Andy Wolber | 27 Oct, 2020
Cloud storage makes a great deal of sense for at least a portion of an organization’s storage needs. Storage-as-a-service means that an IT administrator no longer needs to buy file servers, select storage drives, or manage uptime. Most common office files — documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and images — are well-suited to cloud storage. And modern cloud storage also simplifies sharing and collaboration.
Yet there are at least three cases where cloud storage may not make sense. First, if you often use large files (e.g., a gigabyte or larger) on a local system, then transfer times — even over high-speed internet connection — may be too long to make cloud storage practical. Second, if you or people in your organization lack reliable access to an internet connection, then cloud storage may not provide much benefit beyond backup. Third, if you have extraordinary security concerns, you may prefer to keep your data and devices disconnected from the internet entirely.
Within most organizations, however, you’ll likely find at least one of the following five cloud storage services in use by employees. The first two are connected to commonly used cloud collaboration suites from Microsoft and Google, while the additional three aim to serve more specific organizational needs, such as centralization, ease-of-use, or security.
Organizations that use Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) or Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) are likely to store files on either OneDrive or Google Drive, respectively. Both suites include cloud storage for private and shared files.
Microsoft OneDrive offers 1 TB of storage per user with Microsoft 365 Business plans, with unlimited storage available with Microsoft 365 Enterprise plans. Additionally, Microsoft SharePoint provides some versioning and approval workflow features especially useful for internal teams. OneDrive for Business plans start at $5 per user per month, with upgrade options available that add access to apps, as well as additional storage, security, and management features.
Google Workspace Business plans offer varying levels of storage per user (e.g., 30 GB, 2 TB, or 5 TB, depending on the plan), with unlimited storage available with Google Enterprise plans. These Google Workspace Business plans start at $6 per user per month, with upgrade options that give greater administrative control over sharing and security, as well as eDiscovery and retention options. Importantly, though, native Google files, such as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, do not count toward storage quotas.
Box might be best suited for organizations that use several cloud-based applications. All Box Business plans offer built-in integration with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Box storage also works well with hundreds of other cloud apps, including Adobe, Oracle NetSuite, Salesforce, and Slack, among others. The many integrations make Box a solid option for administrators wanting to reduce the number of storage places used within an organization. Box Business options start at $5 per user per month (paid annually), topping out with Enterprise plans at $35 per user per month (again, paid annually) that allow for not only unlimited storage, but also an unlimited number of app integrations.
Historically one of the most widely-used sync-and-share file storage services for individuals, Dropbox has added business-friendly features in recent years, such as Dropbox Paper, a collaborative space for text, images, and files, and HelloSign, an eSignature system. Business Standard customers get 5 TB of shared storage, at pricing that starts at $12.50 per user per month (paid annually), with upgrade options to Business Advanced and Enterprise solutions, both of which offer additional administrative controls as well as unlimited storage.
Organizations that prioritize secure storage should consider Tresorit for the company’s zero knowledge architecture and end-to-end encryption. The system ensures that you remain in complete control of your encryption keys, which means that even Tresorit employees can’t help you recover a forgotten password. Tresorit Business Standard offers 1 TB of encrypted storage at $14.50 per user per month (paid annually), with upgrades that increase storage limits, maximum files size, and offer additional administrative and data controls.
Of course, other options include the ability for an IT to custom-build a storage solution built on storage services from vendors such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. A customized solution offers more control, but undoubtedly requires more technical expertise than any of the above turnkey storage solutions.
Looking forward, decentralized storage options also may be useful in the long run. Emerging services such as Cubbit.io and Tartigrade.io seek to deliver secure, distributed storage systems without the need for centralized data centers. The decentralized storage approach is certainly something for IT leaders track, test, and consider for future use.
What cloud storage solutions do you use in your organization? Have you narrowed storage service to a single vendor? Or is your organization’s data storage on several different systems? Are there more interesting or innovative storage solutions that you recommend? Let me know your thoughts (@awolber)!
Andy Wolber (Twitter: @awolber) helps people understand and leverage technology. He's a contributing writer for TechRepublic, and has taught Nonprofit and Government Technology for Grand Valley State University. Prior staff roles include positions with Michigan Nonprofit Association, the Dallas Historical Society, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. He's also served as a volunteer leader for the Technology Advisory Committee of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, as well as the Dallas Arts District Friends. He holds an MBA/MA in Arts Administration and a BA in Music Theory & Composition. Andy lives in Albuquerque, NM with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.
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