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The pros & cons of moving to the Cloud

by Tim Lawrence | Mar 22, 2018

With the Cloud creeping more into everyday use, most people are using it without knowing or trying to avoid it all together. The main Cloud product a majority of people are using is online storage. Companies like Dropbox and Box didn’t exist 10 years ago and now are major players in the Cloud storage market. As a result, all the major tech giants are trying to get in on the action and offering online storage. As with all offerings, there are some better options as well as some with more specialised uses.

 

Apple iCloud:

 

While it is the only one with Cloud in its name, it is rather restrictive as it is an Apple product, for use with Apple devices or Apple apps. It will store photos and some documents in the Cloud, but with limited Windows support and not much else. It is not practical to be used in a shared environment.

 

Box:

 

This was one of the first major players in the field and has been always been targeted toward businesses. It does have a generous 10GB free personal plan, followed by a very competitive business plan of $21/month ($7/user). By default, the business plan has a granular control over files and folder sharing, as well a better ability to lock down files when a user is editing them, avoiding accidental duplication. Like Dropbox, it does have integration with all major devices and integration with Microsoft Office. If you are looking for a system that has a high focus on user control and permissions then Box is a big contender.

 

Dropbox:

 

Dropbox is the most well-known out of the lot. It has focused very heavily on the consumer base and is really pushing into the business and enterprise sphere. The personal plan offer of 2GB has not changed since its first offering and it does double dip on the data usage - shared folders take up the same amount on both accounts, with all offerings only counting towards the main user’s storage.

 

You will require a third party provider to enable Active Directory integration or any single sign on. The biggest selling point is that it is the most widely used Cloud storage application with a large amount of services that integrate with it. Starting at $52.50/month ($17.50/user), it does have a high cost of entry but will give a small business the space and capacity to grow significantly before requiring any upgrades. The ease of use and the wide uptake of Dropbox ensures it is always in the top two choices.

 

Google Drive:

 

Google’s offering, which is an extension of its other G-Suite, with 15GB of free personal storage shared between Gmail, Drive and Photos. Both Google and Microsoft have targeted their business model to link in with their existing services, making purchasing Google Drive by itself an impossible task. For people already using G Suite, this is already included in every plan and utilising this existing service to fit in your business needs is quite easy to do. Google’s focus is heavily involved in the website/online sphere with everything done through a browser. There are mobile apps that are good to use for portable devices, however there are some significant limitations on using Windows or Mac and any other local programs you might have. With all G- Suite apps, collaboration has been made a priority, with the ability to have two or more people actively modifying the same file in real time.

 

The starting plan is $5/month/user and a minimum of one user, making it the cheapest Business plan on offer.

 

One Drive:

 

Windows has come late to the party on this one. As a result, some of their service could definitely mature and get some more features to match a Box or Dropbox standard. One Drive comes inbuilt into Windows 8+ and is trying to get the home user to use it because it is there, much like Apple with the iCloud offering. It comes with a 5GB free personal account, which does look and feel much like Dropbox and has the ability to increase space. One Drive is mostly given away as part as a sweetener to other products, with Microsoft Office subscriptions getting at least 1TB included in their monthly subscription.

 

The best selling point to One Drive is the ability to access Office applications online to modify and collaborate online. Opening Word online to modify a file through a browser and seeing a similar interface is reassuring. It has the same ability as G Suite in terms of online collaboration, making it a very attractive option for collaborative projects between offices. While still in it’s infancy, the ability to have real time collaboration is available in the latest version of Office that is installed on the local computers.

 

The business offering is on a different platform completely, and while the website/desktop app looks similar, the management, sharing and other business tools are much more complicated and are more focused towards a larger company with a large IT presence. The ability to link it with existing on-premises server infrastructure is a definite boon. Most sign-ups will be because of its inclusion in the existing plans. But for a smaller 2-5 people groups looking to have simple system that has the ability for online collaboration, this will do the trick.

 

Conclusion:

 

Cloud storage has alleviated a large number of problems that the computer world has had. The ability to send large files to each other has never been easier with a download link sent through an email. All services do have security as the highest priority, knowing if you can’t trust these services with your data, they won’t have any customers left. All have encryption on the files and have special locks and keys that only authorised users have the ability to view the files. With all these above offerings, they are subject to, at the very minimum, all US and Australian government security requests, without your knowledge. Also with the old saying, once it is online it will be there forever. There is no way to ensure that there isn’t a backup taken somewhere by someone who does not have permission to have these files. Any highly sensitive data should always remain locally in a secure location.

 

Sharing and collaboration is also a boon and will increase productivity for all that use it. However, retracting permissions and files from a staff member with a BYO device can be a challenge. There is no way to ensure that they have not made a local copy that will not be affected by removing the program. There are some strategies that can be put in place on setup, but can be very hard to enact once implement. Proper planning is key to having good data security and management.

 

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