- There’s been times that we’ve had a blackout and I have been able to work on the laptop. The laptop has a local copy of all my documents on it. When the power came back on Dropbox automatically uploaded any files that I had changes without me lifting a finger.
- I was in a shopping mall and decided to buy a new pair of frames for my glasses (my two year old can be a little hard on my glasses). Via the Dropbox app on my phone I was able to pull up a copy of my prescription for the optometrist to use.
4. Collaboration becomes a breeze.
Have you tried to email a file to a contractor, peer or client and found that it’s just too big? I worked in an office where it was normal to email files from one desk to the other as there wasn’t any shared storage… but a large part of each day was spent trying to work out if you had the most recent copy in your inbox. For years email was the primary way that we moved files from one person to another (especially if they were outside your building/network). These days, especially with faster internet speeds, its much easier to just upload it to the cloud and work on it from there.
In this respect, storage options like Google’s Drive really come in to their own for collaboration, allowing multiple people to work on the same document simultaneously. That said Dropbox has “rocked my world” when it comes to working with contractors and clients. It’s just so easy to send them a simple link and allow them to download the file whenever they are ready.
Just last week I was working with a production company to finalise some short videos that they are producing. I had to send them lots of hi-res photos and they had to send me several pieces of compiled footage. Dropbox worked a dream. We both just uploaded what we needed to into specific folders in Dropbox and downloaded what we needed, when we needed.
5. It saves time.
If you’re organised, working in the cloud can save you lots of time. It certainly does for me. Here’s how.
Firstly, I keep all my files in super organised folders. That way I can find everything easily. Being organised is not native to the cloud, but I think it’s essential if you’re going to use the cloud effectively.
Secondly, I sync all my devices. This means that a local copy of my data is kept on my computer, laptop, iPad and phone (partial) and more importantly exactly the same data is found on each device. If I update a document on one, Dropbox will upload the new file automatically to the web and then update the versions on each of my synced devices. No more finding the right USB drive, plugging in portable hard disks, searching through emails or connecting to a site via VPN. I just open a device knowing that the most up to date information is there waiting for me.
Things to consider.
The following list below isn’t exhaustive, but it explains some of the ways that I mitigate risk in my use of cloud storage:
- I keep my data in a multiple clouds. I use Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote and a few other specific clouds for specific uses. This means that if one of these systems fails, stops operating, etc than I have some redundancy.
- I sync my data with my local devices. If one of these systems does fail then I have a local copy of this data on my computer, laptop etc that I can still work with.
- I use strong passwords and change them regularly. This is just good practice for any web service.
- When collaborating with other people, I only give them access to the files then need. In fact, I often just create a new folder with their files in it so they never have access to the bulk of my data.
- I’m realistic about the fact that cloud storage is run by humans, therefore the unexplained and unforseen sometimes just happens. This doesn’t necessarily mitigate any remaining risk, but it does stop me from feeling utterly shocked when something silly happens.
By now you’ve probably realised that I’m definitely pro cloud storage. I will unashamedly admit that it just makes sense for me.
Out of all the available cloud storage options that a small business should consider I think Dropbox is a great place to start. Their free plan is easy to use, and there’s lots of other applications that work hand in hand with Dropbox seamlessly. If you’d like to have a look at Dropbox you can visit www.dropbox.com. Note, this is a referral link. If you end up installing Dropbox on your computer both you and I get a little extra storage (500mB and 1gB respectively).
Either way, cloud storage is quickly becoming the norm so I stand by the fact that I believe that there is a cloud storage option for all small businesses and that you can find one that will work just as well for you as Dropbox does for me.
Now its your turn. Are you already using cloud storage? If so which one and how well is it working for you? Pop your thoughts in the comments below.