Skip to main content

Considerations when choosing a business cloud storage provider

person working on laptop at desk next to cloud symbol
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fast and reliable data storage is central to running your business, allowing you to retain, backup, and share files in a safe and secure way. 

Depending on your business, you may need to manage large quantities of data from multiple sources—customer profiles, sales, business financials, operational processes, policies, employee information, and more. With such a diverse range of important information, how do you find the best cloud storage provider?

The best place to start is to understand exactly what your business needs from cloud storage. Do you need daily or continuous backups? Are you going to share files across cloud storage? What type of encryption do you need? How will your data storage integrate with your existing systems? These are all vital considerations. 

In this guide, we’ll unpack each of them, covering all of the most important areas to help you choose the best cloud storage for your business.

Let’s get into it.

Step 1: Decide on the right balance of local and cloud-based business storage 

two technicians working in a data center

Locally-stored data remains popular, from one hard drive up to a data center for large enterprises (Image credit: Getty Images)

Businesses are increasingly moving to cloud-based software, systems, and storage, but that doesn’t mean everyone is ready to abandon locally-stored data. Local storage varies significantly, from using your computer’s hard drive for a one- or two-person business, to a dedicated file server for SMEs, or an entire data center for larger businesses and enterprises.

Business cloud storage can either replace or work alongside local data management solutions via hybrid cloud storage. You might decide to store almost all data locally with periodic backups to the cloud, or move all of your information online, exclusively using SaaS and similar products to access data over an internet connection. 

For most businesses, a balance between these two is desirable—using the speed and convenience of local files, combined with the security of off-site, cloud-based backups. When you’re deciding on the right information storage mix for your needs between cloud and local storage, think about how you’ll actually use, backup, share, and manage your data. Use that understanding to guide your choice of the right business storage provider.

Step 2: Understand your business requirements to find the best data storage solution 

man working on Windows 11 laptop

Know what your business needs from cloud storage before you start looking (Image credit: Unsplash)

The best business cloud storage will work alongside your data management requirements, rather than forcing you to adapt to the provider’s way of doing things. Here’s how to define exactly what you need from a data storage solution.

Do you need to share and collaborate on files, or do you just want to back them up?

Some businesses will mainly use a cloud-based system for off-site data backups. If you do most of your work on your local computer and save files to your hard drive, then a backup-only solution is a great choice. You’ll create files and information locally, then a cloud-based system can scan your computer for updated files and securely upload them to protect you from data loss.

Other businesses will want to share files between users, allowing each employee to update the file as required. These types of services will typically link to specific directories on two or more local computers, and update files with the latest changes in each directory once that file is saved and closed. This is a good way to manage data across multiple PCs, so long as you don’t need real-time collaboration.

If you want to allow two users to work on a file or information simultaneously, then you’ll need a different type of storage solution that allows for multiple authors and editors. In these types of storage, users can view changes made by others in real time, allowing for true collaboration and sharing. 

Are you backing up local data or networked drives as well?

Tiny businesses with one or a handful of employees are probably just creating files on individual PC hard drives. This is an easy use case for the best business cloud storage providers—their software will scan your hard drive for files and upload any updated information into the cloud.

As businesses get bigger, their data storage needs become more complex. These organizations will often have networked file servers—this is shared, local hardware containing networked drives where users can save information. Not every type of cloud data storage backup works with file servers, so if you use this approach, you’ll need to choose a vendor that supports networked drives.  

Are you already storing data in the cloud through a dedicated SaaS app or other services?

Many businesses already use cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platforms to run their operations. These may include customer relationship management, websites and ecommerce, communications, or invoicing and bookkeeping. 

If you’re using a SaaS app, then your data is already backed up in the cloud, and it’s very likely that you can share and collaborate on files effortlessly. In these cases, you may not need extra cloud storage outside what the SaaS platform already provides. In fact, many SaaS vendors don’t even provide direct access to your root information and files, although you can often export data on an ad hoc basis.

It’s also possible that you’re already using some type of data storage or collaboration solution. For example, if you use Google Drive or Docs, then your data is already stored online. Likewise, if you save files to OneDrive from Microsoft Office, those files are stored online as well. It’s helpful to understand the services you’re already using, so you can choose a business cloud storage provider that compliments your existing solutions.

