While the cloud has become a mainstream concept in businesses of all sizes, many small firms are still trying to determine the role that the cloud plays in their organization.
A study released in early 2016 showed that while cloud adoption continues to increase among small and mid-size businesses, 48% of those organizations have yet to adopt cloud-based file sharing. Cloud-based file sharing can offer great benefits to your organization including increased employee productivity, streamlined collaboration, and increased security.
I work remotely about 40% of each work week. I am able to maintain my productivity as a result of the anytime, anywhere access that affordable, cloud-based tools provide. I recall a day earlier this spring when I realized just how nimble my tools allow me to be.
On this particular day I was scheduled to give a speech two hours from home. I was riding in the passenger seat of my colleague’s car along the Western Kentucky Parkway when I received a call from my boss, frantic for a presentation file I had been pulling together for him. We were scheduled to present together the following week, but he’d just learned the presentation had been moved up to the current day. He needed a couple of last minute adjustments made, and I was not there in the office to make them or provide him the latest version of the file. What could have been a stressful situation was no big deal. For the past two years I have used OneDrive to store all my office documents. That morning I used the hotspot on my iPhone to connect my Surface tablet to the internet, pulled up the presentation, made the desired changes and right there, from the passenger seat of that car, was able to send my boss a web link to the latest version of the file he needed to conduct the meeting.
Increased Collaboration and Security
A recent Frost and Sullivan survey showed that companies investing in collaboration technologies (like Office 365, the suite I use daily) increase worker productivity by as much as 400%. This is due to easy collaboration between employees who are able to work together on documents regardless of where and when they are working.
If you have ever worked with other individuals to produce or edit a document, you know the pain associated to traditional collaboration efforts. Often one individual creates a file and emails it as an attachment to others. Those individuals download the file, make edits then individually email the file back. The result is multiple versions of the same document each containing their own edits. It’s difficult to ensure all the changes are made and can take a significant amount of time to sort them all out. When you use a cloud-based collaboration tool, you eliminate the time-consuming and often unsecure process of sending files back and forth over email. Instead, a link to the data is shared from a centralized location. Security rules can be established ensuring the file is accessible by only those individuals who should have access. Once the file is shared, it can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously. When logged in to the file, those individuals can see the updates and changes others are making to the document in real time.
Eliminate Costly Do-Overs
Losing a file can be devastating. One in ten laptops is stolen in the US each year. Hard drives fail all the time. It is not unusual for mobile workers to store their documents on their local hard drives or on USB thumb drives to ensure accessibility when away from the office which poses a risk of theft or accidental data loss. When you take advantage of cloud-based storage, you are provided with a level of protection from such loss. My use of OneDrive, for example, provides me with access to copies of documents that I chose to have stored on my hard drive so that they can be accessed anytime I am without an internet connection. When connectivity is restored, any files that are changed are automatically synced to the cloud. Should the laptop hard drive fail, all the information can be accessed from my online account.
I’d be remiss if I did not offer a word of warning with regard to local file storage of your synced files. Use caution when storing copies of any file remotely. If the document contains sensitive data that could be damaging to you if it fell into the hands of a third party, encrypt it or do not store a local version. You must also be diligent about what files you store in your cloud drives. In a past article I introduced ways to protect yourself from ransomware. While cloud based storage can provide some protection to you from data loss, it too, is vulnerable to malicious software. If you upload a document infected with ransomware to your cloud storage location, your backed up files have the potential to become infected. As a best practice, access your files through your online account and maintain local copies only when you are working on them.
There are many affordable, easy to use cloud-based file sharing solutions available to businesses of all sizes. When selecting provider look for solutions that are familiar to your users, invest in training to ensure your staff know how to take advantage of the features, and ask the vendor to provide statistics on their reliability. You’ll soon find yourself on the way to a more productive workplace.