5 Ways You’re Failing with Your Backups

It is crucial that your back up your data to protect it in the event of theft or disaster. Even something as simple as human error can cause catastrophic damage to your business’ data, leaving you without your most valuable asset. However, the number of business owners and decision makers failing when it comes to backups is frightening. Here are a few of the most common ways that you might not be toeing the line.

Not Thinking Big

When you back up your data, how big do you think? What sort of data are you backing up and against what sort of outage or emergency are you planning? If you’re planning for a localized event, such as local flooding or a fire on the premises, you’re not thinking big enough. You need to plan for disasters that might take out the power grid at other locations, and issues that could lead to permanent data wiping. You need to ensure that you’re backing up historically – not just the most recent copy of your data.

Storage Not Protected Against Disaster

You’d think the days of creating backups on tape drives and then storing those tapes on the premises would be long gone, but they’re not. While you might not be using a tape drive, chances are good that you’re backing up to some other media that’s tied to your physical location or stored on your premises. Don’t do this. If nothing else, have two backups – one on the property and one located elsewhere that can be retrieved if and when disaster strikes and wipes out the hardware and data backups stored at your primary location.

Relying Solely on the Cloud

Yes, the cloud is highly beneficial. It offers greater utility, lower costs, and a better ability to transmit files and communicate over larger distances. However, it’s not a panacea to everything, and not all cloud storage solutions are good choices. And, under no circumstances, should you rely solely on the cloud for your backups. This is particularly true with consumer-grade storage options. Instead, look for providers that offer disaster preparedness and recovery solutions for businesses. This will give you access to a cloud-based recovery option, but can also give you other choices, such as your data mailed to you on a DVD for faster recovery.

Not Following the 2 + 1 Protocol

Not all data needs to be safeguarded through multiple redundancies, but the most business critical should be backed up in two separate volumes on two different storage devices. There should be another full backup created and stored at an offsite location to safeguard against theft, or outright destruction in an emergency or natural disaster.

Not Budgeting for the Right Backup Solution

Yes, businesses need to budget to maximize cash flow to where it is needed most. However, too many businesses don’t leave room in their budget for crucial data backup solutions. This should not be an area where you wait and see how much money is left over before you plan how to handle backups. It should be one of the primary areas of spending. After all, your business’ data is your single most valuable asset. It makes sense to provide robust protection out of the gate, rather than relegating it to an afterthought.

These are just a few of the mistakes you might be making when it comes to data storage and backup. It is crucial that you develop a backup and disaster recovery plan, and that it is implemented immediately within your business. There’s simply too much riding on that data to take chances.

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6 Tips for Choosing a Cloud Backup Platform

When it comes to your business’ data, it is crucial that you have backups. Without your data being backed up, a single outage could spell disaster. Make no mistake, the measure of success for businesses today is only partially measured in profitability. Information is the true yardstick, as well as your company’s most valuable asset. It makes sense to protect that data, and while you can do this to an extent with in house backups, it makes more sense to use a cloud backup platform. Of course, there are many different options out there, and they’re far from being the same. How do you choose the right one? Here are some of the most important tips to follow.

1: Security

The very first consideration when choosing a cloud backup platform is the security offered. Specifically, you need to verify that the provider offers end to end encryption. That means it is encrypted when it leaves your business as well as when it is stored in the cloud. Moreover, you need to ensure that the provider offers 256-bit encryption, as 128-bit is simply too easy to crack these days. If you are bound by HIPAA regulations, make sure that you have your own encryption keys, as well.

2: Price

Cloud backup platforms are available with a very wide range of price points. It’s a mistake to judge solely on price, but it’s also a mistake to choose a provider on either the low or high end without considering other factors. Look for a balance of services with the price. Some high-priced services offer very little in the way of services or features, leaving you paying a high premium for virtually nothing. Others offer a low price and plenty of features, but suffer from limited security. Compare price, but make your decision based on the balance of cost versus service.

3: Performance

This is a key consideration – the amount of time it takes to back up your files, how long it takes to access backed up information and the ability to minimize the volume of data being backed up each time are all crucial. Watch for providers that limit upload speeds (this is common with low-priced, bottom-tier providers).

4: Compliance

Your business data is comprised of both proprietary information and consumer data. It is your responsibility to protect customer information, and your company may be required to meet regulations. Make sure that the cloud backup platform you choose is compliant with HIPAA, PCI DSS and other regulations that might affect you.

