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Grow Your Business Technology

Online Data Storage: Is It Right for Your Business?

Online Data Storage: Is It Right for Your Business?
There are several factors to consider when deciding if online data storage is right for your business. / Credit: Cloud Storage image via Shutterstock

As the volume of electronic documents mounts for most businesses, they increasingly face the question of where to store it all.

While businesses were previously forced to store their digital files on their own computers and in-house servers, many companies now find benefits in moving their documents to online storage providers. Pete Lamson, the senior vice president of sales and marketing for online data storage provider Carbonite, said cloud storage allows small businesses to save their data offsite in a secure location.

"Online data storage and backup solutions are ideal for small businesses because they require a low investment (no equipment to buy), protect the business against disaster, allow employees to access data remotely and are scalable — all at a low cost," Lamson told Business News Daily. "In recent years, the lowering cost of storage has allowed small businesses to take advantage of technology that was previously only available to large enterprises."

While many would argue that all businesses are good fits for some type of online data storage, there are several things to consider before transferring your files over. Here are six factors to evaluate to determine if your business is right for cloud storage.

[For a side-by-side comparison of the best online data storage services, visit our sister site Business.com.]

Infrastructure: Storing your business data in the cloud keeps it safe and accessible, but you can't get that data to the cloud without a reliable Internet connection, Lamson said. He advises businesses considering online data storage services to look into the speed of their Internet connection, whether their Internet service provider throttles upload speeds, as many do, and if their Internet service provider put data caps on their account.

Regulatory requirements: Gytis Barzdukas, senior director of product management for Mozy by EMC, said some types of data must meet specific storage criteria to comply with industry regulations. For example, health care data is heavily regulated under HIPAA privacy requirements. "Many large cloud providers will have shaped their services specifically to meet these regulations, but it's critical to make sure that you're storing your data appropriately," Barzdukas said.

Type of data: Rene Oldenbeuving, general manager of cloud business at Acronis, said every business has some data that would be a good fit for online storage. The key is to identify which type of data would be ideal. He said there are three main types of data: operation, nearline, and backup and archives. While operational data should be stored close to a company's servers for the lowest delay in response time, nearline and backup data are both good choices for online data storage, Oldenbeuving said.  "Nearline data is the ordinary files, emails [and] documentation that does not require extremely low latency storage," he said. "It is a good candidate for an online storage facility if the price is right." He added that businesses should also consider their backup and archival data for cloud storage. "This type of data is also a good candidate for online storage as well, but high reliability and low cost is a major driver in where to store it."

Cost: While the cost of storage continues to decrease, online data storage will be an additional line item in a business' budget, Lamson said. So businesses need to factor that in when deciding whether or not to make the move to the cloud. However, while online storage may be an added cost, businesses need to think of it as an insurance policy for their companies, he said. "It will be worth it if something ever happens to your business," Lamson said.

Amount of data: If you have very large data files that you need to upload to the cloud, it can take a long time, Barzdukas said. "So if you're, for example, editing terabytes of 3D video every day, cloud storage might not be the best choice," he said. "However, many businesses that operate with very large files find that, while they need to invest in high-volume solutions for those specific files, they can still take advantage of the convenience and value offered by cloud services for the rest of their business files."

Disaster plan: When considering if cloud storage is right for your business, you need to determine if it will play a role in your disaster recovery preparations, Lamson said. "If your business burned down or a flood hit your office, how would you recover your data?" Lamson asked. "Online data storage and backup is an important component to a disaster preparedness plan, so think about how it will fit into the plan for your business."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.