Cloud storage is more than just a place to dump your business 's data. Of course, this is another drive letter where users can share files, but with a managed cloud service behind them, these platforms can offer several other types of capacity that static local storage simply cannot. . These include things like one-click elastic capacity, online editing with multi-user versioning, and tighter security. They can also integrate with the rest of your application portfolio to enterprise backup providers .
If your employees are still working from home due to the pandemic, and especially if it may become permanent for them, a storage resource in the cloud is a basic component for any type of online collaboration space. You'll need it not only for storing and organizing your data, but also for handling basic collaboration needs, especially data protection and granular permissions. Integration means even if the main work is done in another application, such as Salesforce or Slack , all of these benefits still apply.
Unfortunately, this same breadth of capabilities can also present challenges. The large number of features that vendors offer to compete and differentiate can make it difficult to determine what is right for your business. However, he exThere are some key considerations that no business should ignore. For example, any enterprise cloud storage solution must be accessible, traceable and secure. This means anywhere access via the cloud, a log of who accessed what and when, and a service that protects data with access control, back-up and encryption.
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At the IT level, administrators need to know which cloud hosts their data has and where those data centers are located. This can be disheartening not only because some vendors are reluctant to share this information, but also because many solutions rely on value-added resellers (VARs) to produce their storage resources in the cloud. This creates a background quagmire where it can be difficult to determine where the bits are actually stored. We will discuss all of these issues in more detail below.
Innovating with cloud storage
The good side of it all -The growing list of functionstionality is that smart organizations can find new and creative ways to use their storage infrastructure. Cloud storage means you can modify a service to act lightly document management system or even a workflow manager controlling the flow of data through a chain of users . Or you can focus on collaboration and file sharing features so that employees can edit the same files in a team space while protecting their work with version control.
This kind of personalization is more important than ever. According to a recent survey from GlobalWorkPlaceAnalytics.com , at least 50 percent of the US workforce is now configured for remote work. Employees who move away from a central office working model can dramatically change the way work is done. Your business's data storage and retrieval needs to scale, and no other storage method can handle these changes as easily as a cloud service.
The catch is that effective personalization requires planning, especially when that personalization involves large workflows. Just because a storage provider has a long list of features doesn't mean you'll automatically take advantage of them. Knowing which features will work best and in what combination is a planning that only you, your staff can do.formatic and your front-line sales managers can do.
Focus your planning efforts only on the key workflows at the start and start small. Pay attention to basic capabilities, especially reliable accessibility, efficient backups, secure storage, and user and group management. Once you know how you want it all to work when your employees are so widely distributed, you can expand into automated workflows, collaboration, and third-party application integrations. Sometimes core application integrations need to be considered earlier, for example, if your business has standardized on a particular productivity platform. (i.e. Google stores will choose Google Drive while Microsoft 365 businesses will likely choose OneDrive).
The cloud facilitates interoperability
If you don't have an obvious integration target like Google Workspace , the good news is that the cloud has enabled different providers to talk to each other more easily thanks to open standards. days, you can combine cloud storage solutions with a long list of current productivity and document management systems. If you have to go so far as to do custom coding, most vendors offer REST APIs that your developers can use to both exchange data and call functions between different application services. If all you need is better automation, services like IFTTT or Zapier can simplify the setup of an automated workflow by clicking your mouse.
Cloud companies also see the value of interoperability and seek to meet it across high-value customer categories and verticals. You can find these integrations not only through the cloud storage provider, but also through the app provider. Vendors like Microsoft and Salesforce, for example, have huge partner ecosystems with extensive catalogs of targeted service offerings. These offers are developed by the partner using a primary Microsoft or Salesforce app service, such as Microsoft 365 or Salesforce Sales Cloud. They cThen build an integration between that service and one or more third-party cloud services that provide new functionality or custom workflows for a specific type of customer.
So, for example, provider X can create an endpoint. end-to-end lease management solution for large city property management companies. This solution can use Salesforce to manage the mapping of properties to potential tenants, and then match tenants to rental models. Once these leases are terminated for a tenant, they could be transferred to a service that has been pre-tweaked for the rental organization, such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Sometimes you will need to open your own account with the storage provider to operate the value-added partner's system, sometimes it will be part of the package.
So if you are looking to user a cloud storage service in a very special way, certainly do the planning necessary to understand exactly what kind of custom adjustments and workflows you will need. But once that is done, don't assume that you will need to build all of this yourself. Instead, start by looking at the integration and value-added application marketplaces available from your major application vendors, as well as those offered by the storage service. Someone might have already created the perfect end-to-end solution for you, and it's definitely cheaper and easier than rolling your own.