5: Stability and Reliability

What sort of uptime guarantee does the provider offer? Anything under 99.99% should be eliminated from consideration. In fact, it’s best if you consider only providers capable of offering 99.999% uptime. The more downtime a provider experiences, the more problems you’ll encounter uploading backup data or downloading it in the case of an emergency. It would be a very rude surprise to find that when you attempted to download a backup after a crisis in your business, that your backup provider was down.

6: Ability to Leave

Many businesses find that they eventually outgrow their initial cloud backup provider. However, when they attempt to leave, they find that they are effectively locked in and must continue using a provider that no longer meets their requirements. Before you choose a provider, find out how easy it is to leave and take your data with you when the time comes.

By following the tips above, you’ll find that choosing a reputable cloud backup platform is simpler, and that you have greater confidence in the partner you eventually choose.

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Is Hybrid Cloud the Solution for Businesses?

The cloud is no longer “new”. It has grown immensely, and the security, scalability and accessibility of data stored in the cloud has improved greatly. The costs have also come down considerably. However, pure cloud computing for small and medium businesses is still not the norm. Most businesses in these areas are using a hybrid model that allows them to enjoy the benefits of the cloud, as well as the security and ownership provided by in house solutions. Is hybrid cloud the right option for you?

What Does “Hybrid” Actually Mean?

Before we touch on how a hybrid cloud system might work, it’s important to understand what the term actually means. Simply put, in a hybrid environment, a business might use one or more public cloud services or apps in combination with workloads handled within a private cloud system. This is done for a number of different reasons, including regulatory compliance (HIPAA/HITECH, PCI DSS and the like).

According to an article by Judith Hurwitz, Marcia Kaufman, Fern Halper and Daniel Kirsch, “The hybrid cloud is a combination of private cloud combined with the use of public cloud services where one or several touch points exist between the environment. The goal is to combine services and data from a variety of cloud models to create a unified, automated and well-managed computing environment.”

So, why might a business adopt a hybrid cloud platform, rather than going with a pure public or private cloud? There are many different reasons for this.

Why a Hybrid Cloud Makes Sense

There are quite a few benefits to the hybrid cloud model. One of those is to ensure that your business enjoys a private infrastructure on premises that is immediately accessible and does not put sensitive information into the public domain. Not only does that enhance security, but it also reduces latency and speeds up access time for your employees. This also alleviates the risk of your information being made unavailable due to Internet outages.

Yet another advantage here is scalability. Yes, public cloud services come at an additional cost. However, by using a hybrid platform, businesses are able to create a system that can handle their average in house workflows, and then pay for additional services or computational infrastructure only when needed. Think of it as a buffer that ensures cost savings when workflows remain normal, but provide additional assistance during times of very high demand.

Potential Problems with Hybrid Cloud

While a hybrid cloud can provide some significant advantages, it does not work in all situations. There is still a security issue here because information is allowed to be transmitted across a network that might be subject to hacking, tapping and more. That security risk is too much for some businesses to bear, such as those governed by HIPAA regulations.

Of course, there’s also the question of cost. While a hybrid system might be cheaper to develop than others, it can be costly. This is particularly true with the private cloud aspect of the platform, which requires that a business have its own servers operating in house in addition to using servers located off site. If your business is particularly strapped for cash, using only public cloud functionality might be a forgone conclusion, at least until growth brings the profitability needed to invest in in house IT equipment.

When everything is said and done, the hybrid cloud is highly beneficial solution that offers an interesting mix of benefits found with both public and private cloud platforms. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution or panacea.

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Cloud Servers versus Physical Servers: Making the Right Choice for Your Business

It is crucial that your business has the IT infrastructure necessary for success in today’s technologically-centered world. In order to create this infrastructure, you need a server (at least one, but possibly many more). The server hosts and stores all your information, apps and programs, connects separate PCs together into a single network and more. You have a couple of choices here, including the option to use a cloud server or go with a physical server. Which is right for your needs?

Physical Servers

Once upon a time, before the advent of the cloud, physical servers were the only option. Businesses large and small were forced to spend money on these machines, and the staff to maintain them. Once the cloud debuted, it was too expensive for many smaller businesses, and they were forced to continue using physical servers. Today, the cloud is much less costly, but it might make sense to stick to what you know. Physical servers do offer some benefits.

For instance, you are in complete control of your information and the security in place to protect that information. You can also upgrade your server, add another one, and expand in other ways whenever it suits you and to whatever degree you want. It’s sort of the ultimate in terms of scalability.

