February 2017

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Which Cloud Storage is Right For You?

Since the advent of the Internet, the technology industry has been steadily moving away from local storage to remote, server-based storage and processing - what is more commonly known as, the cloud. Let's examine the way we listen to music and watch movies nowadays. We used to play them locally from hard drives and other types of local media, but now they're streamed online from a multitude of servers around the world. By keeping your own documents and media files in the cloud, you can now take advantage of the same privileges of anytime-anywhere access and sharing. This in turn will help in work productivity and can also help to reduce the strain of local storage requirements.

The cloud storage services provide seamless access to all your important data. Whether it be a Word document, PDF document, Excel spreadsheet, photos, or any other digital media, it can be accessed from wherever you are. It is no longer necessary for you to be sitting at your work PC to see your work files. With cloud storage, you can get to them from your smartphone on the train ride to work, from your tablet while watching TV on your couch, and from the laptop in your hotel room on a business trip. Using cloud storage services means no more having to email files to yourself or plug and unplug USB thumb drives.

If you aren't yet subscribed to a service for storing and syncing your data in the cloud, you need to get one immediately. Which one you choose depends on the kinds of files you store, how much security you need, whether you plan to collaborate with other people, and which devices you use to edit and access your files. It may also depend on your comfort level with computers in general. Some services are extremely user-friendly, while others offer advanced customization for more experienced techies.

What Can Cloud Storage Do for You?
The best cloud storage solutions will be compatible with any other apps or services that you may use. Therefore, making the experience of viewing or editing your files feel comfortable. In business settings, you would especially want your other software and apps to be able to seamlessly retrieve or access your files. So making sure you choose a service that easily cohabitates with the other tools you use for work is a priority.

The range of capabilities of cloud-based storage services is incredible and can vary by provider. For the most part, they all maintain the same basic function of anytime, anywhere access. Many of them specialize in a specific area or have specific functions that no other service can provide. To find the one right for you depends on a multitude of factors. Are you situated in the Google/Android or Apple/iOS ecosystem? Do you want cross platform functionality? Are you only interested in high level security? Are you interested in collaboration software, offering real-time document coediting?

Cloud Backup
While Cloud Storage and Cloud Backup are similar in functionality, please remember that they are, in fact, two distinct and different services. The main purpose of cloud backup services, such as Carbonite, is all about disaster recovery. A cloud backup service automatically maintains a complete backup of all your computers files with no interaction needed by the user. This offers peace of mind in the case that you should experience a disk failure. This service also offers little to no functionality of sharing, syncing and editing. But by properly maintaining a cloud storage service, it too can offer the same backup functions. User interaction would be necessary to choose and select which documents to backup, which for most services means keeping these documents in one specific folder or manually uploading into the cloud.

Free vs. Paid
Many cloud storage services have a free account that usually comes with some limitations, such as the amount of storage they provide or a size limit on files you can upload. And then the paid portion would increase these limits or even add different functionalities based on which price tier is purchased. The great thing about the free service is that you can test it out, to become acquainted, for several weeks or more before moving on to its paid service.

But why should I pay for an account when I can just use the free option? If you were to search around the internet, you would probably find horror stories of cloud storage gone wrong. One of the benefits of paying for an account is that it usually comes with additional support from the provider, so if anything does go wrong, you can get someone on the phone to help you resolve the issue.

There are many other reasons to pay for cloud storage, from getting more space, to being able to upload really large files. Graphic designers, video editors, and other visual artists who often work with massive files would benefit most from an upgrade. Other perks of paying for cloud storage often include increased access to file-version history, more security, or more features for collaboration and working with teams. And then others will provide built in document editing functions for word processing and spreadsheets.

The Best Cloud Storage Services
There are many cloud storage services out in the market today. Practically all are free to signup, with each having their own starting limits. Extra services and limits are available through each provider at an additional cost. The most popular providers are listed here:

1. Dropbox
What is widely known as the Grandfather of cloud storage, Dropbox offers a paltry 2GB of free storage. This total can be increased up to 16GB at no cost by linking your Dropbox to different social media accounts and also by referring friends and family to join the service.

Dropbox Business subscriptions allow users to collaborate on work as well as giving each person unlimited space in a personal Dropbox account. There are also enhanced features for file recovery and versioning. Business pricing starts from $12.50 per user.

Price: 2GB are free on signup. For $9.99 a month you get 1TB with Dropbox Pro

2. Google Drive
All Android device owners are automatically given a Google Drive account upon sign up. It is well incorporated in the Google ecosystem which includes the ability to backup and store your smartphone pictures and also use Google's office document suite known as G Suite. Even if you are not part of the Google family, you too can sign up and enjoy the generous amount of free storage available. An app is also available for iOS.

Price: 15GB are free on signup. For $1.99 a month you get 100GB. 1TB can be had for $9.99 a month.

3. Microsoft OneDrive
OneDrive is conveniently directly integrated into all Windows 10 machines in the file explorer. An app is available for Android and iOS devices. Mac users can install an app, but reviews are mixed on usage. Microsoft Office 365 users are given 1 TB of storage included with their paid subscription.

Price: 5GB free on signup. For $1.99 a month you get 50GB.

4. iCloud
iPhone users are given 5GB of free storage to back up pictures and data. Most users have already realized that they would need more than that, but prices are very reasonable to its competitors should you decide to upgrade. As expected your iCloud Drive is directly integrated into the Mac Finder app. Windows users can also install an app for using its services. Android currently does not have any authorized support for iCloud.

Price: 5GB are free on signup. 50GB for $0.99 a month. 200GB for $2.99

5. Box
Box has been around for a while and offers both Individual and Business plans. Its Individual plans are very straight forward and are comparable to all other cloud storage services. Its Business plans offer much more robust features such as unlimited storage, advanced collaboration options and file versioning. Box is supported for Android and iOS, and clients are available for Mac and Windows devices.

Price: 10GB are free on signup. 100GB for $10 a month (Individual plan)

The cloud storage providers listed here are just a small sampling of the numerous companies offering services in the market today. Each has their own positives and negatives. Due diligence is required to make sure you choose the right provider for your business. Should you require help in making your decision, please contact the professionals at Kakimoto & Nagashima LLP.


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