There are three good options for small businesses wanting to store and share documents in on the Internet in the cloud: Dropbox, Google Apps, and Microsoft’s Office 365, Docs for Facebook, and Windows Live SkyDrive.
Simplify your business and boost productivity with the freedom to use the same tools you work with daily. This means you don’t have to switch the programs you use, you just have to switch where you save and open your documents.
You can share Word documents, Powerpoint slides, and large files easily and securely with colleagues and/or clients. Collaborate across the hall or around the globe and get more work done on the go because your files are always available from Dropbox.
Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. It even works when you’re offline. You always have your files, whether or not you have a connection. Watch your changes synced instantly across shared folders.
With easy setup and control you can get started in minutes. Put Dropbox for your business on a single invoice for all of your employees and manage and migrate accounts with admin controls. If someone leaves, you can simply change their permissions online and if someone needs more space, use the admin panel to add more.
This is the same service trusted by tens of millions of personal users that’s now available for businesses. Enjoy dedicated phone support, bank grade AES-256 bit encryption, and unlimited version history for all your files. This means that you can view previous versions of your files if you need it.
Plans start at $795 for 5 users, but before you balk at the price think about all of the other hardware and software this one service is replacing. There are no more USB flash drives, external USB backups, taking backups to an off-site location, managing grandfather schemes to keep revisions, or buying expensive file servers. There is one more login account that users will have to manage, but that’s a minor inconvenience for what you’re getting.
Google’s web-based messaging and collaboration apps are more than just cloud storage, but they can do that too.
Google Apps requires no hardware or software and needs minimal administration, creating tremendous time and cost savings for businesses. Google allows email clients like Microsoft Outlook to have POP or IMAP access to email, contacts and calendar so the transition can even be seamless to your employees.
Each employee gets 25 GB for email storage, so they can keep important messages and find them instantly with built-in Google search. This is higher than what personal Google Mail users get, which is hovering around 8 GB right now. Google Docs lets you store documents in the cloud in a Dropbox-like way, but only 1 GB of storage is included with the plan. More storage can be added as needed for a nominal fee.
Gmail is designed so employees can spend less time managing their inboxes, and more time being productive. Time-saving features like message threading, message labels, fast message search and powerful spam filtering help employees work efficiently with high volumes of email. It’s spam protection is one of the primary reasons we recommend Google Apps for business.
With several options for accessing their information while on the go, employees can be productive with Google Apps even when they’re not at their desks. At no extra charge, Google Apps supports over-the-air mobile access on BlackBerry devices, the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android and many less powerful phones.
With synchronous replication, your data and activity in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites is simultaneously preserved in multiple secure data centers. If one data center is unable to serve your requests, the system is designed to instantly fall back to another data center that can serve your account with no interruption in service.
Integration options let you connect Google Apps to your existing IT infrastructure if you’re business is already on a domain and support options include: phone support for critical issues, email support, and self-service online support. Plans start at $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year.
Microsoft Office 365, Docs for Facebook, and Windows Live SkyDrive
For those who want the familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud, Office 365 is the ideal solution. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft. Whether you are a small business or multinational enterprise, Office 365 offers plans designed to fit your organization’s unique needs.
Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses is $6 per user per month subscription that lets your employees access email, documents, contacts, and calendar from virtually anywhere on almost any device. This plan is ideal for organizations with fewer than 25 employees that do not have IT staff or expertise. Compare Office 365 to Google Apps for Business.
Docs for Facebook
Built using Microsoft Office 2010, Docs for Facebook provides the best possible document service for the Facebook environment. Seamless integration with Facebook means that the service is all about sharing your documents. Docs enables Facebook users for the first time to create and share Microsoft Office documents directly with their Facebook friends, using the Office tools they already know. Docs uses the Facebook login and is intended for personal use, but can be used for business if it suits your needs.
Windows Live SkyDrive
Windows Live SkyDrive is a free cloud storage service that allows users to upload files to Internet file storage and then access them from a Web browser. It is part of Microsoft’s Windows Live range of online services, and uses Windows Live ID to control access to files, allowing users to keep the files private, share them with contacts, or make the files public. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access. The service offers 25 GB of free personal storage, with individual files limited to 100 MB. Compare this service to Dropbox for Teams.
Erich Stauffer Technology Consulting
If you need help choosing or deploying any of these solutions at your business, contact Indianapolis Technology Consultants, Erich Stauffer, Inc. We serve the Greater Indianapolis area, but travel all over the state of Indiana helping small business owners get more out of their technology.