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5 top cloud data storage tips for businesses

it professional in a server room
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

So, you’ve chosen one of the best cloud storage providers, and moved your company’s files onto the cloud. But are you getting the best out of your cloud data storage, and are you doing all you can to keep your files safe and secure? 

The best cloud storage for business has many features that could benefit your business. It enables you to access your files from anywhere, which is great for employees working from home or on the move, and it also offers a lot of collaborative tools which can take the technical difficulties out of teamwork. 

Additionally, most major cloud providers keep your work encrypted and secure, though there are potential security risks to you and your customers if you don’t manage your cloud storage for backups properly.

In this article, we’ll guide you through five ways you can improve your cloud data storage experience, and keep your files safe.

1. Keep on top of security

woman on laptop in front of data center

Cloud computing is increasingly popular, but are you getting the best out of it? (Image credit: Pexels)

The major cloud data storage providers have state-of-the-art and regularly updated security systems, including encryption and firewalls, so your files are probably safer on the cloud than if you stored them locally.

There are still potential risks, but most of these can be countered by properly understanding and using these security features, and training your employees in good online security. 

It’s important that all users have strong passwords. Many people use the same password for all their online accounts, which is dangerous—if one website that an employee has a personal account on gets hacked, then the hackers could potentially access their work accounts too. 

The solution is to use the best password managers; these are highly secure, and enable users to have different passwords for all their accounts without having to remember them all.

Business users of the cloud should also use two-factor authentication, which means that, even if a password is compromised, there’s an extra layer of security that would stop a hacker getting into the account. As an admin, you should be able to make it compulsory for all users to set this up.

Additionally, ensure account alerts are turned on. This means that, if there is any activity like sign-ins from a new device, you will be notified. Most of the time, these alerts will be nothing to worry about, but it does help you act fast on the rare occasion someone unauthorized tries to access your files.

2. Make the most of syncing

Dropbox’s desktop sync interface

With Dropbox, your files can automatically sync with your operating system (Image credit: DropBox)

A big benefit of cloud storage is the immediate synchronization of your files and folders. With the best file sharing services provided by cloud data storage providers, all of your team will be able to access the most up-to-date files wherever they are, which is particularly useful with ever more people working from home.

If you’re not a fan of the default browser-based cloud storage interfaces, then a useful feature offered by many providers is the ability to integrate your cloud folders into your operating system’s file structure, such as the Windows File Explorer or the Mac Finder. 

Once you’ve downloaded a necessary app, your cloud-stored files will appear as a folder on your computer, and, as long as you have an internet connection, the syncing should be automatic and seamless. If you have lots of files that aren’t synced regularly—an archive of old, rarely consulted records, for example—then it’s worth checking whether your storage provider has an option to store these files “cold”. 

This is when files are kept on lower performing hardware such as tape, and aren’t live synced, so need to be manually retrieved to be accessed. The advantage is that it can save a lot of money. Google and Microsoft Azure are two platforms that offer cold storage.

3. Keep things organized

A Google Drive file shortcut being created

Google Drive’s shortcut feature is one of its useful organizational tools (Image credit: Google Drive)

Cloud data storage allows you to sort your files within a folder structure, like you would on a traditional hard drive. If you’re going to be sharing access with your team, it’s important to have a clearly planned out structure, and to establish rules for consistent file naming so that everyone can find the files they need. 

Do this from the start, rather than sorting as you go along, or you’ll inevitably end up with an unnavigable mess. A good folder structure is also important for security, because it helps you manage permissions. For example, if you set up a folder and restrict access to company managers, then any files you put in it will be kept confidential. This is much easier than setting file permissions for each individual file. 

As well as a traditional folder system, you should look into what additional organizational tools your cloud storage comes with. These vary from one provider to another, but, for example, one useful tool found in Google Drive that you might not know about is the ability to add a shortcut to a file in a different folder.

To do this, select the file and press Shift+Z. You will then be able to select a second folder in which to place a shortcut. For editing purposes, this is the same file, rather than being two separate copies. This is useful when a file is relevant to more than one team or project. 

4. Collaborate with live documents

Comments being added to a Google Drive file

One of Google Drive’s collaborative features is the ability to add comments to files (Image credit: Google Drive)

With files stored on local drives, you may have attempted to have more than one employee open the same file, only to overwrite each other’s work. But with cloud data storage, files can be both accessed and edited simultaneously, which makes a lot of tasks much easier. 

For example, if you have an accounts spreadsheet hosted on Google Sheets, then everyone on your accounts team can simultaneously add in details of the accounts they’re dealing with from separate devices. There’s also no need to worry about closing the sheet so someone else can take a turn accessing it!

It’s also very easy to track changes. If that accounts team manager thinks a number in the sheet is wrong, they can see the edit history of the relevant cell and find out who input it and when, which will help identify how the error was made. Though this specific feature is unique to Google Drive, other cloud collaboration services include their own edit history features.

You may still be worried about how, with multiple users working on a file, one user could accidentally delete another’s work. But many cloud services offer versioning—the ability to revert to a previous version of the document with a few clicks. This is very useful if wires get crossed, and you want to undo changes that a team member has made by mistake.

5. Use integrations

The Salesforce interface with Dropbox integration

Integrating Dropbox with Salesforce makes it easy to share your files (Image credit: Dropbox)

Other software you use within your business can be integrated with your cloud data storage provider, which enables smooth interaction between the processes.

For example, you might use the chat app Slack for team communication. It can be integrated with several cloud providers, including Google Drive and Dropbox. This means that you can search through your files without having to leave the Slack app, share cloud files within chats, or even have an automated message posted when there are changes to a folder.

Another example is HelloSign, which enables users to quickly and easily sign documents. With this integration installed into Dropbox or Google Drive, you can sign documents within your storage with just a few clicks.

Dropbox integrates particularly well with Salesforce (US-only link), the customer relationship management system used by many businesses. You can set it up to transfer files from Dropbox straight into your Salesforce records, which can simplify your workflow and mean you have access to sales records wherever you are.

These are just a few examples of the many integrations available through some cloud providers. However, in order to keep a clean and efficient system and to minimize potential security risks, you should remember to periodically check which apps have access to your cloud data storage, and remove any you’re no longer using.

Summary

By following these tips, you can be confident that your files on the cloud are safe and secure, and many aspects of your day-to-day work will run much smoother thanks to the benefits offered by cloud data storage.

Further reading on cloud storage

Make sure to read our detailed reviews of the providers mentioned in this feature, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Dropbox Business. Also, check out our guide to the best cloud storage for business, and find more helpful tips relating to cloud storage in our feature on how to reduce cloud storage costs.

Kieron Moore

Kieron Moore is a freelance writer based in Manchester, England. He contributes to Future sites including TechRadar and Creative Bloq, focusing on subjects including creative software, video editing, and streaming services. This work draws on his experience as an independent filmmaker and an independent TV watcher. He can be found on Twitter at @KieronMoore, usually when he’s meant to be writing.