Step 3: Define your encryption, security, and special data storage requirements 

lock on a keyboard

Encryption and high-levels of security are paramount when it comes to business cloud storage (Image credit: Unsplash)

It’s important to secure your data at all times via the best secure cloud storage —whether you’re uploading, downloading, or simply storing information in the cloud. That means searching out business cloud storage providers offering the best encrypted cloud storage

Fortunately, encryption comes as standard with most vendors, with your data being cryptographically scrambled when it’s “in transit” or “at rest”. This makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to intercept and decode your sensitive business information.

Secure cloud storage is one area that can make a difference to your data security, specifically in terms of how you login and access your business cloud storage. Generally, you’ll want to choose a provider that offers two-factor or multifactor authentication. This logon protection requires a user name, password, and some other security factor like a text message code or one-time authentication key to access data. 

Depending on the type of data you’re storing, your vendor may need to meet additional compliance and regulations. For example, if you’re holding data on European citizens, your data storage must be GDPR compliant. If you manage medical information, then you will need to pay attention to HIPAA. If you’re dealing with credit card payments, then PCI DSS-compliant vendors will be necessary.

Step 4: Integrate with your existing disaster recovery processes 

Laptop on table with “Secured” written and padlock displayed on the screen

By syncing cloud storage with other business recovery plans, you can get back up to speed quickly after a data loss event (Image credit: Dan Nelson from Pixabay)

Data loss can happen under several different circumstances. Hardware failure, natural disasters, human error, misconfigured changes, malware, and hacking can all damage or destroy information. The lack of a backup plan is bad for business—over half of all firms have lost data due to inadequate backups. Catastrophic data losses are a major cause of business failure and bankruptcy. 

Businesses often use frameworks like disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity planning (BCP) to define and manage how they will continue to operate and recover in the event of a data loss. When you’re choosing the best business cloud storage, it’s important to understand if you have any DR or BCP policies or procedures in place. That way, you can understand the steps you’ll need to follow to manage information issues, and ensure your data storage provider will integrate with those processes.

If you don’t yet have DR or BCP processes, then it’s definitely worth developing them. You can create data backup schedules, decide on the types of backups you need, and test your recovery processes. That way, you’ll be ready if disaster strikes!

Step 5: Other considerations for business cloud storage providers 

office with workers on computers at desks

Make sure to comprehensively analyze your company's requirements for cloud storage (Image credit: Getty Images)

Each of the areas we’ve already listed will help you define what you need from your business cloud storage, but here are some additional considerations to make your search even easier.

Trade off between customization and usability

Many business data backup and sharing solutions are designed to be fast and easy to use. This means they’re not particularly sophisticated when allowing you to choose what to backup, how often, when, or where. This won’t be an issue for most businesses, but if you need deeper customization, then you may need a more specialist solution. 

Service level agreements for backing up and recovering information

Most data storage providers offer very good uptime, well in excess of 99.5% availability. This is more than sufficient for most business needs—but, if you have very strict backup and recovery requirements, then look for vendors that offer commercial service level agreements with even better guaranteed uptime. 

Initial setup and support costs for cloud-based data storage

Cloud-based data backup is well-priced, often based on how much data you want to store. You will typically pay for storage on a monthly or annual subscription basis, without upfront costs. You can often find business data storage at a cost of $100 or less for a year. That’s a bargain when you compare it to the potential cost of losing data and not being able to recover it.

Step six: List your requirements and start your search 

The topics we’ve explored in this guide should cover most of your considerations for choosing the perfect business cloud storage provider. Go through each of these areas in turn, and ask the questions of yourself and your colleagues, based on your current and future business needs. This will help you create a “must-have” requirements list that you can use to narrow your search. 

When it comes to matching your needs with the right vendor and storage solution, we’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting. We’ve created several in-depth guides that review the best cloud storage for business, with details on many of the areas in this article, including: the best cloud storage; the best cloud storage for business; the best apps to share files; and the best encrypted cloud storage.

Once you’re reviewed the best options for your cloud storage needs, it’s time to test out the solutions to find the right one for you.

Further reading on cloud storage

Take a look at our other buying guides covering cloud storage, including the best cloud storage for photos and the best cloud backup services, for which we've outlined a guide on how to choose cloud storage for backups. We've also spelt out how best to choose and use cloud storage, and if you're looking for storage on a tight budget, explore the best free cloud storage services.

Paul is a professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology. He loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easy to understand. He can quote 'The Princess Bride' in its entirety and believes the secret to good writing is Earl Grey tea.