Employees used to have to stay in their offices to get work done, but online data storage is changing that. Saving important files in the cloud gives employees the freedom to work from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Rather than storing files on an in-house server that can only be accessed from inside the office or via a high-cost virtual private network, online data storage services allow businesses of all sizes to store their documents on servers in the cloud. This gives small business owners and their employees the luxury of accessing that information from not only their office computers, but also their home computers and mobile devices.
Small business owners who have made the move to online data storage, or cloud storage, cite numerous benefits from the switch. Karen Swim, president of the public relations and marketing communications firm Words for Hire, said online data storage saves her time.
"Using cloud file storage allows me to effortlessly move between systems and gives me access to my data even when I'm traveling or out of the office," Swim said.
Morag Brand, owner of Morag Brand Professional Virtual Assistance, said her online data storage service gives her peace of mind in knowing that if her computer were to crash, her files would still be safe.
"The online data storage services I use sync files to my computers," Brand said. "However, I'm secure in the knowledge that in the event of disaster, like hard-disk failure, my files will be safe, as they're not stored locally on my computer."
At Internet marketing firm TrafficZoom, online data storage services have provided collaboration benefits, said Chris Herbrand, who's in charge of the company's SEO and Web development.
"Using cloud storage enables authorized individuals to access worksheets, and update and save as work is completed," Herbrand said. "This cuts down the time and frustration of trying to get files from each other, waiting on information, etc."
Online data storage has also saved the company money, he said. "We were surprised to find out that we actually saved money when switching to cloud storage," Herbrand said. "Between the cost of our hard drives and the cost of backups for those hard drives, the cost [of storing files in-house] was higher than we expected."
When searching for an online data storage service, business owners should look for several things, and storage space should be at the top of that list. The best cloud services provide unlimited storage for a flat monthly fee. In addition, business owners should look for a service that offers folder sharing, offline syncing and file versioning, in case they lose the most recent version of a stored file.
Business owners also need a service that can store any type of digital file and provides access to files from any computer or mobile device.
With such a wide variety of online storage services available, choosing one that best fits your needs can be a challenging task. To help, our sister site Business.com conducted in-depth reviews of online storage services. Here are their top three recommendations:
Carbonite was awarded one of the Best Picks on' Best Picks, in part for being one of the few cloud storage providers that offers unlimited storage space for a low cost. For those who back up every single file on their computer, Carbonite is a good option because it can truly store as much data as needed. The service gives users complete control over when and how they back up their files. They can schedule their computer to continuously or incrementally back up their system. Carbonite also saves older versions of uploaded files for 30 days. This secure cloud storage also allows you to share and sync files with other devices and among other Carbonite users. Carbonite only offers annual (not month-to-month) storage plans.
Security: Carbonite takes file security seriously. When files are uploaded, they are protected by a 128-bit encryption and stay encrypted even when they are being stored. The service also allows you to manage your own encryption key. In addition, Carbonite uses redundant storage, so data stays safe and secure.
Mobile access: You can download the Carbonite mobile app for either iOS or Android. This app lets you access files on your phone that have synced from your desktop or laptop computers.
Help and support: For those in need of help, Carbonite posts quite a bit of information online in its FAQs, video tutorials and searchable knowledgebase. In addition, you have the option to submit an email form for support, which will also give you access to telephone and chat support.
IDrive earned high marks from Business.com for being one of the few storage providers that offers a Web-based service, desktop client and mobile application that are equally comprehensive. IDrive is rare in that all three applications can back up, share and sync files. When backing up files, you have the option to make them continuous or incremental. They can also make changes to backed-up files, as this cloud storage service will archive older versions of files for up to 30 days. Users can share files privately or publicly. For those who opt to share files publicly, IDrive automatically creates a public link for them. This Web storage service recently raised its maximum storage limit to 4TB with a yearly subscription. Monthly subscriptions, however, are not available.
Security: Transferred data is protected with 256-bit encryption and is encrypted during storage as well. Upon signup, IDrive gives you the option to make and maintain your own encryption key for added protection. At the IDrive facilities, information is stored in multiple places. The servers are located in climate-controlled rooms with state-of-the-art security and fire-suppression systems.
Mobile access: The IDrive mobile app allows you to back up the content on their phone as well as sync files between your computer and mobile devices. You can also back up all of your contacts to this cloud service, along with your photos, videos and calendar.
Help and support: IDrive offers a large FAQs section. If you need further assistance, you can contact support representatives via telephone, email or live chat.
CrashPlan was this year's featured sponsor on Business.com as a Best Pick for offering unlimited storage space for a low monthly cost, while also keeping files backed up and protected. CrashPlan does not restrict storage in any way and does not limit the size of files that can be uploaded. Once CrashPlan is installed, you can adjust the backup settings so it backs up your hard drive — when and how you want it to. You can also control when your backups occur. Additionally, CrashPlan has a desktop and mobile app, so you can sync files between your devices.
Security: When data is uploaded to the cloud, it is secured with 448-bit encryption, which is among the strongest data encryption available. CrashPlan is one of the few online storage services that not only provides you with an encryption key, but also allows you to create your own encryption keys, to further protect your files.
Mobile access: The CrashPlan mobile app provides mobile access to the files you synced on your desktop or laptop computer. The app is compatible with both Android and iOS mobile devices.
Help and support: To get questions answered, users can contact CrashPlan representatives via phone, email or live chat. For basic help, visit the FAQs section.
Originally published on Business News Daily