Cloud Storage Perfect Tool For Lives On the Go
Sometimes I feel like I’m always on the go. Getting the kids on the bus, getting to work, driving to a client’s office – there are many days I don’t even stop for lunch. I’m not complaining, I love being busy and accomplishing my tasks. But in order to be effective you have to have the right people, the right support and the right tools. For me, access to information has to extend beyond the office doors. Whether its email, documents or images, having the ability to get to my stuff – wherever that is – allows me to be more productive on the go. Using a cloud storage solution, I can easily accomplish this.
Of the many categories of cloud services I use for business and at home, cloud storage is a favorite. Using my internet connection, cloud storage lets me save documents, pictures, music and many other files to a private location that’s accessible anywhere. With most cloud storage offerings, your device or computer “syncs” with the cloud. This means you can still access the documents even without being connected to the internet. When you do get connected, any changes you’ve made are synchronized back to the cloud (or vice versa). Businesses can find this useful for sharing files among staff, in the office as well as out. It’s particularly useful when staff are geographically dispersed, or travel a lot. Some cloud storage services offer versioning (so when you change a file, you can undo those changes if needed). Backup of your files is automated, so no need for a separate solution to manage that. The sheer simplicity saves a lot of time.
I keep a running shopping list on my computer, since I remember that I need milk when I’m in the middle of a project at work. I can bring up my shipping list, add items to it, then save it to the cloud. When I get to the store, I can open this list up on my phone and see all the items I added.
Choosing the Right Cloud Storage Solution
Not all cloud storage products are the same. Selecting the right product, particularly for a business, requires careful thought and planning. Compliance with regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA or PCI, can dictate what products can be used. Once you make a decision, it can be difficult to change vendors. Migrating (moving) your files to another provider can be cumbersome.
Most cloud storage providers offer free trials, or a small amount of storage with limited features for free. This gives you a chance to test drive the product, and see how it works for you. When you find yourself needing additional features, or added storage capacity, you can upgrade your subscription to unlock them.
OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud storage product comes with 15GB (fifteen gigabytes) of free storage space. That’s enough for 3500 MP3’s, or 5000 pictures. Need more space? For $9.99, you can get 1TB (one terabyte) of cloud storage, enough for over 200,000 MP3’s, or 333,000 photos. The paid version also includes Office 365, which gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office applications. With both Office 365 and Windows 8.1, OneDrive is tightly integrated. Saving documents and accessing them from any computer is seamlessly automated. From your Apple, Android or Windows mobile device, you can easily access your files as well.
ECHOshare – a relative newcomer to the foray, ECHOshare is built for business. Starting at 1TB and 3 users, small workgroups can take advantage of features that are usually reserved for large enterprises – and add more users as they grow. Business friendly additions such as setting user permissions, public file sharing, company branding, and reporting capabilities make ECHOshare a real contender. Mobile apps are available for Android, Apple and Windows. And at $9.95 a month per user, it’s priced to compete.
Google Drive – Google also provides 15GB of storage for free, with a paid version offering 1TB for $9.99 a month. Google Drive also comes with its own document editing software, similar to Microsoft Office (although unlike Office 365, its offline editing capabilities are weak). Google Drive also offers a mobile app, so accessing files from your Android, iPhone or iPad devices is a snap.
iCloud – Apples offering to cloud storage is integrated with their devices. iPhones, iPads and Mac’s all have iCloud access built in. Starting at 5GB, the free version doesn’t offer a lot of storage. The paid version offers 1TB for $19.95 a month. If you want to use it on Windows, though, you’re out of luck. It’s only supported on a Mac. Also, you better have an iPhone. Android is not supported, either. This takes it out of the running for most business users, since syncing with a desktop is usually desired.
Dropbox – one of the oldest cloud storage solutions out there, Dropbox.com has an impressive following. With 2GB of storage, it has the lowest starting capacity. But for 9.99 a month, you can have 1TB in your hands. In addition to a desktop client, Dropbox offers mobile apps for Apple, Android, and even Kindle.
Keeping Secure in the Cloud
While cloud storage has some very valuable features, security is of concern for many folks. After all, if YOU can access it anywhere, can’t someone else? Most cloud storage providers offer standard security features to help protect your data. For one, your information is encrypted (protected) during transmission over the internet. Like listening to a phone call on a shared phone line, it’s possible a hacker could try to intercept your data while it’s transferred from your computer to the provider. However, it would be unreadable and of no good, due to the encryption that takes place. Second, the stored data is encrypted at the cloud storage provider. So even if a thief was able to break in, they couldn’t see the information you have stored. However, take care to use good passwords – and routinely change them. If you use a mobile device, make sure you set a PIN or password to protect that as well.