However, physical servers do have some drawbacks. The most obvious is the cost – they’re not cheap. And not only will you need to pay for the hardware and software, but you’ll need to pay for the IT staff needed to manage and maintain it, as well. That can be quite the investment, and may be far too much for a small business struggling to get started.

Cloud Servers

Cloud servers offer pretty much the same functionality as physical servers. The primary differences are 1) they’re not located on your premises and 2) they are not maintained by your IT staff. That means a couple of things. First, you won’t have to shell out the cash to buy a server out right. Second, you won’t have to pay for the IT staff needed to manage the server, either. Even upgrades and software installations are handled by the server provider, not by your business.

So, it should be obvious that a cloud server has the potential to save your business some cash. For a smaller company, this can be a “make or break” part of the equation. Most cloud servers are also easily scalable, so you can start off paying for just basic services and then scale up as your business grows and your needs change (and your cash flow improves, of course).

With that being said, cloud servers are not without their potential problems. There are several of which you should be aware. One of the most obvious is that you’ll need a stable, high-speed Internet connection. Because the server is not located on your premises, you must connect to it by Internet. Second, there’s the question of security. With a physical server, you are in charge of your security. With a cloud server, that’s not the case. This means it is vital that you make an informed choice when it comes to a provider and ensure that they use 256-bit encryption, along with other crucial safeguards.

When everything is said and done, both physical and cloud servers have their benefits, as well as drawbacks. For small businesses with limited cash flow, a cloud server is likely the only option that will work. For larger businesses, the option to use either cloud or physical servers, as well as a combination of both is available.

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What Is Google Doing with Your Data in the Cloud?

The cloud storage wars are in full swing, and Google has made it plain that the search giant intends to trump Amazon as the cloud storage provider of choice for businesses around the world. Google Cloud Storage has become immensely popular for a number of reasons, including its security and replication. What does the search giant actually do with your data in the cloud, though?

Encryption

One of the first things that happens to your data when using Google Cloud Storage is encryption. According to the company’s documentation, your data is encrypted from the very beginning, while it is being transmitted to cloud storage. Once it is stored, the data remains encrypted. While encryption does not guarantee that your information will not be accessed by hackers, it is a significant deterrent.

Replication

Another thing that Google does with your data is replicate it. Yes, Google makes multiple copies of your information and stores that data in different places. While that might raise an eyebrow or two, particularly with businesses concerned with regulatory compliance, this is actually a good thing. For example, did you know that a serious lightning strike near a Google data center several years ago actually caused the search giant to lose some customer data?

It was wiped out of the data center in which it was stored. However, it wasn’t a permanent deletion. Google believes that “a silo of one only increases risk”, and because there were replicated copies of the deleted data, Google was able to restore it for their customers without missing a beat (once the hardware damage was handled, of course).

Does Google Allow Others Access to Business Data?

Google built their empire on indexing vast quantities of data, organizing it, and making it available to Internet searchers. Before Google offered cloud storage, or began developing Android, they were a search engine. That makes it natural to wonder just how secure your data is when stored in Google Cloud Storage. Given the fact that Google is now facing a lawsuit from 800 plus college and university students claiming that the search giant parsed their emails with the company’s apps for Education suite, it makes sense to question the company’s methods in the realm of cloud storage.

Do they index your data? Do they mine it and use the information for advertising? What, exactly, do they do with this information? The answer is – nothing that you wouldn’t do. In fact, Google Cloud Storage is certified for compliance with a number of different regulations, including ISO 27001, AICPA SOC, SOC3 and PCI DSS.

Then there is this, taken from Google’s own Cloud Platform whitepaper, “Cloud Platform customers own their data, not Google. The data that customers put into our systems is theirs, and we do not scan it for advertisements, nor sell it to third parties. We offer our customers a detailed data processing amendment that describes our commitment to protecting customer data. It states that Google will not process data for any purpose other than to fulfill our contractual obligations. Furthermore, if customers delete their data, we commit to deleting it from our systems within 180 days. Finally, we provide tools that make it easy for customers to take their data with them if they choose to stop using our services, without penalty or additional cost imposed by Google.”

In the end, Google’s cloud storage is robust, secure, and does not put your information in their sites for indexing, organizing or parsing. You own your data, not Google, and the company remains committed to protecting that ownership.

