Small businesses these days increasingly need to be able to access their data while they are on the go, without needing to have any hardware maintenance costs or storage maintenance overhead. Cloud storage is gaining in popularity very rapidly and offers a very efficient solution. In this article we will be exploring the concept of cloud hosting and review some of the leading cloud hosting providers that can meet the needs of small businesses.
Options For Data Storage
Prior to cloud computing, personal data was stored by people on memory cards and hard drives. However, mobile phones and computers can easily be lost or damaged, and might need to be physically close to the device so that the stored data can be accessed. Businesses have been storing their data in dedicated data centers on large servers. A user can only access the data if he or she logs into the corporate network. It might not be accessible when a user is on the go or via the Internet.
Both corporate servers and individual devices need to have dedicated maintenance and support, and ensuring the data’s security is still very challenging.
Cloud Storage Defined
A cloud hosting company or cloud service provider offers their clients fixed-sized service space for storing their data on. While the stored data is owned by the client, the necessary hardware is owned and maintained by the hosting company. Continuous access to client data is provided by the cloud host, while offering secure access that the client designates. In turn, the data might be stored across one or several servers, and the cloud hosting company configures them within their data centers.
Although the concept has been around since the 1960’s, in the past couple of years it has increased in popularity based on better Internet infrastructure which allows faster access to data that is hosted remotely. Businesses are moving rapidly to cloud hosting, since it eliminates the hassles that are involved with certain security concerns, associated costs and local server maintenance. The growing cloud hosting market includes major names such as Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com, with giants such as Intel reportedly heavily investing in supporting technologies.
In this article we will be listing the best eight cloud service providers. We have arranged our list in alphabetical order, and included pricing details as of the time that this article was published.
1. Amazon Web Services (AWS): A broad range of various cloud hosting services are offered by Amazon Web Services. Plans include Custom Pricing, Pay less as AWS grows, Pay less per unit through using more, Pay less when reserved, Pay as you go. “Pay as you go” enables you to pay for the resources that you actually use, with having any upfront costs or long term commitments. On the plan “Pay less when you reserve” you are allowed to make an investment in reserved capacity, and get savings and discounts later on. “Pay even less per unit through using more” lets you receive the benefits of lower costs while having increased data transfer and storage space at the same time. The plan “Pay even less as AWS grows” lets you get benefits when reduced operational costs are the result of AWS optimizations. As can be expected, custom pricing is for clients who need customized solutions. According to AWS, its unique selling proposition is dedicated application and computation services, including gaming, business apps hosting, mobile data backup and website hosting. Across numerous product offerings, pricing details can greatly vary. You can begin with the free AWS tier in order to get experience firsthand of the expected costs and services.
2. Box: Features that are offered by Box for business include dedicated technical support, reporting, admin and IT controls, cross platforms, file sync, enterprise-level security and secure file sharing. They have a free personal plan, which offers 10 GB of storage, while their personal pro plan offers 100 GB of storage and costs $11.50 per month. A starter plan is included in the business plans that offers 100 GB of storage and costs $6 per month per user. Businesses can receive unlimited storage with three users at least and a cost of
$17 per month per user. Under their enterprise plan, customization can be requested by clients. Features like maximum file size allowed, active directory and Microsoft Office 365, vary among the business pans. Users are able to choose which one will meet their needs the best.
3. Dropbox: According to Dropbox, they serve over 100,000 business through the company’s business cloud hosting services. National Geographic Channel, Macquarie Bank, Yahoo and Hyatt are a couple of well-known brands that are clients of Dropbox. Beyond seamless integration features, backup, sync, storage and cross-platform sharing, file sharing is allowed by Dropbox even with users not having a Dropbox account. Their basic plan is free and is for individuals. It provides 2 GB of storage and has Microsoft 365 integration, which allows you to directly edit files through Dropbox. The individual Pro plan offers 1 TB of free storage. Unlimited storage is offered by the Business plan and it costs $15 per month per user, with a minimum of five users. Complete audit records on user activities, controls and sharing are offered. Priority dedicated support is provided to business users.
4. JustCloud: Over 50 features are offered, including hourly backup, file versioning, geo-redundant storage, permission and access management, network drives, and admin control panel. The business plan offers 100 GB of storage available for five computers and costs $35.94 per month. The enterprise plan comes with 500 GB of storage space for a total of 20 computers and costs $71.94 a month. There are also custom plans available if you have greater backup needs.
5. Microsoft OneDrive: Cloud hosting services are offered by Microsoft through OneDrive. Individual users can receive 15 GB of storage free, 100 GB for $1.99 per month, 200 GB for $3.99 per month and 1 TB for $6.99 per month. Business plans begin at $5 per month for 1 TB per user. There is a free trial that is available. In addition to storage, powerful searching and cross-platform syncing are some of OneDrive’s key features. It comes with downloadable software for keeping local and remote data in sync. Many third party apps are supported to work with its cloud data seamlessly. Hybrid options are also offered that integrate Microsoft’s cloud services with your on-premises solutions.
6. OpenDrive: A wide suite of features are offered by OpenDrive on its business plan, which includes user management, workflow management, project management and data management. Backup features, sync and standard data storage are offered by data management. Project management provides online office suite. Over 17 different file types are supported for direct editing. Also available are apps working across Android, Mac and Windows platforms in addition to powerful desktop software. A basic plan is offered by OpenDrive that provides 5 GB of free storage and limits on speed of access and file size. The professional plans begin at $12.95 per month, and offer unlimited access speed, unlimited file size and unlimited storage for one user. The unlimited personal plans lets you have as many as three users accounts (with a cost for each user), while unlimited user accounts (for an extra cost) are allowed on the business unlimited plan. Custom pricing is also available for specific needs.
7. SpiderOak: In terms of your data, the company has a “zero knowledge” policy.
Whistle blower and computer analyst Edward Snowden has publicly praised SpiderOak. The selling points of SpiderOak are flexible hosting plans, no knowledge to hosts, and full control for clients. Plans start at 30 GB of data for $7 per month and go as high as 5 TB. For active directory integration and other advanced business needs, SpiderOak offers its Enterprise on Premise and Enterprise hosted plans. Costs start at $5 per month per user, with the Enterprise on Premise plan requiring 500 users minimum and the Enterprise hosted plan requiring 100 users minimum, with one-time setup fees of $599 and $299 respectively. For businesses that have sensitive data and requiring advanced system services and configuration, SpiderOak is a great fit.
8. Syncplicity: This is a great cloud host for a business that holds sensitive data and would like their administrators to have the ability to limit and control access. You can access stored data on multiple platforms and across devices. It comes with a clutter-free interface and robust reporting features for monitoring usage of content. For administrators, it lets you implement controls and policies to access data. It allows users to be grouped and different controls to be applied to the groups. Restrictions are also facilitated based on a device’s location. The personal plan is free and provides 10 GB of storage. The business plan offers 300 GB of storage, with prices starting at $60 per year per user, with a 3 user minimum. The department plan offers 1 TB of storage and begins at $60 per year per users with a 25 user minimum. Unlimited cloud storage is offered by the enterprise plan. It begins at $150 a year with a 25 user minimum. There is a 30-day free trial period on all paid plans.
“Free offers” in today’s high tech world frequently come with numerous restrictions. When it comes to free cloud storage, that means limits on type and size of data that you can host, technical support, backup availability, platforms (Linux or Windows), and bandwidth utilization. For individual users that might be fine. However, most likely small businesses will need to pay in order for all of their needs to be met. Although there are numerous good options to choose from, you will definitely want to do research upfront before you trust the data from your business to any hosting provider.