As with most new technologies, many consumers have treated cloud computing like a mythic being. Its verbiage has been one of ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds,’ and, although cloud technology’s value is quickly growing, many consumers remain skeptical about its security features, usability and price. They wonder how it will work, when and for how much.
As cloud storage providers advance their products from the hypothetical to the concrete, more and more users are flocking to the industry’s most popular cloud storage systems. Those of us vested in cloud storage are witness to this growth as we see both individual users and businesses turning toward cloud storage solutions. From the U.S. Army to Amazon, the value of cloud computing and its many applications is increasing daily.
In this swell of popularity, users need to maintain a critical eye when siding with a preferred cloud storage platform. This is particularly true for businesses, where cloud storage needs differ from office to office. Some businesses are emerging while others have established teams in the hundreds, and a slew of other variables (industry, sensitivity of information, location, etc.) influence what a business seeks in a cloud storage provider. While it might be easiest to pick the most recognizable brand or the cheapest solution, with company success and long-term profits on the line, businesses need to be more intentional about their choices.
All businesses can benefit from working with a cloud storage provider, but selecting the one best fit for your business is like picking out a suitcase. As we consider the trip’s needs – the clothes, the books, the random necessities – we realize that every trip requires a different suitcase. It might be quickest to go with a Louis Vuitton for fashion or a Samsonite for travel, but these are not necessarily the best options.
That’s because, when it comes to packing for a trip, it’s the suitcase’s inside that matters most. It’s the features that are important. Every trip has its particular needs, and travelers must find suitcases that are flexible to these real-time changes. When choosing a cloud storage provider, businesses must consider the same scenario. Ask yourself – Am I choosing a storage provider because of its name, or is it truly the best solution for my business’ unique needs?
As cloud storage solutions move from ‘shoulds and ‘coulds’ to ‘cans’ and ‘wills,’ businesses must be increasingly responsible about where they’re spending their storage dollars. The choices businesses make in regard to cloud storage solutions will have real-world ramifications, both in the present and in the future.
The right solution does not always mean the most popular; the best solution is not necessarily the most established. Rather, businesses can adopt the most successful cloud strategy for them by considering the following features.
Ease of Collaboration
When it comes to storing information on the cloud, business solutions need to be as diverse as the companies that they service. If a cloud storage solution is not finely-tuned to your business’ design, how productive can it truly be? Considering this, my mind jumps to two objectives – collaboration and organization.
- Collaboration: All-in-one business solutions allow users to work on, share and access documents at any time and from anywhere. By housing all of their documents within a shared cloud storage space, businesses help employees streamline their work. Even when a file is forgotten or a team member is out of town, cloud storage solutions make digital collaboration effortless.
Some cloud storage providers have also developed notification systems to further expedite collaboration. For example, when a user edits or uploads a shared document, the relevant employees are notified. Although this is a simple addition, notification features can greatly improve the efficiency of business collaboration. Time equates to money, and this small change can make an invaluable difference.
- Organization: As cloud storage solutions replace traditional organizational systems, businesses should look for providers that mirror internal structures. To address complex business hierarchies, certain providers offer management systems that emphasize routine organization.
Within these systems, businesses can establish digital teams, each of which has access to specific information stored on the cloud. These teams can reflect those within an office, and team leaders can be assigned to increase management productivity. Businesses should also look for management systems that offer insights from easily generated work-reports, which can track and analyze business activity. Similarly, organizational structures should extend beyond internal teams to handle external (client, business partners) interactions with the same level of control.
Strength of Security Features
As businesses enter the market of cloud storage systems, many decision makers question if cloud storage is secure. Considering the recent monsoon of big data breaches, this concern is valid. However, a few bad seeds should not pollute the entire bunch. With the right provider, cloud storage is highly secure option for businesses.
In particular, businesses should take note of how a solution encrypts their files. Many of the most popular storage solutions use end-to-end encryption, which, although common, has flaws – namely that it leaves files unprotected after transfer to the cloud is complete. Businesses should instead look for solutions with engineered client-side encryption.
Why? First, client-side encryption is safer. Through more advanced, asymmetric cryptography, users gain complete control over the encryption process. As all encryption happens on the user side, users are able to select their own encryption keys passphrases. This minimizes the risk of theft by reducing the number of parties with knowledge of privacy information. Second, client-side encryption guarantees zero-knowledge privacy from the storage provider. Here, providers are not involved in the encryption process. As such, they never learn the name, type or contents of a stored file.
Both of these features are perfect for businesses because of the sensitive nature of the files businesses store. From tax documents to employee records, businesses can trust cloud storage solutions with client-side encryption to securely house their files.
In addition to collaboration and security, businesses should look at a cloud storage provider’s extra features as a point of differentiation from competitors. These auxiliary perks are often where a solution can address a business’ most unique needs. They also are why switching from manual storage to digital storage is so advantageous. To start, businesses should learn more about the following features before engaging with a cloud storage provider:
- Storage Space: Cloud storage solutions come in all shapes in sizes, and businesses need to decide how much storage space they require. When doing so, businesses must be particularly critical of how providers advertise their storage space. Some providers tote unlimited cloud storage space, however, this notion of unlimited is often extinguished by the amount of space on a user’s own hard drive.
Regardless of how much space they offer, cloud storage systems have more space than almost all physical filing systems. I’m hard-pressed to think of an office that would have the kind of space that the cloud makes possible.
- File Recovery: Working digitally, businesses have the opportunity to recover lost files. There is nothing more frustrating than a misplaced document, and, recognizing this struggle, certain cloud storage systems allow users to restore files for up to 180 days. When employees collaborate together on a single document, things can go wrong. Choose a cloud storage provider that understands this.
- Support Options: A big perk of switching from manual storage to digital storage is the existence of a cloud storage support team. Call centers can help users troubleshoot issues in real time. Similarly, some providers have developed data filtering techniques that make looking for files simpler. These features exemplify the value of a digital alternative, offering speed and accuracy impossible with manual storage.
No two cloud storage providers are the same. While this means that businesses will have to do a little extra research before choosing, this type of competition actually benefits businesses most. It’s simple economics – as providers compete for purchases, they will continue to improve their solutions. We can already see this happening as big cloud storage players, like Amazon and Microsoft, unveil better and better systems. This means that, in the future, businesses will be able to find cloud storage systems perfectly tailored to their needs.
This prospect is exciting, but, as businesses begin to see the many benefits of adopting a cloud storage solution, we must remember – the right solution does not always mean the most popular; the best solution is not necessarily the most established. With the information made available about today’s cloud storage providers, what’s popular and what’s best is entirely up to you.
Written by Tunio Zafer, CEO of pCloud.
Tunio Zafer is the CEO of cloud storage platform pCloud. As a leader and manager in the cloud storage space, Tunio promotes innovation in areas such as security measures and cost to end users. Tunio encourages forward-thinking throughout his team, working toward making a significant impact on the rapidly growing IT market, for individuals and business alike. You can follow Tunio Zafer on Twitter & Linkedin.