Cloud storage options abound and providers continue to offer new options and increase their free storage capacities. Small business providers are wise to take advantage of the capabilities and opportunities cloud storage provides.
Simply put, cloud storage is a web-accessible server made available to customers by an internet company for the purpose of uploading and storing computer files and data. I find that small businesses use cloud storage for several main reasons.
- Back Up: Backing up important data from desktop computers
- Collaboration: Sharing files with customers/clients and staff
- Accessibility: Making important documents accessible from the web
There are a multitude of cloud storage providers that provide a free entry level account. Here are a few of the cloud storage leaders. The graph below compares the amount of storage provided with free plans as well as the next higher level plans. Cost of the next higher level of plans per year is also compared for each provider along with file size upload limits shown in Gigabytes (GB).
Box.net was introduced to me by a client, ArborRealProducts.com, and continues to be on my go-to list for cloud storage sites. The free version offers 5 GB of storage. I personally use the upgraded personal version for $9.99/mo. which comes with 25 GB. Nice features include file access notifications via email and the ability to edit documents online without having to download them. Tech support is also superior and Box.net provides the highest level of collaboration features.
If you want a storage solution for the primary purpose of collaborating with others, Box.net is the top, though pricey, contender.
Dropbox is a favorite choice of my Grainger Data Center, Infrastructure Manager, brother-in-law. The free version of Dropbox.com comes with the smallest allocated space of reviewed cloud storage providers, but additional free space can be gained by referring others to Dropbox. Each new referral allocates 500 MB to your account for a maximum of 18 GB of free space. Dropbox also integrates with Facebook and Twitter. The next level of paid space is 100 GB for $9.99/mo.
If you are an active social media user and need lots of storage space Dropbox is a great solution.
SkyDrive is provided by Microsoft and automatically synchronizes with Hotmail and MS Messenger. For me this is a drawback since I often get numerous spam MS Messenger or email requests from nefarious Hotmail spammers. Similar to Box.net, SkyDrive allows online document editing and has an interface very familiar to Microsoft users. There is an ‘open in MS Word’ feature available, but it only supports the very latest version of MS Office products. The next level paid plan includes 27 GB for $10/yr making Microsoft’s SkyDrive the low cost leader of the group.
If you love and use all things Microsoft, SkyDrive is your best bet. Visit https:skydrive.live.com
Google Drive is a recent, April 2012, contender in the storage pantheon. However, it was born out of the free Google Docs suite of productivity applications so it doesn’t feel that recent. Google Drive provides 5 GB of space for free and files created in the Google Docs native format do not count towards the 5 GB file space limit; big plus. Google Drive also has a unique feature for online document collaboration. Documents can be edited by collaborating users in real time. Multiple cursors in different colors appear on the document letting each user know what the other is editing. A live chat and notes feature allow for additional collaboration possibilities. The next level of paid service offers 25 GB for $30/yr.
I consider box.net a better collaboration solution since invited users do not have to sign up for a box account to use the service. Google requires collaborators to sign up for a Google Apps account.
Google Drive is a great solution for small businesses that already use Gmail and other Google Apps since integration with those services is relatively seamless.
Amazon Cloud Drive is an unexpected contender in the cloud storage wars. However, paid music file downloads from Amazon makes this storage provider a natural fit for Amazon customers. I didn’t even realize I already had a free Cloud Drive account until researching this article! Anyone who has purchased a product on Amazon can access their free storage account by logging into their Amazon.com account and visiting: www.amazon.com/clouddrive. Cloud Drive comes with 5 GB of free space and a respectable 2 GB maximum file size upload limit. The next level paid plan provides 20 GB of storage space for $20/mo which is second only to Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Cloud Drive is designed as a personal storage drive and does not have the collaboration features of the other cloud storage providers.
Amazon’s Cloud Drive is an ideal fit for small businesses that only desire to backup their files.
WeTransfer is the most simple of storage options and is actually focused on transferring files instead of storing them. WeTransfer provides temporary storage for uploaded files, two weeks maximum, for the explicit purpose of quickly sharing large files, 2 GB max. No user account is required and notification of transferred and downloaded files is sent to your email inbox. A paid account, $120/yr will allow a business to create their own personalized and branded transfer service. To find out more visit http://wetransfer.info
WeTransfer is the perfect solution if your sole purpose is to transfer and send large files to one or more (20 max) recipients.