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Providing High-speed Internet is like providing water and electricity in the classroom.
Lynn D. Smith, Superintendent
Brewton City Schools, AL
Cloud services are extremely popular as file storage and syncing alternatives allow for people to bring their files on the go, no matter where they are. This can be a smart choice for small businesses, with employees who may sometimes work at home or need to collaborate with employees who work at the office.
The cloud isn’t the scary beast that many businesses think it is, where files disappear into the ether only to reappear at some other destination. Basically, your files are being kept on servers maintained by a cloud provider, which you can then access from a program or an app from your other devices.
There are of course a variety of different cloud apps that you could use to access files from anywhere. Here are the top four that you can consider as a small business.
Price: free/$9.99 a month or $99 a year
Access: website, desktop, mobile
Dropbox is a popular choice for not only personal use, but businesses as well. As with many of these cloud applications, Dropbox gives you the option of using their website to view or upload files or using the desktop client or mobile app. All basic accounts start with 2GB of free space; upgrading to either $9.99 provides 1TB of storage. Businesses can get as much storage as needed for $15 a user each month.
Depending on the amount of storage you need, you could use the free or paid version; regardless, the same log on can be used with any device on which you install the app.
Price: free/$1.99 or $9.99 a month
If your business is using mostly Google products or their apps, Google Drive may work best for your business. All users who have at least a Gmail account already have access to the 15GB for free. As with Dropbox, if you want more storage, you can scale up to 100GB for $1.99 or 1TB for $9.99; again, depending on how many files you need to store, 100GB for $2.00 a month is an option.
Google Drive also has the ability to view and upload files from the website, with the added benefit of being able to edit them using Google Docs, as well as downloading the app for both computers and mobile. You can also now send email files from Drive right from Gmail as well as download any attachments you receive to your Drive account.
Price: free, as part of Windows
A lot has been said about Microsoft and Windows, especially in light of the changes the company has been undergoing for the last few years. Formerly known as SkyDrive (and Live Mesh prior to that), OneDrive is a new cloud app from Microsoft that now comes with the latest versions of Windows operating system, like the recent release of Windows 10.
Like Google, if your company is running on the newer versions of Windows, OneDrive is already installed on your computer and running, with access to the website. In the past, that was as far as you could get, but thanks to new CEO Satya Nadella, you can now get many of the standard Office programs for your smartphone or tablet, for free.
Price: free/price depending on users
Box is another popular choice for cloud applications, though of the list, Box is geared towards business use. Price is determined by how many employees are using the system, it’s free for one user, offering up 10GB of space and 250MB for file sizes. If that seems like too little storage compared to the other large offerings at free, Box again makes it up by the amount of users that you have in a company.
For 10 users, you can get 100GB and 2GB for file sizes for $5 per user ($50/month), with the most popular being the business for content collaboration and user management.
The big difference with Box versus the others is the ability for admin management, which for the others is usually handled by the user and not say, a network or IT admin.
These are just four cloud applications that you can consider for your small business, making it easier for employees to access the same data, simultaneously no matter where they are – another means of connectivity.