Source:

https://cloud.google.com/security/
http://www.educationdive.com/
http://qz.com/

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Understanding the Need for a Backup for Your Website

Most of us understand the need to back up the files and documents on our computers. We save a copy on the desktop or in a file folder somewhere on the hard drive. We store another copy in the cloud. We might even go so far as to put a third copy on an external hard drive or a thumb drive. However, did you know that it’s just as essential that you have an option for backup for a website?

Why Back Up Your Website?

Your website and most of its content are out there in the ether. The data is stored and hosted on a server on which you’re renting space from a company that might be half a world away, and that you’ll never visit in person. It’s tempting to think that your website is pretty secure – you’re in good hands. However, that may not be the case. Even the most secure servers can experience breaches, and even the most reputable of hosting providers can accidentally delete customer websites. If you don’t have a backup for your website, you could experience serious problems if this were to happen.

First and foremost, understand that it is not your hosting provider’s responsibility to back up your website. It’s yours. Most hosts do not do this for you. You also can’t afford to back up just the original development site. Yes, that will give you back the bones of the site in a worst-case scenario, but websites are living, breathing things that grow and change.

If you’ve only got the skeleton, you’ll lose all the flesh and muscle (content) that has grown over time. Finally, having a current backup copy of your website ensures that you’re able to get everything back up and running as quickly as possible to ensure that you’re not missing out on sales, and that your customers aren’t defecting to a competitor.

So, how do you ensure that you have a backup for your website? There are several different options out there, but they’re far from being the same.

Backup Options

First, you can definitely do things manually. However, this is time consuming and can be frustrating. It must be done daily, too, so you’ll need to leave time in your schedule for this. Also, if your site is large, it can take a lot of time to FTP those files. Finally, some compliance regulations make FTP impossible (HIPAA, for instance). In these instances, you won’t be able to FTP files from the web host to your server or a backup storage device.

Second, you can utilize cPanel if it’s installed on your server. You’ll find that cPanel makes a backup for a website relatively simple, but you’ll need to make sure you’re following the instructions correctly. Obviously, cPanel must first be installed on your server. You also need to make sure to download the copy to your hard drive when cPanel finishes backing up. Never leave the only copy of your backup on the off site server. If the server experiences an outage, you won’t have access to your backup.

Plugins are another solution, particularly for WordPress websites. There are numerous high-quality backup plugins out there that will let you handle this with relative ease. You might also choose to back up to the cloud by using something like Amazon S3, or even a cloud storage platform like Google Drive, Dropbox or SkyDrive.

No matter how you choose to do it, having a backup for a website is absolutely crucial. Make sure you back up frequently, and that copies of the file are always accessible.

Source:

http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/
https://blog.sucuri.net/
http://www.copyblogger.com/

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Data Encryption and Your Business – What You Should Know

The cloud is here to stay. It has become the most common solution for a wide range of business needs, from data backups to cross-organization communication to document and file storage, and a great deal more. It’s convenient. It’s affordable. It’s scalable. It’s also a serious risk to your information security, particularly if you don’t know much about data encryption and aren’t following industry best practices. What should small business owners know about data encryption?

What’s It All About?

Let’s start with the basics – what is data encryption and why does it matter to your business? Really, it’s nothing more than transforming valuable data into so much gibberish. It requires an encryption key to translate that gibberish back into its original form. Anyone without the key will not be able to access the information, at least not without a lot of time spent trying to decrypt it. Of course, there are different levels of encryption. Currently, 256-bit is the highest level commercially available. Note that while 128-bit encryption is available, it’s not the best option and is much more easily cracked than 256-bit encryption.

So, why does it matter if your business information is encrypted? Simply put, if you don’t encrypt it, anyone who stumbles over the information can use it immediately. That applies to hackers, as well. They might spend a little time getting through your system’s defenses, but once they’re in and have stolen the information, they can put it to use or sell it right away.

By encrypting your data, you ensure that hackers have a much harder time of it. In fact, some hackers may actually stop their attack completely when they realize that your information is encrypted. There are easier targets that offer the same profitability without the serious investment of time and resources necessary to decrypting your company’s data.

What Data Should Be Encrypted?

This is a big question with a couple of different answers. The simplest answer is “all of it”. However, that’s not feasible for many businesses. So, another answer is “the data that matters most”. This will depend on your business and the type of data in question. If you deal with consumer health information, you’re bound by HIPAA to encrypt that information. However, you’re not required to encrypt consumer personal information, such as Social Security numbers, names, email addresses and the like.

