Personal computers have gone a long way in streamlining work, communication and the number of paper documents being used in the usual running of the modern business. Unfortunately, personal computers are so named for a very good reason. These machines were largely created and designed for individual use where they largely excel at their task. However, in organizational setups they have historically failed to replicate two of the biggest conveniences that come with the use of physical documents in offices.
Physical documents not only make it easier for multiple parties to collaborate on a single file but the fate and security of documents that are crucial to a company’s operations are never tied to these vulnerable gadgets. Nowadays you can lose important business documents due to a variety of mishaps which include power cuts, viruses and computer malfunctions.
In a modern office environment which works with large volumes of documents unless tasks are allocated to specific individuals, several people may end up independently working on the exact same thing. This is because multiple copies of the same file can be easily created, each of which will start a life of its own. Allowing employees who are on the clock to perform redundant labour is a very expensive mistake.
Nowadays with internet connectivity getting more affordable and reliable, several companies have introduced services which go a long way in tackling these challenges. These cloud services not only make collaboration easier but they also improve the security of documents and ensure that they can be accessed on any device that may be at your disposal when you wish to do so as long as you have an internet connection.
I will list three of the most popular cloud services. While all of these entries are primarily storage services I will largely focus on their cloud-based file creation, editing and collaboration tools since these are far more important to small businesses than the large storage spaces offered (many of which are too excessive for local small businesses).
Amazon’s cloud service which also allows business users to create, edit and collaborate on documents is offered free of charge for a 30 day trial period during which 1 terabyte of storage is made available for each of the company’s users. After those 30 days if you are happy with the service your business can fork out 5 USD per user every month. In return, Amazon gives you unlimited storage.
Dropbox Paper (DropBox)
This company is much smaller than all the other entries in this list but no list of cloud storage companies is complete without it as this startup was one of the pioneers in bringing cloud storage to consumers. Dropbox has three plans for businesses: Standard, Advanced and Enterprise. The first two cost will cost you 12.50USD and 20USD per user every month respectively. For the Enterprise plan you have to directly contact the company.
The Standard plan gives your company 5 terabytes per user while the other two plans offer unlimited storage. Each of these plans comes with “Paper” a document collaboration tool which is Drop Box’s answer to the other ones presented in this article.
One Drive + Office 360 (Microsoft)
Microsoft introduced the online version of its vastly successful Office Suite of products a few years ago and dubbed it Office 360. Depending on the One Drive plan of your choice, your business can not only have access to storage on One Drive but can also access widely popular applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel directly from your browser.
One Drive offers three plans for businesses. The first of these gives you storage at 5USD per user per month. For 10USD per user per month, you get the same as the previous plan plus what they describe as “additional security and compliance features”.
The Premium plan is the one which gives your company access to Office 365 in addition to One Drive storage at a slightly higher price of 12.50USD per user per month. Since Office products are some of the most familiar pieces of software this plan and service is probably the best way to introduce your employees to cloud computing and its various benefits without subjecting them to the steeper learning curves brought on by new products.
G-Suite + Google Docs (Google)
The internet giant offers your business 3 plans to choose from. The first, appropriately called Basic, offers you 30 gigabytes on Google Drive which is certainly not much if you consider that not only do they already offer 15 gigabytes for free but that most of their competitors are offering terabytes of storage on their cheapest plans.
The next plan is even more directed at businesses and is called nothing more than “Business”. For 12USD per user every month you get among other things a Gmail business email address (e.g email@example.com) and unlimited cloud storage for your data. The company also offers an Enterprise plan which most small businesses should not concern themselves with but larger organisations must definitely take a look.
Google also has a set of excellent online document creation, editing and collaboration tools called Docs. Unlike their Microsoft counterparts, these are for the most part free. You can use these to write documents, work on spreadsheets and prepare slideshows.