Storage and sharing
One of the reasons for the trend of new value-added features is that storage capacity is largely a problem the cloud. Many buyers start by focusing primarily on the capstorage acity from a vendor and how much they'll get for how many dollars. It's certainly still something to consider, but overall storage space is now more affordable than ever with prices slowly trending down. In terms of capacity, most cloud storage providers offer generous amount of storage and at different levels. Several terabytes (TB) are commonplace and are no longer a big differentiator between services, especially now that adding storage capacity is easy and cheap.
If you suddenly need 100 GB of extra space for a quick project, most cloud storage providers make it easy to add that capacity by clicking some option buttons . This will not only give you the new space but also automatically the subion fee accordingly. Even better,once the project is done and you don 't need that 100 GB anymore, you can go down both capacity and price just as easily. This kind of elastic capacity is easy for a cloud storage provider and nearly impossible for an on-premises resource.
Of course, all of this freedom can make things difficult again, especially in a large company. If storage capacity and subion prices go up because people are constantly changing their needs, it can wreak havoc with a long-term budget. make sure you configure controls around who to adjust capacity (your IT should be key here), how new capacity should be reported, what are minimum security and authorization requirements, backup policies enforce how often to occur. in a given time frame (quarterly, annually, etc.).
Do ittour of the details
All of this gives a very positive image when it comes to designing your own personalized and highly distributed storage service. And while this is true, there are still several demons hidden in the details. The most important thing is knowing exactly where your data actually resides. Some vendors have their own data centers while others outsource their storage to another third party cloud, often Amazon Web Services (AWS) or similar Infrastructure player as a service (IaaS ).
This is an important point to take into account: are you signing a service level agreement (SLA) with a cloud provider directly responsible for the infrastructureture or is the supplier indebted to another party? If it is a third party, be sure to investigate that company and look at their track record. Then look at the levels of service it offers. While all major players have some level of uptime guarantee, it should be noted that location is an important factor.
How many data centers does the third party have? How many are local and how many are potentially in a completely different location? If you are an American business, it is unwise to purchase a storage resource whose servers are hosted only in Europe. Finally, is your data distributed among them for better reliability? You should be able to not only easily determine these responses from a target provider, but also designate where you want to store your data in order to optimize your storage for access speed andRedundancy.
How your employees will access their files is not only critical, it can also vary widely from vendor to vendor. The data sharing functionality should involve a sync client or other type of desktop software that resides on each PC or client and ensures that the data in the cloud is synced with the local replicas. But some providers may have other access points. For example, all cloud storage companies will offer a web client, but some might also make it the primary client. Maybe it works for you and maybe it doesn't, but it is definitely something you should test before committing.
Mobile devices are another problem. Many of these newly dispatched employees are trying to use personal devices for work and many of these appsare they are mobile. Does your storage provider have mobile clients? If so, you need to know which platforms are supported, and then test how those clients work. Synchronization, for example, should work differently for mobile devices and desktops because the device's compute and storage resources are so different. User security and access will also work differently, especially if user credentials incorporate device types.
Another thing to remember is that you won't always access your data directly through the storage provider. For example, Microsoft OneDrive for Business can sync with Microsoft Teams , its team messaging platform, as well as team sites.ipe which are part of his popular SharePoint Online collaboration platform . So your users can work on files in these apps, then these files will be automatically saved to the cloud storage service, in this case OneDrive .
By comparison, Box (for businesses) offers a fully functional web client with drag and drop support. Shared data can be stored in folders created by individuals or in corporate folders. Team created and controlled by team leaders or admins but it all happens in a browser window. For this to happen in another app it will take more work unless Box pre-built integration for you.
For most real workflows, you will need a version team folders, so the way it works not only in the storage provider interface, but also in any associated third-party applications should be carefully considered before purchase. . Working with users here to determine what they like most and how they work today can be very helpful in helping your buying decision.
How the user and group folders work is what you will need to determine, not just whether the solution supports this functionality. What features are supported, how they are controlled, and what third-party applications they can affect are all important points. Several solutions go beyond the call of duty and incorporate tight integration with popular third-party platforms, such as the aforementioned Microsoft 365. For example, even Microsoft's rival Google has created a Google Dri connector.ve Enterprise to integrate smooth collaboration functionality for Microsoft 365 Users.
