By Johnny Bevers
Written by: Gilbert Baca, New Braunfels, TX; Tex.Org Contributor
Cloud computing companies exist throughout the world, literally and figuratively. Many are public computer network companies that you see every day. Publicly traded companies like Google and Microsoft are some of the largest providers of cloud storage in the world. Cloud storage services as they exist today have been a dream for a long time. Cloud storage is no longer just about data storage, it is quickly evolving into services based computing for the masses. What is cloud storage and why or how can it benefit my small business? If you have been shopping online, comparing results and reviewing products you are interfacing with the cloud. You don’t have to understand the network world, networking, pingback, or know what Networkworld and CIO Review is to benefit from the magical cloud. Every time you go online whether researching stocks, looking for a Dell, reading the latest news on IBM and Intel, you are interfacing with the cloud.
Cloud storage is still relatively new to the computer networking industry and similar in function. As all things related to the tech industry, it evolves very quickly. Cloud storage is about 10 years old in practice but the idea is much older. It is now one of the best solutions for large businesses, small businesses and personal data storage. Cloud storage is quickly evolving to incorporate mobile devices such as iPads, Android OS devices and cellular devices like smart phones.
In reality, every bit of traffic travels through the cloud. The cloud is a reference to that place out in the computer networking netherworld that we simply can’t define. Ever evolving this internet cloud is a great mystery. Fortunately, we don’t have to know about the cloud, or how it works, we just need to know that it does. It gets us connected to the people we need via that screen, keyboard and mouse on our desktop. It’s magical and amazing that it works at all.
For larger enterprise businesses cloud storage is actually done internally within the company by an Information Technology (IT) department. For smaller businesses that do not have the resources to afford an IT department, cloud storage is a great alternative. It greatly reduces a small businesses total cost of ownership of technology while creating a valuable business asset for a low price. Cloud storage allows the little guy to harness the technical capabilities of a large storage company in managing its data. Either way, all listed are free to try, very intuitive and a breeze to use. Using online cloud storage crosses platforms and devices. You can easily use them with Windows, Mac’s, desktops, laptops, iPads and all manner of personal devices. A plumber can take an image of a job with his smart phone and send it to a supplier when looking for a part using cloud storage as the middle man. The reviews are in and cloud storage is not only a promising solution but worth its weight in gold. The market is demanding more cloud storage each year; reviews are great for most storage providers. Every year there are more cloud storage providers to choose from and they offer ever increasing options. Since they are free to try, you can review and compare the cloud storage companies and pick the company that best suits your needs.
Data security is a concern given the news stories and related reviews about top 100 companies being hacked and consumer data stolen. Forbes magazine has an excellent article on worst fears of cloud data security. This article maps concerns about online cloud software and provides valuable feedback on data security issue. It lists several concerns that businesses have as well as consumers regarding online security.
More information on data security and can be found on Youtube videos which are available to watch at your convenience. Many books are written about the subject and available if you have the time to read. If you don’t mind looking at a few ads, you can find all the information you need on the internet regarding cloud computing, cloud storage and data security.
As previously mentioned several of the cloud storage companies that a small business can try are free to use. Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive are free to use. They offer a variety of features and services to the public at no dollar cost although you will have to give up some private information. Amazon provides a cloud service for its customers who purchase books, videos, magazines, and a list of other services. Apple of course does the same thing with iCloud and products it sells. Most of Apples products are made available to users via iTunes software.
Let’s start with Box. Box is a 2 Billion dollar business with a great product, definitely a company to watch on the stock market. Aptly named as it is a “box” for all your files from the images you take with your smart phone to sheets of paper you scanned into a file document. Box makes file uploading, sharing and archiving so easy. Works across the various web browser and operating system platforms as well as hardware platforms like iPhones and Android devices. Transferring large files with all the cloud storage is the biggest advantage given the limitations of file sizes when transferring via email. This tool makes it easy to collaborate with friends, co-workers, employees, suppliers, and customers. Sharing with others is as simply as sending an email with a link.
The recipient doesn’t have to install Box to receive the documents. Just click the link, download the files and review. Like other cloud storage options, Box gives you the opportunity to set what recipients can do with the document files they look at. Do you want a group of people to be able to modify the documents in your Box account? Set up is a breeze. See pricing and features below.
Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are two major players in cloud computing offering cloud storage not moored to any particular shopping service like Amazon or Apple. They offer the same services as Box with competing price points. Google and Microsoft are multiple and are well established in the industry making them very capable of matching functionality as well as price of any cloud storage competitor.
Google offers 15 GB of free storage for personal use which is excellent for a small business that needs the additional space and the ability to collaborate with everyone important to your business. Googles cloud storage pricing is of course available on the cloud at the link below.
As you can see Google’s pricing is very competitive. Their pricing is elastic as well and will go up and down like a utility bill depending on your usage. Check back for updated pricing on Google’s cloud storage as well as the other suppliers of cloud service.
MICROSOFT ONE DRIVE
Microsoft One Drive is formerly known as SkyDrive is Microsoft’s offering to the cloud storage world. As you can see by the chart above, Microsoft has a comparable offering except for the Max File Upload size. This is a project in the works but as of March 2014, OneDrive offers 2 GB max file upload. That’ll probably change as the pressure from competition will drive that 2 GB’s up.
Apple iCloud offers the most expensive pricing in the group which is par for the course. But they do have a great file size upload and a suite of hardware like the iPhone and iPad that are fully functional and easy to use. Paying the premium for Apple users is not a problem as Apple delivers seamless integration within Apple hardware. It has great collaborative tools but to use fully you have to be under the Apple umbrella in terms of hardware and software.
Drop box is a great multifunction tool that is free to use as well for small businesses. In addition, Drop Box offers a pay per user service where your small business can pay per user per month. As the pricing goes up so does the amount of storage available and the maximum file upload. It has great collaborative tools and for a medium to large enterprise would be a great option. It allows for drag and drop sharing of files by dropping files on your desktop icon.
All of these services are quickly moving towards universal interchangeable usage. Where Apple will interface seamlessly with Microsoft and Google. With the power that is now at your fingertips in the form of portable devices like iPads, iPhones, Android and Microsoft operating system in hand held devices, our world will experience yet another gain in productivity as people are no longer moored to a desk. The personal device will take computing to another level and cloud storage will be the nexus of that productivity gain. Cloud storage will be the glue that binds it all together. By moving data to centralized repositories not only is the data more secure but also available to whomever you desire anywhere in the globe. The inherent power in that capability will vault the globe into a new era of information sharing. A new era where the uses for cloud stored data are just beginning to be realized.