Cloud storage seems ubiquitous these days. However, in 2015, Clutch found that 48% of small businesses do not use a cloud storage service. While that number has likely only shrunk, there are still a significant number of businesses that may soon be making a decision about their cloud storage provider.
Armed with data from the 2nd iteration of our Small Business Cloud Storage Survey and expert commentary on the results, Clutch is here to help those businesses in their search. Be sure to ask yourself the following five questions when looking for your cloud storage provider.
About the Survey: Clutch surveyed 293 small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who use a cloud storage service. All businesses have 2-500 employees.
1. When is the best time to adopt cloud storage?
You might already be overdue. The majority of SMBs who already use cloud storage services adopted them 2-4 years ago.
This trend in adoption is due to a variety of factors: price, level of competition, product maturity and more.
“It’s… just a natural maturing of the product. Once technology starts invading the personal lives of non-IT people in business, the technology is more accepted. It takes a level of acceptance and a level of comfort. People are comfortable with it now,” said Jacob Ackerman, CEO of SkyLink Data and Horizon Businesses Services.
If your business has been hesitating, now is the time to take the plunge before you’re left behind.
2. What benefits are you looking for with your cloud storage?
The largest percentage of SMBs say that improved access to data (mobility, speed of access, etc.) is the primary benefit their organization receives from using a cloud storage platform.
Experts attribute this result to a variety of factors, including a reduction in IT staffing since the recession, a levelling of costs, and the growing popularity of remote work.
Security came in second place, at 23%. (You can read our in-depth report on cloud storage and security here.)
Experts warn that despite its touted benefits, cloud storage is not for everyone. “When I can store the data in the cloud, and my applications run in the cloud, then I can access all that stuff very quickly and directly. I get all the benefits of speed, as well as cost savings,” said Mark Estes, Regional Director of Sales for Qubole. “However, if I’m still running all my applications in-house and I’m just trying to use cloud storage because it’s a little bit cheaper than on-premise, that will make my applications run significantly slower.” This, he says, is not enough to justify using cloud storage.
So, even though cloud storage has the potential to strongly benefit your company, make sure to evaluate all aspects of the decision and make sure it is necessary first.
3. What sort of issues can you expect with your cloud storage provider?
Over a third of the survey respondents reported no issue with their cloud storage in the past year. The remaining 65% divvied their responses amongst issues such as downtime, limited storage space, and compatibility issues.
Experts assert that, for the most part, cloud storage providers tend to be very stable and even if there are issues, they often aren’t noticeable: “Almost all of the cloud providers nowadays have become very stable, redundant and pretty much know what they’re doing now so that outages are very, very rare,” said Jeff Alerta, Director of Technology of Inverselogic, Inc.
“The systems are engineered so you don’t really notice when an outage occurs,” mentioned Ackerman of SkyLink.
If you have been struggling with the reliability of your on-premise storage, the cloud may be the answer to your problems.
4. Do you need a storage service or a backup service?
69% of SMBs store backups in a cloud storage provider, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, while only 15% use a backup service like Mozy or Carbonite. Backup services automatically store your data in the cloud, so you do not need to remember to do so yourself.
Estes of Qubole says this behavior is fine – as long as those not using backup services are diligent: “Mozy and Carbonite help with the human problem of actually backing up. If I put a file in Dropbox, it’s going to be there. If I don’t back it up, then Dropbox can’t help me with that… Carbonite, Mozy and all of these ISVs [independent software vendors] – they try to solve that problem by automating and controlling the backing up of your files on your behalf so you don’t have to worry about it.”
Will you consistently remember to back up your files? If so, you’re probably fine with just a cloud storage provider. If you have any doubts, look into backup services.
5. How much should you expect to spend?
25% of SMBs still exclusively use a free cloud storage provider.
The biggest difference between free and paid cloud storage is quantity of storage available. “They leave you wanting a little bit more and then they charge you for it,” said Ackerman of SkyLink.
Free cloud storage often doesn’t allow the type of security needed for regulation compliance, such as user authentication. A recent report by Clutch found that, of small- to medium-sized businesses using free cloud storage, 14% are storing medical records and 11% are storing customer banking information. This is an ill-advised practice.
Most SMBs spend about $51-250/month on their cloud storage.
Evaluate what’s best for your business, but if compliance is on the table, start looking at prices – you should be using more than a free cloud storage service.
Cloud storage is increasingly a need for small businesses, but always be sure to ask the right questions when making your decision.
Questions? Comments? Contact Riley Panko at [email protected].