It’s tempting to only encrypt what you’re required to and leave the rest, but that’s not only a shortcut, but a lax attitude toward what more and more consumers are considering your ultimate responsibility. If they’ve entrusted your business with their name, their Social Security number and their address, they did so under the impression that your business is going to safeguard that information, whether you’re required to under the letter of the law or not. Many businesses experiencing breaches in which unencrypted consumer information is stolen are finding that their customers are not particularly understanding and will go in search of a partner who will hold up their end of the bargain.

When Should Data Be Encrypted?

Data should be encrypted at multiple points. First, it should be encrypted if stored on your company’s hardware. Second, it should be encrypted when being transmitted, whether to another business location or to a cloud storage system. Finally, it should be encrypted during cloud storage (called “at rest” in the industry). In short, you really need to ensure that this data is encrypted at all times to protect it against the growing number of threats out there.

Source:

http://blog.monitor.us/
http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/ (PDF)
http://www.theguardian.com/

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5 Key Qualities to Look for in a Cloud Provider

Yes, moving to the cloud can offer a number of benefits. These range from the ability to plan for disaster and recovery to saving money to ensuring better security while making data available to you and your employees from just about anywhere. However, not all cloud providers are cut from the same cloth and you’ll need to ensure that you’re making an informed decision regarding your needs. Let’s take a look at several of the most important features to look for in a cloud provider.

Reliability and Availability

These are separate issues but they’re so closely related that we’ll treat them as a single feature. Reliability means the amount of uptime offered by the provider and the number of outages and partial outages experienced. Remember that these are business critical features, so it makes sense that you want the utmost in terms of reliability. Availability ties in here in terms of recovery times. All cloud providers experience outages to one degree or another. The speed with which they can recover and redeploy services is critical.

More Than Technical Benefits

Another feature that you should look for here is a provider that does more than just tout a high uptime percentage or other technological benefits. They need to speak your language and actually explain the benefits that will come to your business. Otherwise, they’re focused on the features of their own service, which are not the same as the benefits you need to reap. You should also make sure that the provider understands the ins and outs of your particular industry, particularly if there are regulatory compliance considerations to be made.

Security

Yes, security is a critical consideration, particularly today as more and more threats evolve. Some of the biggest companies in the world have been hit hard by hackers who have stolen both consumer and business information only to turn around and sell that data on the black market. Make sure that the cloud provider you choose features 256-bit encryption for your data while in transit and at rest. Anything less will not suffice to protect your information from a determined hacker.

Support

You’re going to need support at some point, and it’s crucial that your cloud provider be capable of supplying it. Look for a provider who offers in-depth knowledgebase collections so that you can find information on your own, as well as other features. A forum and a robust FAQ section will also help. However, there’s no substitute for the human touch, and you will likely find that you need to contact your provider in person at some point. Make sure that you can get ahold of them by phone in addition to email and web-based contact forms. Their reps should also be fluent in English, and they should have extensive knowledge of the system. They should not simply be “warm bodies” filling a hole in the support team.

SLAs (Service Level Agreements)

When you contract with a cloud provider, you’re paying for a service and you expect that service to meet your needs. However, there are instances when this might not happen. An SLA (service level agreement) with the provider ensures that you have recourse here. For instance, if the provider experiences a prolonged outage, an SLA would allow you to recoup at least some of your costs for the downtime.

These are just a few of the many essential qualities to look for in a cloud provider. There are many others, ranging from scalability to the quality of service to the underlying technology in place.

Sources:

http://www.networkcomputing.com
http://externalit.com/
http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/

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How Small Businesses Benefit from Using Online Cloud-Based Storage

Whether you’re looking for lightning-fast collaboration tools both inside and outside your organization, or simply need a secure way to scale your data storage, cloud-based storage options are more attractive than ever for small businesses. As businesses of all sizes move to the cloud for storage, hosted applications and infrastructure, the entry point for these services is often cloud storage as physical servers become more expensive and troublesome to maintain and secure.

Convenience

Possibly the top-rated reason that users want to move towards cloud storage is for the sake of simplicity. Many key cloud storage application options look exactly like a local file structure—reducing the time it takes users to get up to speed on their new storage location to practically zero. Not only is cloud storage easier for end-users, it’s simpler to administer as well. Need more storage space? No need to configure and bring up a new server—instead, you’ll simply need to up your storage plan with your cloud storage provider and allow them to maintain, manage and support your business needs quickly and efficiently.

