|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Cloud File Sharing and Storage for Small Business
Cloud-based storage services offer a flexible and cost-effective way for small business teams to improve collaboration and security by sharing and accessing files online.
Small business owners looking for easier and more affordable ways to store and transfer files and documents are increasingly turning to the cloud, where they can choose from a variety of services and file-sharing platforms. Unlike files that are stored on a local network, and can only be accessed or updated by computers connected to that network, a cloud service keeps your files on a server that can be accessed by an authorized user, and via any type of device.
Most services offer several free or low-cost plans that are sold by a monthly or annual subscription, with options to upgrade to additional storage capacities or advanced features. Popular choices include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and others.
Cloud file storage and sharing services offer a number of benefits over keeping files on an in-house server, starting with improved access and collaboration tools. By using a cloud service, you can access files from any connected device, so you can grab or update your files whether you’re in the workplace, at a client site or on the run. Not only is this easier than having to log into an in-house service, the ability to access files from nearly anywhere can increase your productivity and help you access information you need quickly and easily.
Similarly, this sharing ability means team members save the potential hassle of sharing files back-and-forth by email, and reduce the risk of someone accidentally working with an outdated version of a file. Everyone has access to the same information, at the same time.
File-sharing services typically offer a variety of ways to pass files to another user. Common methods include right-clicking and adding the recipient’s email address, or copying a link that you can paste into an email message. Leading file-sharing services offer companion mobile apps, so you can access files on your smartphone or tablet.
In addition, shifting files to cloud storage saves you the cost and administrative burden of buying and maintaining your own file server. You get the direct savings of not having to invest in server hardware, as well as the savings in time and effort needed to apply security updates to your server’s operating systems and having to manage users and permissions yourself.
Another advantage of cloud file sharing is that it’s typically more secure than relying on an in-house server. The leading services all offer the ability to customize permissions so you can grant (or restrict) access to specific files or folders. This allows you, for instance, to create a shared folder with your accountant or bookkeeper so you can share financial files securely without the risk of exchanging files by email.
While many business owners have been reluctant to put their critical business information online, the increased security capabilities offered by large cloud providers means your files are probably safer on their servers than they would be on yours. Most small businesses don’t have the technical expertise that cloud providers offer, and similarly can’t afford to invest continually in updating their security procedures and capabilities.
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