smb free cloud storage

Is free cloud storage good enough for your business?

by Robert Schomer

Consumer adoption of cloud services is, in some ways, more mature than it is for business.

Nearly all of us have cloud-based personal email accounts, and we’ve become accustomed to getting free storage for photos, files and other personal documents. The proliferation of consumer cloud storage and file sharing solutions has made life easier in many ways, but they can create issues when it comes to business use.

Because so many of us are comfortable with the way these services work, the cloud is often the first option workers try when they hit a wall with company-provided tools. Need to send a 30MB pitch deck that exceeds the file size limit on your email? Upload it to your personal cloud storage account and send a link. Working on a quarterly report with a colleague in another office? Create a file in a shared online service.

Many of the same services we rely on for personal use also offer business-class solutions that can help deliver the results you need. But big issues arise when your employees use a mix of different consumer solutions that are attached to their personal accounts. This can create significant security risks for your organization and a loss of control over your proprietary information.

Out of your hands

This is not to suggest that consumer services for file storage and transfer are inherently less secure than your approved tools. However, when used in a business setting, problems can stem from the fact that you are entrusting data security to the individual employee.

Consider this example: several employees are collaborating on a report using their own personal cloud storage accounts. Their documents may include proprietary financial data about your company, or information about your customers. What happens if one of these employees leaves the organization, particularly if it’s under acrimonious circumstances? All of that information is now at risk.

The threats extend beyond deliberate misuse. Your organization can have the most stringent password requirements and security provisions in the world, but none of that matters if sensitive information is being stored in external services. When the employee who uses “password123” for all of their personal accounts clicks on a malicious web page link, their files are compromised.

Disorganized and inefficient

The second problem with employees using consumer tools to store or transfer files is that it creates a decentralized and fragmented system. Workers often use unapproved solutions when they’re frustrated with the tools available to them. Unfortunately, what’s convenient for one employee may be bad for the organization, unless everyone is on the same page. This causes version control issues, makes it difficult for others to find the files they need and creates the risk of unauthorized access to proprietary information.

Finally, because these services are not designed for business use, they may also lack many of the protections you’ve come to expect. Common deficiencies include improper backup, weak service level agreements or procedural gaps that reduce information security. This can result in lost or stolen data, disruption of business continuity or even major compliance headaches down the line.

For more robust security and happier, more productive employees, consider using a content and document management solution to get more control over your information.

Pick something that works and make sure it’s used

It’s likely that employees are simply turning to cloud solutions because they’re convenient and easy to use. It’s important to get feedback from them to determine where the information bottlenecks are in your organization. That way you can supply the right tools that they’ll actually use in their day to day work.

It’s entirely possible that one of the cloud services your employees are already using is perfectly suited to your needs, provided that you’re using a business account with the proper oversight. For more robust security and happier, more productive employees, consider using a content and document management solution to get more control over your information.

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Robert Schomer, Product Manager for mindSHIFT’s cloud services offerings, has expertise in cloud technologies, collaboration and workflow automation. Since 2008, Schomer has delivered on-premise and hybrid solutions to mindSHIFT customers, and has a strong background in collaboration and cloud technologies. He has a focus on increasing workflow automation and bringing new technologies to market that help customers shift their workflow to the cloud.