Security must be multiple layers deep
Perhaps the most important storage heck you'll need to fight is security. Ensuring data security is a bigger challenge today than it ever has been. Features that were once considered advanced are now just basic functionality. Corporate quality Identity management , for example, is something every storage vendor should offer. This means it's not just about matching an individual user 's information. '' identification of the files and folders to which they are authorized to access, but alsoby adding multi-factor authentication and single sign-on (SSO) features.
As mentioned above, secure storage means protecting data from more than prying eyes. Redundant storage layers mean you should be able to map data centers that host not only the primary copy of your data, but the first level of backup as well. So if you have 500 GB of data with Provider X, you should be able to host the files your employees have the most access to in data centers close to their workplace. r X should also allow you to syncthese files with a copy located in another data center, still operated by that provider, so if your primary instance goes down, another data copy may be immediately available.
Supplier X should also perform regular backups of the two sites and store this data in a different location. Finally, you should be able to get integration with a third-party cloud backup provider so that you can automatically perform another backup on your own and store it on servers from an entirely different provider or even on your own. server on site or network attached storage device (NAS).
It might sound like overkill, but the beauty of a managed cloud service is that this type of tiered architecture is relatively easy to build from the point of view ofview of the client and quite automatic once established. As long as you test it every now and then, you can rest assured that no matter what, your data will remain safe and accessible.
Encryption is another fundamental security feature. All of our tested providers have supported this to varying degrees, but if you come across one that doesn't, just keep looking. Encryption is a must-have and you need it both when data moves between your users and the cloud, as well as when it gets to those cloud servers and stops moving. So both "in transit" and "at rest". Testing these capabilities means understanding the encryption schemes used and their impact on data recovery performance.
Fortunately, cloud storage providers are working hard to bolster security both to protect your bits and to compete.start. So much so that most IT professionals trust cloud security as much or more than what is available on-premises (64% according to a 2015 survey by Cloud Security Alliance ) The logic is pretty straightforward. Most IT pros just don't have the budget to research, deploy, and manage the advanced security capabilities that cloud service providers can provide, because it is key to their core business.
Important regulatory compliance features
Besides the simple protection of customer data, another factor that has significantly enhanced cloud security is the need to comply with important regulatory standards, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and ISO 27001 . Livedrive for Business is somewhat unique here as it is focused on European customers, so it is built around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that's why its servers are located in the EU and UK.
(Editor's note: Livedrive for Business is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of the publisher of PCMag, Ziff Davis.)
In case you were wondering, some of the top features that IT buyers want in a business-class cloud storage solution aret been studied by a market research company Statista and reported below.
But the features listed in this graphic are primarily for part of IT. Regulatory requirements are usually determined by your legal staff, that is why they are not shown above. However, they are no less important and vou will need to take them into account in your planning. Cloud storage providers typically have several features built in specifically to address compliance issues.
One of the most common for many regulations and even for the toughest security policies is that every file and folder has an audit trail. This will show when it was first stored on the system, how and when it was modified, who accessed it and what types of operations were performed, like copying, deleting or moving. This is essential for the most regulated or security-conscious verticals. Losing critical files due to errors or mistakes can often cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in repairs or lost capital.
Retention of files is another common legal requirement. You have to controlthe lifespan of data on the system, its accessibility and timing can be deleted or archived. And your storage vendor should make these features easy to use. In heavily regulated industries, having the right information at your fingertips can often mean the difference between being in compliance or not with federal or industry-specific regulations.
All of this means that before purchasing a cloud service, you should sit down with your IT staff and compliance expert to understand exactly where data and applications should be located and what features. they must be supported in order to pass the compliance regulations that are important to your business.
One step at a time
Choosing a cloud storage product for your organization can seem like a daunting task when you consider abord all the variables involved. Not only do different businesses have varying requirements for cloud storage and file sharing, but they demand strong security for backups and file sharing. Finding a balance between usability, security and personalization must ultimately be dictated by the demands of the business. But figuring out exactly what these requirements are is a serious task that will require real work; it's not something you want to resolve with an instant decision.
Some of the vendors we reviewed make it easy to migrate your data out of service, but not all of them are so considerate. Once you've signed up and moved your data to a particular service, it's usually not trivial to move it to another, so it's a good idea to do your homework well before you go. engager from a supplier.
Planning is the key. So sit down with the business leaders, IT managers, and even a representative from the cloud provider if you can. It will take time and effort, but going to the trouble of mapping out the features necessary for your organization's current and future needs will make finding the right solution much easier.
Have questions on how to have cloud storage for your small business? J in the [email protected] on LinkedIn and you can ask vendors, PCMag editors and to professionals like yourself.