What is cloud storage?
Like many business software (SaaS) solutions that run primarily in the cloud, business storage applications are constantly adapting to the changing needs of business users. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), cloud storage solutions are ideal for meeting remote worker needs, allocating office space, and managing secure backups of important files in remote locations.
While it’s easier than ever to set up cloud storage and file sharing solutions, the move to a variety of services and solutions can be staggering. An important consideration for any business cloud storage solution is that it must be accessible, traceable, and secure.
In addition to signing up for a service, companies and their managers need to know where in the cloud they store their data and where. This can be daunting, especially as many solutions rely on Value-Added Vendors (VARs) or integrators to build their cloud storage solutions.
Today’s business cloud storage solutions manage several core layers or storage codes that can be managed or combined with other solutions to create a function-oriented platform that integrates cloud storage and shares functionality with office and performance solutions.
SMBs are finding new and creative ways to expand the use of their cloud storage solutions. Some can use it as a document management system while others take advantage of collaboration and file-sharing functions.
In this review, we look at a variety of solutions that range from established data storage providers to innovative challenges such as Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage. Wasabi is a new enterprise-grade bit storage provider that is compatible with and comparable to Amazon’s S3 Business Cloud storage solution.
These tools are designed to move, host, and manage large amounts of data in the cloud in performance-based packages such as Microsoft OneDrive for Business. They are Egnyte Business Editor’s Choice winners and offer an attractive value proposition for businesses looking for a wider range of data functionality with less focus on large storage capacities. Today, more than ever, business cloud storage services and solutions depend on companies of all sizes.
According to GlobalWorkPlaceAnalytics.com, at least 50 percent of the US workforce is set up for remote work. This means that opportunities are ripe for cloud storage services to facilitate remote backups, collaboration, document version control, and secure storage.
Businesses shopping for cloud storage solutions will have varying needs and they might gravitate towards solutions that are already compatible with their office systems of choice (i.e., Google shops will choose Google Drive while Microsoft Office 365 outfits will select OneDrive).
The Open Cloud Benefits Interoperability
The good news is that, because today’s cloud storage solutions are also increasingly available as standalone products, they have been made for easy integration into any existing system. It is now easier to mix and match cloud storage solutions with existing productivity and document management systems.
Cloud companies see the value of interoperability and seem open to taking smaller pieces of a customer’s business than losing it altogether by forcing user lock-in.
For startups and SMBs looking to create new or upgraded cloud storage and file-sharing solutions, they have the option of choosing a cloud storage provider and then adding on various integrations and products or, conversely, building a cloud storage solution strategy based on the products that they already use.
The challenge for CIOs and IT managers is that they now have a wider range of solutions to pick and choose from, which will require deeper investigation to determine what mix of solutions best fit their business needs, not just in the present but also in the future.
Storage and Sharing
Storage space is now more affordable than ever with prices going down each year. In terms of capacity, most cloud storage providers offer a generous amount of storage and in various tiers. Multiple terabytes (TB) are commonplace and no longer a big differentiator between services, especially now that adding storage capacity is easy and cheap.
Competition in cloud storage services for business is pivoting towards value-added features including no additional charges for egress, and application programming interface (API) requests will be an attractive perk given similar storage costs and capacities.
Anything that can differentiate a service’s offerings and improve the customer experience while lowering monthly fees will catch business user’s attention, provided their basic needs for space and performance are met.
Some providers have their data centers while others outsource their storage to another third-party cloud, often Amazon Web Services (AWS) or a similar Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) player. That’s an important point to consider:
Are you signing a service-level agreement (SLA) with a cloud provider that’s directly responsible for the infrastructure or is the provider beholden to another party? If it’s a third party, make sure to investigate that firm and examine its track record. Then, look at the levels of service it offers.
While all of the major offerings have some level of uptime guarantee, it is worth noting that location is an important factor. How many data centers does the third party have? And is your data distributed among them for better reliability or does that come at an additional cost?
Sharing data functionality should involve a sync client or desktop-based software that resides in each PC or client and ensures that data in the cloud is synced with local replicas.
But it can also have other points of access. Cloud storage companies usually default to their web clients, which can be accessed on any desktop or mobile browser.
There are outstanding examples of desktop cloud backup clients. Livedrive for Business has a super-proactive desktop client that initiates backups of the client’s PC as soon as it is installed and it’s very intuitive to use.
Sharing data can also have other points of access. For instance, Microsoft OneDrive for Business syncs with the Team sites that are part of the popular Microsoft SharePoint at Microsoft 365 Business collaboration platform, while Box (for Business) offers a fully functional web client with drag-and-drop support.
Shared data can be stored in folders originated by individuals or in team folders that are created by team leads or administrators (and are accessible to anyone on the team).
Some versions of team folders should be considered a necessary component of any business-grade cloud storage app. By creating central points of collaboration that don’t originate from any one user, it becomes easier to grant and revoke access as well as pass on ownership when an individual leaves the organization or changes divisions.
Several solutions go above and beyond the call of duty and incorporate tight integration with popular office products such as Microsoft Office 365. Even Microsoft rival Google has built Google Drive Enterprise to incorporate smooth collaboration functionality for Microsoft Office 365.
Users can, in many cases, view and edit the same document at the same time. While there isn’t a perfect solution yet, situations where the last user always wins may go away shortly.
The Challenge of Security
Keeping data safe is a bigger challenge today than it’s ever been. What was once considered “advanced” data safety features, such as enterprise-grade identity management, redundant storage layers, and encryption both at rest and in transit, are no longer optional? Many SMBs now expect a deeper focus on security from the providers they use.
