Cloud storage is saving data on an off-site server instead of on your computer’s hard drive. It’s just as easy as saving files to your computer, but offers more flexibility for small businesses. With cloud storage, access files and collaborate with employees from anywhere. Knowing how it works, the options and the benefits, can make the transition seamless.
Cloud Storage Basics
While cloud providers love to talk about the advantages of cloud storage — both in terms of cost and flexibility — many are short on the details when it comes to the nuts and bolts. At its most basic, cloud storage takes the burden off local servers and instead, stores your data somewhere else. Access is available on-demand with an internet connection.
Many providers offer a small amount — usually a few gigabytes — of free cloud storage to get you in the door with the hope that once you’ve stored a few things in the cloud you’ll get hooked on its simplicity and consider paying for more space.
Just like cloud computing at scale, there are three general types of cloud storage:
Public storage is when your data is kept in global data centers; it typically resides on more than one server to help limit the impact of server failure. Companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft currently dominate this space and are trying to outdo each other by offering basic storage at increasingly lower prices.
Think of public cloud storage as a safety deposit box kept at your local bank. Though others have access to the bank, they don’t have access to your deposit box. At the same time, you’re able to take advantage of the security that the bank offers.
Instead of public servers, your data is stored on-site in cloud servers that sit behind your company’s firewall, increasing security and total cost.
Private online storage is like having a bank vault on-site; it’s more expensive to create and maintain but offers enhanced data security.
Think of it as a bit of both. Public options are often ideal for “unstructured” data such as emails, surveys and meeting notes since this data isn’t sensitive. More critical, structured data can then be kept on-site.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
Of the benefits, one of the biggest is accessibility. As long as you have an internet connection, you have complete access to your data.
Most cloud companies offer 99.9 percent (or even more) uptime. Storing your data on servers in multiple locations makes this possible. So even if one location experiences a power outage, your data is still available to you from another server location. You’ll be hard pressed to find a time when your data is inaccessible.
Next, is space. For public storage, you pay on a per-use basis, meaning you have all the space you need so long as you can afford it.
And speaking of cost, opting for cloud storage means you’re not responsible for replacing or maintaining hardware, or updating software or security. Pricing is affordable for small businesses especially because it depends on the amount of space used.
Small business owners might worry about cloud security, but this fear usually stems from the shortcomings of now-outdated systems. Today, storing data on the cloud is actually safer than storing it on your desktop. Big cloud storage companies have the money and resources to keep your stored information safer that you could in your office.
Cloud storage isn’t done evolving. A study by Intuit predicts 80 percent of small businesses will move their data to the cloud by 2020, effectively doubling the current percentage.
Going forward, trends include flash-based storage options, which offer faster data retrieval and increased hardware lifespan. They also include an increased number of niche providers that can meet the emerging compliance guidelines required in specific industries like healthcare and law, for example.
Viable cloud storage choices are ample. Look for services that suit your small business’s needs, leverage the best technology and have a track record of success.