Get my business data on the cloud!

Get my business data on the cloud!

Summary: With so many cloud storage services available, a small business should definitely utilize them to store and sync critical files.

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If there's one recent tech service that has been a lifesaver for my small business, it would be cloud storage and syncing. Three years ago I was taking advantage of the bleeding-edge SkyDrive and Mesh from Microsoft and messing around with Dropbox.

Since then Microsoft has retooled and merged SkyDrive with Mesh and Dropbox has become a much bigger player, striking up partnerships and making it easy for third parties to plug into their storage. Apple's iCloud and Google's Drive have both come on the scene and while Apple is lagging, Google is making a strong case for Drive by intertwining it with many of Google's services.

Why should a small business take advantage of cloud storage?

- Cheap (free in many cases) automated backup. SkyDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive all support versioning so even if you accidentally saved over a file, you can retrieve a previous copy of it. It's also helping protect against catastrophic hardware failure. Even if your hard drive fails, you can still get to the critical documents that you've seamlessly stored online.

- Synchronization. Start a document on a computer in the office, finish working on it from your home computer. The file is automatically synchronized across multiple machines and mobile devices.

- Easily share files with people. Need to send a big zip file to someone? Just copy it to your cloud storage, get the file link (which even allows you to set permissions), and send the link to whomever you like. No excuse for sending multi-megabyte e-mail messages anymore. Just send links and let the recipient download the files!

- Collaboration. This is particularly so with Microsoft's SkyDrive and Google's Drive. Using the desktop or Web-based Microsoft Office, you can collaborate with others easily on documents stored on SkyDrive. Google offers similar functionality with Drive and Google Docs. Imagine doing your restaurant's staff schedule on a spreadsheet that everyone can access via their computer and phone.

So which service should you use? Apple's iCloud is still nascent and doesn't seem as robust when it comes to data files, so I would leave this one alone for now--of course it's still great to have contacts, calendars, and photos sync from your iDevices, but its feature offering is weak when compared to the other providers.

Microsoft's SkyDrive is "built in" to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and also offers clients for Android, iOS, and the Mac desktop. If you're on a Windows 8 and Windows Phone environment, then SkyDrive is a winning proposition with how deeply it's integrated into the operating system.

Dropbox has clients for iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Android. It's not quite as powerful for collaboration as SkyDrive and Google Drive are, but its file-syncing speed seems to be the fastest. Their ecosystem-independent character is also attracting many app developers to include "save to Dropbox" options from their mobile apps.

Google Drive--admittedly I haven't used Google Drive as much as the others, but it offers similar features to SkyDrive (and also supports the same clients). It's not as deeply integrated with an operating system as SkyDrive is to Windows, but it does have strong collaboration features.

Why wait? Sign up for one of these services and get your critical data files stored in the cloud!

Topics: Cloud, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Storage, SMBs

About

Howard spent 14 years in the tech industry working as a programmer, evangelist, and community manager for Microsoft. In 2009, he had lived his "dream" of middle-management long enough and opened a Japanese restaurant called Standing Sushi Bar. Trading in stock grants and software licenses for raw fish and cash, he enjoys mixing his passion for technology into the daily hustle of small business.

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6 comments
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  • How about the other side?

    Why don't you do a blog now about the negative side of the cloud? There are a number of points you could make. You could start with the failure yesterday of Google Gmail and Chrome. List the other failures of the last year. Then go on to vendor lock-in, increased bandwidth costs, subjecting your data to hackers and governmental grabbing, etc.

    Have a nice day,

    Doc
    Doc.Savage
    • Yes there are some important negatives about Clouds:

      This is a very interesting article about what Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks will happen with cloud computing:
      http://www.news.com.au/technology/apple-co-founder-steve-wozniak-has-predicted-horrible-problems-with-cloud-computing/story-e6frfro0-1226443447897

      At NuWave Backup we agree with Steve Wozniak's views. Whether or not your backed up data is encrypted with a high enough level of encryption is extremely important. Another fact is that some companies you backup your data to will scan your data, review the contents of it and use that info to advertise and market to you, directly or indirectly. Then there is the fact that some businesses assume the Right's to your data, meaning that they Own your data once you back it up to them and they then can use it however they see fit, as may or may not be notated in their TOS (terms of service agreement).
      sg1efc
    • True

      You bring up a lot of good points about the negative side of the cloud. That would definitely be an interesting topic for the future. I wonder, for small (like really small businesses) whether there is a higher chance of user screw-up resulting in down time compared to the big cloud storage providers. Subjecting your data to hackers would be true of both own local hosting (if it's connected to the internet) as well as cloud storage. Governmental grabbing... very possible... but... does it really matter?
      Howard.Lo
  • Pick your vendors carefully

    Just as Lexus, Chevy, and Yugo are all cars, cloud is a big term. So Gmail was out for a short while yesterday. A disk can croak in your Exchange Server and you might be down longer.

    When a storm knocked out power for a week last summer I could go to my favorite air conditioned bagel shop and connect to the Internet while my own servers were down. On the other hand, I have two clients too far from the central office to get DSL and Comcast doesn't serve one of them and has wires going into the other's building but can't make it work. Cloud services for them are not possible.

    "Everybody" uses Dropbox but most don't know that they're in a class action suit for lax security and their iOS client stores its credentials in the clear or at least it did. That might be OK for your kids' T-ball pictures but maybe not for your marketing plan and customer list. Spideroak, on the other hand, has services where they do not possess encryption keys, only the customer.

    There are wide ranges of security, reliability, redundancy, and other important attributes of cloud services. Analyze the Internet connectivity in and out of your office(s), select services that meet your various needs, and compare with operating your own. The cloud wins some and your own equipment wins some.
    AES2
  • Nice job

    I think the author was a bit harsh on Apple as their direction does not plan on adding to iCloud the ability to save files like SkyDrive, DropBox, Google Drive. Throwing them into the article just confuses readers into thinking that they should have this feature when their syncing information between their devices is all that is needed. There are too many alternatives like DropBox already that Apple does not really need to have their version, remember iDisk??
    TimeForAChangeToBetter
  • "get your critical data files stored in the cloud!"

    Hi Howard!

    Thanks for your great article. I really like the fact that you motivate people to take the step to the Cloud! However "your critical data files stored in the cloud!" scares me a bit for businesses..
    Id rather advice Businesses to store your (critical) data on a private manageable cloud solution. We use vBoxxCloud at our company but I bet there are similar solutions out there. You can either get a dedicated dropbox-like server or just purchase licenses so you can install it on your own server, local or in the cloud.
    I absolutely agree on the importance of this software for businesses. But I just wanted to add that you can have this technology for yourself instead of depending on Microsoft or google etc.
    Pieter_frolijk