This means there are now basic requirements for you to even consider spending money on a service.
Fortunately, cloud storage providers seem to agree, which is evidenced by commonly available features and the fact that most IT professionals trust cloud security as much or more than what’s available on-premises (64 percent according to a 2015 survey by the Cloud Security Alliance). The logic is fairly simple.
Most IT professionals simply don’t have the budget to research, deploy, and manage the advanced security capabilities that cloud service vendors can provide because it’s key to their primary business.
That’s bolstered security in the cloud significantly over the past couple of years, which has had the pleasant side effect of letting many cloud services successfully comply with standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and ISO 27001.
Livedrive for Business is a unique offering in the sense that it’s built around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and has its servers located in the UK and EU.
In case you’re wondering, some of the top benefits you should find available in a business-class cloud storage solution were surveyed by market research firm Statista in 2019 and reported below.
However, security features that are often overlooked ensure that the information can be verified. This is especially important for meeting company obligations, especially in more regulated or security-compliant industries. Losing mission-critical files by mistake or error can often cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in repair or loss of capital.
Document retention is often required by law. In a highly regulated industry, the availability of the right information can often be the difference between complying or not complying with federal or industry regulations.
All of this means that before you purchase a cloud service, you need to discuss with your IT staff and compliance professionals to determine exactly where your data and applications need to be to comply with the compliance rules that are important to you. meet company.
Personal mobile devices, especially when used in Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) scenarios, add new challenges to controlling the flow of sensitive documents and information.
Capabilities such as remote wipe or digital rights management can go a long way in limiting how far information can spread outside of the organization, especially when these devices are lost or compromised. Some products offer these features out of the box while others use third-party offerings to close this gap, such as Microsoft Windows Intune at Microsoft Azure
Dropbox Business now adds the ability to remote-wipe Dropbox folders from a team member’s lost or stolen device. This ensures sensitive company information remains safe and that files and folders are deleted the next time a computer or mobile device goes online.
This sort of granular control would have required a fair amount of preparation by systems administrators a few years ago but is now a feature more business expects to find in their cloud service solutions of choice.
Controlling permissions varies from product to product. Some solutions offer a highly granular hierarchy of permissions. In addition to the ability to define job roles and assign access based on that, multiple nested groups can be established. Adding or removing permissions is an easy affair once they’re properly defined. Other products opt for a more simplified approach.
It’s a daunting task for a user to keep up with the litany of passwords required across all apps without reducing security in some way. Single Sign-On (SSO) solves some of this by having one secure password, such as the one used for a Windows Azure Active Directory at Microsoft Azure or Google account.
Some solutions offer this capability as a first-class citizen while others have partnerships with third-party products. Either way, from a small business perspective, this is an important feature since password management is often given low priority when compared to getting business done.
Locking data away doesn’t end with just passwords, either. In addition to having something you know, it’s better to pair it with something you have.
Two-factor or even multifactor authentication(MFA) is becoming a more commonplace option and cloud storage companies are getting on board. Mobile phones, or specially prepared USB fobs, are typically the default option as the secondary authentication source. But other forms of tokens exist, including smart cards and biometrics.
Almost as important as keeping information safe is making information accessible across the diverse landscape of devices that users bring to the mix.
The primary candidates are the typical: Microsoft Windows, Linux, and a variety of Android flavors as well as iOS and OS X. For any platform to be effective in today’s business landscape, web access is a must. In some cases, an authorized device is not always available.
Being able to grab a quick document for a meeting or push a business-critical document from a remote computer can be a lifesaver for an ever-increasing distributed workforce—a lifesaver that users expect to be available to them.
Mobile compatibility has gained a place in the ecosystem of business. This especially applies to road warriors who frequently work in planes, cars, and subways. Space is often at a premium, and the ability to prepare for a meeting or analyze a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on the go is a necessity.
Having a cloud storage solution that can provide these capabilities to users via a software client optimized for their particular operating system (OS), be it Android, iOS, even Windows Phone, is a feature you should look for in a competitive service offering. For example, Dropbox Business recently added some new mobile features on iOS that let users see file activity and team feedback in file preview.
Integration and APIs
One of the advantages of having information in the cloud is that it can be part of a larger ecosystem of connected apps. This capability lets businesses create custom workflows and business processes, often without having to hire contract programmers.
For example, it’s not unusual or difficult to configure your employees’ note-taking apps to automatically drive input to task-tracking apps. That way, decisions made in meetings are automatically reflected in your project management toolkit. Those apps might, in turn, drive a need to store reference material.
Integration-oriented APIs help reduce the barrier to making apps work together, especially when your IT staff has some development talent. While many of the most popular cloud storage solutions, such as Dropbox Business and Box (for Business), offer a rich set of integration options. Some others, such as Jungle Disk, opt to primarily focus on the storage aspect. So, before buying, consider exactly how you want these solutions to fit into your business and what it will take to make that happen.
Choosing a cloud storage product for your business can be a daunting task the first time you look at all the variables in it. Different companies not only have different cloud storage and file sharing requirements but also have strong security for backing up and sharing files.
Striking a balance between usability, security, and customization must ultimately depend on the needs of the business. But understanding exactly what those requirements are is a serious task that requires real work. is not something you want to fix quickly. Planning is key. So sit down with business customers, IT managers, and even representatives of the cloud providers concerned. With all the features and benefits for today’s and future business needs, it’s easier than ever to determine the best solution for cloud storage and file sharing.