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The benefits of moving your business to the cloud and how to do it

Business cloud storage
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Our guide to the best business cloud storage services gives a detailed breakdown of all the best platforms out there, but before you dive in it’s worth exploring the benefits of cloud storage for business. Doing so will allow you to manage expectations for how it can help improve your business—before you speak to a developer or approach a provider.

Similarly, having an understanding of how the transition to the cloud works is valuable so there aren’t any surprises down the line. Put simply, though, there are many advantages to being cloud-native and the move-over is not something to be concerned about.

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The benefits of moving to the cloud

There are many reasons to move your firm over to the cloud and utilize business cloud storage. However, we’ll only focus on the most significant to give you a taste for the key benefits.

Firstly, moving to the cloud can help greatly reduce costs. For example, by outsourcing your data storage, your energy bills may be reduced, as well as the amount you spend on in-house IT staff. Similarly, most business cloud arrangements are made on a rolling contractual basis, meaning software (and perhaps even hardware) upgrades may be included in your monthly fee.

It can also make scaling your operation far easier. For the sake of argument, say you decide you need to rapidly expand your team by 50%. Rather than having to install a huge amount of new hardware to accommodate this expansion, you can simply contact your cloud provider and ask them to extend your storage, number of users, and—if applicable—bandwidth. 

Having a business on the cloud will also help foster collaboration in your teams. By having all their files and documents in one space, that is accessible anywhere in the world, teams can more easily reach the information they need. Collaboration features to look out for include real-time editing, integration with third-party platforms, instantaneous file-syncing, and custom link generation.

The cloud can also be better for the environment. Outsourcing your data storage facility to an efficient, specialized provider, means less energy may be spent on storing your data, helping those firms with a CSR or ESG-focus reduce their carbon footprint.

Depending on your provider, the cloud can also offer cast-iron security against malicious parties. With 256-bit encryption and SSL/TLS transfer tunnels now industry-standard, there’s very little risk of a leak. Many cloud platforms even offer a “no knowledge” approach to data management, meaning even they have no way to access your information.

Perhaps the most overriding point to remember, though, is that cloud computing has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. Transitioning to it has never been more straightforward, not least because the market leaders now offer a mature product that is incredibly well designed. Your firm will not be an early adopter of the technology, and with the initial problems now fully ironed out, that’s a good thing.

How to move to the cloud

Most platforms make the transition to the cloud straightforward—indeed, it’s within their best interest to do so. However, there are some things that you should be aware of before diving in.

Firstly, the best option for you is probably the best option for your competitor or another similar business. If possible, reach out to those in your network at other organizations and query what cloud platform they use and whether they’d recommend it. This can be especially important if you are in a sector that is particularly suited to one provider, for example.

Next, it’s time to figure out which aspects of your operation need to be on the cloud. Some parts, such as payroll and collaborative documents, are a no-brainer, but that might not be the case across the board. Legacy applications, for example, might not be compatible with some cloud platforms and might be easier to leave in your local network.

For larger businesses, it might also be necessary to ensure you have the right developer know-how to hand. If you choose a reputable platform, the risks when you’ve moved should be minimal, but a developer will help through the more treacherous part—transitioning.

Finally, it’s also worthwhile preparing for life when your migration is complete, so consider what can be done to get the most out of your new cloud subscription prior to moving over. There are lots of routes to consider aside from the obvious data back-ups. You could, for example, begin writing a wiki to be stored on the cloud that includes information for employees, such as best practices, white papers, and the like.

The best options on the market right now 

Our guide to the best cloud storage services provides an in-depth view of what the market has to offer at the moment. But as a quick primer, here are three excellent options worth considering.

Dropbox was early out of the blocks and so has had longer than most to add to its list of features and improve its user interface. As such, its current product is brilliantly sleek and easy-to-use, making it a crowd pleaser for everyday users. However, it also has a raft of business functionalities. Dropbox Transfer allows you to send files of 100GB over the cloud, whilst Dropbox Spaces, for example, are machine learning-driven group folders that make collaborative working incredibly user-friendly.

SpiderOak is one of the providers to offer the aforementioned “no knowledge” system, meaning it can’t access anything on its own servers. Whilst this adds peace of mind to those who want their information sealed tight, it means if you lose the master password, all your information is lost too. SpiderOak’s impressive focus on security means it isn’t packed with features, but it’s still intuitively and attractively designed. 

For teams who already work in Microsoft, OneDrive for Business is a fantastic option. Jam-packed with features and with a clear focus on collaboration, the platform leaves very little to be desired. It integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams, Exchange, and Office 365, whilst an AI-managed folders system will immediately streamline your workflow. There are some areas that could be improved, such as its macOS app, but really OneDrive is head and shoulders above most of the competition.

Conclusion

Dropbox, SpiderOak, and Microsoft OneDrive are all fantastic options, but it’s important to research as many providers as possible before committing. After all, every business has different requirements—you may, for example, benefit from spending more on storage than on third-party app integration.

After you have determined your requirements, moving to the cloud has never been easier. Many providers will help guide you through the process and have expert customer service to answer even the most technical of questions. And if you do make the move, there are huge benefits to on offer—including improvements to your firm’s bottom line and environmental impact.

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