Cloud storage is one of the best ways to keep your business's important data safe and accessible.
More and more small and midsize businesses are turning to cloud storage services to keep files and documents backed up and available from any Internet-connected device — even when those files contain sensitive company and client data.
Adopting a cloud storage platform will keep your files at your fingertips, but choosing one can be tricky. A dizzying array of cloud computing services have emerged, each with a unique feature set.
When choosing a cloud service, it's important for each business to consider its individual needs. Instead of looking at the best overall cloud storage solutions, we've compiled a list of seven important features to look for in your next cloud storage service.
1. File versioning
With a service that supports file versioning, you can edit worry-free.
Services with this feature don't overwrite your old files when you make changes. Instead, they save multiple versions of your files so you can retrieve the old copies later.
That could be a lifesaver for business users who need to retrieve important data that have been overwritten.
The vast majority of cloud computing services support file versioning in some form, but some will only maintain a limited number of versions, or even delete old versions after a set period of time.
Even if a file is deleted, most services allow you to retrieve it. Check to see how long the service saves deleted files before they're wiped forever.
2. Automatic sync
Automatic syncing capabilities are a must for business users who depend on the cloud. Services with this feature will update your files to reflect any edits you make in real time.
Not all services with syncing functionality will do it automatically. That could be a major problem if you forget to sync your files before your next business trip.
With automatic syncing, you can rest easy knowing that your data are always up-to-date. The best cloud storage services also allow users to schedule permanent backups to an external drive to occur at specified time intervals.
3. Collaboration tools
When you need to share and edit files with an employee or other member of your business team, you'll want top-notch tools.
Collaboration features vary by service. The best services allow users to share files with an authorized user on any device in multiple ways, including via direct link and email.
The best services also keep your shared data secure, with nuanced password protection that can be enabled at the folder and sub-folder levels.
Before picking a service, make sure it has features to fit the workflow of your team.
4. View and edit files from the cloud
This is the bread and butter of a business-ready cloud computing platform. Transferring important files from device to device is a time-consuming hassle; business owners need to access their files at a moment's notice, wherever they are.
The vast majority of cloud computing services allow users to view and edit files from the cloud on any computer, smartphone, tablet or other Internet-connected device. That means you can make quick edits on the fly, and have your edits synced across all your devices.
But make sure to double-check before you subscribe. Some services, like the music- and media-focused Amazon Cloud Drive, require you to download a file to your hard drive to make edits and then reupload it to the cloud once you're finished.
When you're working on the go, that shortcoming could seriously hamper your productivity.
5. Security and file encryption
Security is a top concern when you take your business to the cloud. Your company's private data could be compromised if the service you use lacks the right features.
Make sure your service encrypts your data at least once before it ever leaves your servers. The best services also allow you to pick your own encryption key so that not even that company's employees can view your files.
You should also have the ability to protect your files with a password, particularly when accessing them from a mobile device, as well as the capability to set different levels of access for different employees.
Top-notch security features will let you relax when sending private information about your clients to the cloud.
6. Flexible storage capacity at an affordable price
Your storage needs are unique to your business. Small business owners are most likely looking for a cloud storage platform that can accommodate data from five to 10 employees, with ample space at a reasonable price.
Some storage platforms offer a limited amount of data for a cheap price and get progressively more expensive as they scale up; others start off at a more expensive rate but offer bigger storage plans at a lower rate.
The price for 1TB of storage can vary from as little as $250 up to thousands of dollars per year, depending on which features you need. And only some services offer plans with unlimited data storage, though your small business may have more modest needs.
Still, the best cloud storage solutions may be the ones that can grow alongside your business. You may be starting off with just a handful of employees, but consider picking a service that can accommodate your company well into the future.
7. Reliable tech support
When it comes to your business's daily operations, technical difficulties are no joke. If you or your employees can't access important files when they're needed, it could seriously cost you.
Help and technical support services vary from service to service. The best services respond promptly and have someone available to help you 24/7.
In addition to email and phone support, some services also offer live text chat to help you troubleshoot. Take a few minutes to review your options before choosing a cloud storage solution.