One of the smartest ways to make your small business more productive is to use cloud storage and sharing for your business documents and data. That’s why I was so shocked to find that nearly half of U.S. small businesses in a new survey by Clutch still don’t use cloud storage.
Of the 52 percent of small business owners who use cloud storage, 53 percent use Dropbox; rounding out the four most popular services are Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive. Yet 48 percent of small businesses don’t use cloud storage at all.
Cloud storage offers so many benefits to a small business, I don’t know where to start. Here are a few that stand out:
- The cloud can provide additional security. Compared to storing sensitive customer or financial data on your own in-house computers or servers, storing that information in a secure cloud can actually be much safer. Instead of relying on your own tech know-how to keep your data safe and secure, when you use a cloud storage provider, you've got the benefit of their equipment and expertise protecting your information. This can be especially useful if your business has to comply with standards such as HIPAA. Be sure to ask for details about a cloud provider's security and compliance if this is a concern.
- The cloud can provide peace of mind. In addition to security, a good cloud storage solution will automatically update and sync your files across all devices whenever someone makes a change. That means whoever pulls up a document or spreadsheet can feel confident they’re working on the latest version. If you're worried about things getting overwritten, look for a cloud storage solution that maintains past versions of your files, too.
- The cloud makes it easier to work together. When your data is stored in the cloud and you also use the cloud to share files with your employees or customers, it really cuts down: time wasted waiting for someone to send you a file, time wasted waiting for someone to come into the office and sign a document, time wasted inputting the whole team's comments into a master document. Cloud sharing allows your whole team to access files, view them and edit them—if that’s what you want them to do. When choosing a collaborative cloud sharing solution, make sure it allows for different levels of access so you can control who sees what and who edits what.
- The cloud makes meetings simpler. You can use online video conferencing solutions to hold meetings without the need to travel or even be in the same office (great if you have independent contractors or remote employees). Look for a videoconferencing tool that enables features such as screen sharing so everyone can view a document, presentation or video at the same time.
- The cloud expands with your business. If you store your data on hard drives or backup drives, you've got to worry about running out of space and make sure you always have enough storage space. That means buying more equipment—and that's a hassle. With cloud storage, you can add more storage space with just a click, and all the mechanics are handled on the provider's end. When your business is growing, you've got enough to worry about, so it's nice when storage isn’t one of them.
Using the cloud has definitely changed my business for the better and made my life much easier. If you still haven't joined the cloud club, what are you waiting for?
Need help choosing a cloud storage provider or figuring out how to maximize the cloud’s value to your business? Talk to a SCORE mentor. Visit www.score.org.