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10/19/2009
11:54 AM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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5 (Hidden) Benefits Of Cloud Storage For SMBs

There's a familiar litany of cloud computing benefits, from lower capital expenses and fast deployments to ubiquitous access and bringing enterprise-class technology to smaller companies. But I recently came across a handful of under-radar-advantages that cloud storage promises bring to your small or midsize business.

There's a familiar litany of cloud computing benefits, from lower capital expenses and fast deployments to ubiquitous access and bringing enterprise-class technology to smaller companies. But I recently came across a handful of under-radar-advantages that cloud storage promises bring to your small or midsize business.The list came from Dominic Cross, general manager at Livedrive, a UK-based cloud storage provider. I've adapted it a bit for use on bMighty: 1. Synchronization. Cloud storage technology can allow users to sync files directly between computers on the local network. That's important, Cross says, because many SMBs still keep key files on local hard drives. Cloud storage means no more sneakernet or e-mailing files around the office.

2. Collaboration. Pioneered by Google Docs, many cloud-storage vendors now let users view and edit documents (spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing documents, for example) via a Web portal. Cross says that's especially useful for helping geographically dispersed workers collaborate in real time. 3. Sharing. Large video, audio, and graphic art files can quickly choke your company's e-mail system. And e-mailing sensitive files can raise security concerns. Cross points out that many cloud storage services now offer drag-n-drop functionality that makes it easy to securely transfer large or confidential files. 4) Security. It may be counter-intuitive, but Cross claims that cloud storage is actually far more secure than what most SMBs can do in-house. At many smaller companies, locally stored files are at risk from theft, fire, software problems, and hardware failure. Cloud storage can offer built in redundancy at every level: hard drive, server, and datacenter. 5) Always On. When an SMB's ISP goes down, or when your router fails, or when your server has issues, or you (or someone on your IT staff) flicks the wrong switch, your whole company can lose access to data and services. Cloud storage providers have to be experts at uptime and service availability, Cross claims, so their uptime records are generally better than you can do on your own. And because many cloud storage providers cache data locally as well as online, even if the service goes down or you lose your Internet connection you still have access to your data.

But while cloud storage makes these benefits possible, none of them are guaranteed. A quick glance at the news is all it takes to be reminded that even the best cloud providers occasionally have problems. Choose the wrong provider -- or hit a bit of bad luck -- and these benefits disappear. Or worse.

On the other hand, don't forget this fact when reading about all the problems in the cloud: Similar failures among small and midsize businesses are simply far too common to be newsworthy -- even if the affected companies were willing to talk about them.

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