Cloud storage is more than just a place to drop your company's data. Sure, it's another drive letter where teams share files, but these platforms offer several other capabilities that local storage can't. These features include elastic capacity, inline editing with multi-user versioning, and beefier security. Most of them also offer app integration with the rest of your cloud service portfolio, especially with other storage and business backup providers.
If your employees are still working from home due to the pandemic, and especially if that might become permanent, a cloud storage resource is a bedrock component when building a hybrid work online collaboration space. It also helps if you're moving to a full-on desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) environment. You'll need one of them not just to store and organize your data, but also to handle basic collaboration, especially data protection and granular permissions. Integration means even if the primary work is being done in another app, such as Salesforce or Slack, all those benefits still apply.
Unfortunately, that same breadth of capabilities can also present difficulties. The sheer number of features that vendors are offering to compete and differentiate themselves can make it hard to zero in on what you need. However, there are some key considerations that everyone needs. For example, any business cloud storage solution needs to be accessible, traceable, and secure. That means access anywhere via the cloud, a log of who's accessed what and when, and a service that protects data with access control, backups, and encryption.
At the IT level, administrators need to know which cloud is housing their data and where those data centers are located. This can be daunting not only because some vendors are reluctant to share this information, but also because many solutions rely on value-added resellers (VARs) to productize their cloud storage resources. That creates a back-end morass where it can be difficult to determine where the bits are being stored. We'll discuss all these issues in more detail below.
This kind of customizability is more important now than ever. Remote work is on the rise, but employees moving away from a central office work model can drastically alter how work gets done. Storing and retrieving your company's data needs to adapt and no other storage method can handle those changes as easily as a cloud service.
The rub is that effective customization requires planning, especially when that customization is around important workflows. Just because a storage vendor has a long list of features doesn't mean you'll automatically take advantage of them all. Knowing what features will work best and in what combination is planning that only you, your IT staff, and your front-line business managers can do.
Focus your planning efforts on only key workflows at first and start small. Pay attention to core abilities, especially reliable accessibility, effective backups, secure storage, and user and group management. Once you know how you want all that to work while your workers are so widely distributed, then you can expand out into automated workflow, collaboration, and third-party app integrations. Sometimes core app integrations should be considered earlier, for example, if your business has standardized on a particular productivity platform. (i.e., Google shops will choose Google Drive while Microsoft 365 outfits will likely select OneDrive).
If you don't have an obvious integration target like Google Workspace, the good news is that the cloud has made it easier for different vendors to talk to each other through open standards. These days you can mix and match cloud storage solutions with a long list of current productivity and document management systems. If you have to go so far as to do some custom coding, most vendors offer REST APIs so you can both trade data and call up functions between different app services. If all you need is better automation, then services like IFTTT or Zapier can let anyone build coss-app automation with a fairly low learning curve.
Cloud companies also see the value of interoperability, though they primarily try to address it in high-value customer categories and verticals. Vendors like Microsoft and Salesforce, for example, have huge partner ecosystems with large catalogs of targeted service offerings. A partner takes the company's core products, like Microsoft 365, and builds integrations and workflow features using that product and one or more third-party cloud services. Those solutions are built to attract specific kinds of businesses or verticals.
So if you're looking to use a cloud storage service in a very particular way, certainly do the planning necessary to understand exactly what kinds of custom tweaks and workflows you'll need. But once that's done, don't assume you'll need to build all that yourself. Instead, first, check out the integration and value-add app marketplaces available from your key app providers as well as those offered by the storage service. Someone may have already built the perfect end-to-end solution for you, and that's cheaper and easier than rolling your own.
One reason behind the trend in new, value-add features is that storage capacity is largely a moot issue in the cloud. Many buyers start off focusing mainly on a vendor's storage capacity and how much they'll get for how many dollars. That's certainly still something to consider, but overall, storage space is now more affordable than ever with prices trending slowly downward. In terms of capacity, most cloud storage providers offer a generous amount of storage and in various tiers. Multiple terabytes (TB) are commonplace and no longer a big differentiator between services, especially now that adding storage capacity is easy and cheap.
If you suddenly need an extra 100GB of space for a fast project, most cloud storage vendors make adding that capacity a simple matter of clicking some option buttons. That'll not only give you the new space but also automatically up your subscription charge accordingly. Even better, once the project is done and you don't need that 100GB anymore, you can ratchet both capacity and price back down again just as easily. This kind of elastic capacity is easy for a cloud storage vendor and almost impossible for an on-premises resource.
All this paints a very rosy picture when it comes to designing your very own customized and highly distributed storage service. And while that's true, there are still several devils lurking in the details. A big one is finding out exactly where your data is. Some providers have their own data centers while others outsource their storage to another third-party cloud, often Amazon Web Services (AWS) or a similar Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) player.
How your employees will access their files is not only critical, it can also vary widely among vendors. Sharing data functionality should involve a sync client or some other kind of desktop-based software that resides on each PC or client and ensures that data in the cloud is synced with local replicas. But some vendors can have other points of access. For example, all cloud storage companies will offer a web client, but some might also make this the primary client. Maybe that works for you and maybe it doesn't, but it's something you need to test before committing.
Another thing to remember is that you won't always be accessing your data directly through the storage vendor. For instance, Microsoft OneDrive for Business can sync with Microsoft Teams, its team messaging platform, as well as the team sites that are part of its popular SharePoint Online collaboration platform. So your users might do their work on files in those apps and then see them automatically saved to an associated cloud storage service, in this case, OneDrive.
For most any real workflow, you'll need some version of team folders, so how that works not just in the storage vendor's interface but also any associated third-party apps needs to be considered carefully before purchase. Working with users here to determine what they like best and how they're getting work done today can go a long way towards making your purchase decision easier.
Vendor X should also perform regular backups of both sites and store that data in a different location. Finally, you should be able to get integration with a third-party cloud backup provider so you can automatically perform yet another backup on your own and store that on servers from an entirely different vendor or even your on-premises server or network-attached storage (NAS) device.
Fortunately, cloud storage providers are working hard to shore up security to keep your bits safe and compete with one another. So much so that most IT professionals trust cloud security as much or more than what's available on-premises (64 percent according to a 2015 survey by the Cloud Security Alliance(Opens in a new window)). The logic is fairly simple. Most IT professionals simply don't have the budget to research, deploy, and manage the advanced security capabilities that cloud service vendors can provide because it's key to their primary business.
All of this means that before you purchase any cloud service, you need to sit down with your IT staff and your compliance expert to understand exactly where data and apps need to be located and what features they need to support to pass the compliance regulations important to your business.
Choosing a cloud storage product for your organization can seem like a daunting task when you first consider all of the variables involved. Not only do different businesses have varying cloud storage and file sharing requirements, they demand solid security for file backups and sharing. Striking a balance between usability, security, and customization ultimately needs to be driven by business requirements. But understanding exactly what those requirements are is a serious task that will require real work; it's not something you want to address with a snap decision. 1e1e36bf2d