Scalability

Just as you can scale up quickly, you can scale down just as quickly. If you have a cyclical business or one that is in the early stages of growth and you’re still having some rocky months, the ability to add or reduce cloud storage quickly and easily is a true boon. With most providers, you don’t have to worry overmuch about going over your negotiated plan, as many build overage charges right into your Master Services Agreement.

Mobility, Enabled

Today’s workforce is exceptionally mobile, and demands the options of working from home, working on the road, working on the beach or from the coffee shop. No matter where your workers are, they can keep their data at their fingertips with cloud storage options. No more worries about emailing files to yourself or making sure you grab the virtual files that you need before heading out for a few days of R&R; instead, you can simply access the files that you need from wherever you are located, and on nearly any device under the sun. You’re also able to access files across devices, and see the changes that you made on your desktop on your iPad almost as soon as the change has been made.

Cost Savings

When you’re looking at the overall cost of cloud storage, it’s important to keep in mind the reduced overhead expenses you’re experiencing, often due to the reduced administrative overhead created when users are able to make their own logins. Validating user logins is much more time-effective than creating them from scratch and allows your technology team time to consider the various options needed to drive future growth. When you remove the massive capital expenditures from your budget, you can recognize significant cost savings as well as potentially reducing overhead in the form of support personnel as you continue down the path towards cloud computing. Productivity is also likely to go up as users no longer have to spend their time looking around their computer, desktop, shared server or other locations in order to find exactly the file that they needed.

No Loss of Data

When you have multiple people working in the same file structure, there is always a potential for data loss. Fortunately, cloud storage negates that issue, as you’re often able to view unlimited versions of a file and undelete—or restore—files to their various locations. Also, if you’re living in a part of the country that’s prone to snowstorms or other extraordinary acts of nature, you can still quickly and easily access the data you need to keep your business online.

Smaller businesses may be slower to adapt to cloud computing, but there are significant benefits to be had for businesses of any size, including mobility, convenience and the overall cost of ownership for your data storage.

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What’s the Difference between Free and Paid Online Storage?

Free is always better—that’s what we are conditioned to think. However, does that adage hold true in the case of cloud storage solutions? Yes, and no: while free cloud storage does exist, for power users free storage is nothing more than dust in the wind. However, for light users, free cloud storage could more than meet their needs. Let’s run down a few different scenarios to see where free cloud storage makes sense instead of the paid versions.

Individual

If you’re like most individuals and just want to back up photos of your kids or grandkids, then a free storage solution may work just fine. The high level of security available is the same for free storage options as it is for paid, but you’re not getting the huge multi-TB storage options with a free solution. If you are a major user of technology and love to save and stream videos from your online collection, then a paid cloud storage solution is going to be essentially your only option. You can get up to a max of 50 GB of cloud-based storage for free depending on which service you decide to go with, but that will be a drop in the bucket and used up very quickly if you start storing large HD video files.

Small Business

When you’re running a small business, you may or may not need a paid cloud storage solution—and it all depends on your type of business and the file sizes that you’re storing. If you’re storing a bunch of Word documents that you don’t need to be overly concerned about and maybe a small database, then a free solution for each employee may be the best option for you. However, if your small business is very active with media files such as images, graphic design files such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, or movie files, then a paid solution is definitely the way to go.

Corporate

Depending on the size of your enterprise, you will almost certainly need a paid account to handle your cloud storage needs. Platforms such as Dropbox or Google Drive only offer an average of 2-15 GB of storage per user, and that doesn’t allow for some of the more collaborative options that are available with Dropbox either. Part of the reason Dropbox and Google Drive work so very well is that the shared folder structure is incredibly easy to administer—much more so than a traditional team network drive that often requires an IT team member to make changes.

Security

Truthfully, there are few differences between free and paid versions of the cloud storage solutions other than small items such as the ability to restore deleted files from Dropbox with a paid account—functionality that is not available for free accounts. When you’re faced with a crashed or stolen hard drive, then the relatively low entry cost of most paid online storage solutions feels negligible.

Pricing Structure

Many online cloud-based storage solutions have a monthly subscription rate, which can be discounted if the customer purchases a year’s worth of storage access. However, once you’ve opted into a platform and begun integrating it with your daily flow of work, it can be pretty difficult to back out of it and go in a different direction with your storage. Once you get used to having your files available no matter where you are physically located, it can get quite addictive as well.

When you’re shopping around for free or paid cloud storage, it makes sense to compare not only the GBs or TBs of storage that you’re going to gain, but also the ease of using the interface and scalability options should you suddenly go over your storage limit.

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