How to Work With Cloud Storage
As a content cloud, cloud storage can significantly increase your productivity and stimulate effective collaboration within your team, provided you change how you work.
Perhaps you have heard people talking about cloud storage or read about it but are unsure how it applies to you. Maybe, you have already subscribed to a cloud storage service but struggle to make it work for your business. If that's the case, this article is for you.
What Is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage is one of these vague marketing terms that can mean many different things depending on how you use it.
In its basic form, cloud storage only means securely storing files off-premises in data centers located somewhere in the world (the cloud). Whether you think of Microsoft's OneDrive, Apple's iCloud, Google's Drive, DropBox, or Box, all cloud storage providers store your files in off-premise data centers. That is maybe the only feature they all share.
Where these services fundamentally differ is in how they treat the storage space.
OneDrive, iCloud, and Drive attach the storage space to a specific account, typically your email address. You can share files with others and collaborate on a single document, but this document still resides in the cloud storage space linked to your account. That's not an issue if your account is personal and you use cloud storage as a backup, but as a business, these little silos pose a challenge if you want to create a workflow between employees.
Dropbox and Box treat cloud storage differently. Although they also offer personal accounts, their focus is more on enabling the collaboration of teams and meeting their workflow needs - even more so in the case of Box. Therefore, Dropbox and Box link the cloud storage to a company, not individuals like OneDrive, iCloud, or Drive. With Dropbox and Box, you, as the business owner, control your employees' access to the cloud storage.
So, in summary, what is cloud storage?
When cloud storage refers to securely storing files in the cloud, it's called cloud backup.
However, when cloud storage is more than storing files in the cloud and also acts as an enabler for efficient and secure collaboration on cloud-stored content with contributors inside and outside your organization, it's called cloud content management, or content cloud in short.
What cloud storage will mean to you or your organization depends on your unique scenario and the problem you want to solve. For example, if you only work from one computer, backing up your data on your computer to the cloud may be all you need. However, if you work as part of a team, you might want to think beyond a data backup solution and consider cloud storage software that can also support effective collaboration.
If Efficiency Is Your Goal
I admit it; I am an efficiency aficionado. It pains me to waste my time on things that do not create value for my customers. As a small business owner, I cannot afford complexities that slow me down. Here is the scenario underlying this article:
You are a small business with employees or are thinking about hiring in the near future;
You work with internal and external contributors to create content for your clients or for internal use;
You want your team to become more efficient by following a set workflow;
You want your employees to access their files from any device, wherever they are;
You want to restrict the content your employees can access;
You want to retain all documents if an employee leaves your company.
If you fall into this category and want to improve your efficiency and stimulate effective collaboration within your team, you probably need to look at a cloud content management solution rather than some version of cloud backup.
The Content Cloud
We use Box as our cloud content management provider. It seems to be the most advanced regarding workflow and efficiency. Here is what we like about them:
You can work on your files on any device. Since all of your organization's files are stored in the cloud, you can access them on any device, such as your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. You only require an internet connection. Remember that your smartphone can be a hotspot to which you can connect a tablet or laptop.
Box Drive. If you work a lot with a laptop or desktop computer, you will love Box Drive. It gives you direct access to all of your files without uploading or downloading them through a browser. It's not like a sync folder of yesteryear. You work with Box-Drive just as you would with folders on your laptop or desktop. It is so intuitive and fast that sometimes you forget you are working in the cloud. If you work as a team on a project, you can quickly access a teammate's final version without having to ask them to email you the file.
Unlimited storage. Currently, Box offers unlimited storage for all its business plans. However, the upload file-size limit varies depending on the plan you choose.
Unlimited e-signatures. If you are not already using a client management software that also offers this function, such as HoneyBook or Dubsado, you can use Box's e-signing capability (Box Sign). You can add the necessary fields to any PDF document and send a link through your Box account to one or more recipients requesting them to electronically sign the document. The e-signed file is then stored in Box in the folder you have specified.
External contributors. Depending on your subscription, you can give external contributors access to specific files. It's not just a mere download of a file. Instead, this feature allows them to collaborate with your organization as an extended team.
A New Way to Work
To get the most out of Box, you must accept that all your files reside in the cloud. That is a radical change in how most people work, and it was a radical transition for us too.
At first, working with content stored solely in the cloud was scary. But once we committed ourselves to let go and test the new workflow for a single client for two weeks, we quickly saw a significant efficiency improvement in the following areas:
No more searching for the latest version of a file;
No more turning on a specific computer to access a client file — we could retrieve that information on all our devices;
No more waiting until we could log in to our computers in our office before responding to a question — we had access to the information on the road;
No more emailing large file attachments — instead, we send a link to the files stored in Box for the customer to download or a file request so they can upload documents directly to Box.
Although these improvements might sound trivial, they eliminate a lot of complexity and wasted time.
Give it a try.
It wouldn't surprise me that once you've tasted the future like we have, you'll never go back to the old way of working.
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