As we move into the fifth installment of the series we’ll begin to explore storage clouds. Here is where you have heard the most about “the cloud”. Many cloud providers offer storage, but not all storage clouds are the same. As mentioned in a previous installment, there are file clouds, FTP clouds, backup clouds, sharing clouds.
Online storage is a competitive market. The best services integrate fully with your desktop and allow you to effortlessly upload and download files. They also provide you with an online desktop to access files from any computers and are stable and dependable. A service that does not fulfill these basic requirements is going to have a hard time convincing users to use and trust it. As well, there are storage clouds out there that constantly bother you with ads and attempts to sell you their premium service.
Being able to access your files from anywhere and from any computer is one of the great conveniences of the always-on Internet. Online file storage has been around for quite a while, but the latest generation of services are so cheap and easy to use that there is almost no reason not to back some of your files up into the cloud. Most online storage providers also give you the ability to then share these files with your friends and colleagues.
Hosted cloud file servers provide numerous features to support file sharing and collaboration between your co-workers and your business partners worldwide. The first step towards establishing and sustaining a successful on-going collaborative effort with the cloud file server is to create shared, permission-based folders. Cloud file servers folders can correspond to a particular project, your corporate departmental structure, or a client allowing both employees and customers to safely and securely access their folders from anywhere.
When looking at file storage clouds make sure that they offer; file versioning, file locking, file notifications, flexible file sharing options and file annotations.
File versioning – ensures that when a change is made to a file stored on the cloud file server, a newer version is automatically created and is added to the folder containing the earlier version. File versions are stamped by time and with the name of the user who made changes to the file. Instead of simply overwriting an existing file, file versioning maintains a complete document history for auditing file changes made over time and preventing accidental deletions.
File locking – the system will automatically lock files when users open them for editing. In addition, users can manually lock and unlock files. Once a file is checked out (or locked), other users can view the file, but cannot edit or upload changes. This ensures that users are always modifying files collaboratively, rather than working at cross purposes.
File changes notifications – file notifications are email notifications that are automatically triggered when new files are added to a specific folder or existing files are changed. Notifications are sent out to all users who have access to that particular file, indicating who changed the file and the time of the change. A form of change management functionality, file notifications provides teams with a seamless workflow for changing a file without having to spend time sending emails or on the phone. Notifications may be turned on or off.
Flexible file sharing options – for sharing files easily or distributing them to a large group, the hosted cloud file server provides the following powerful, yet simple to set up and use features: like file sharing via link (URL) and public folders
Sharing files via links – file sharing via link enables you to create a link (URL) to one or more of your files that can easily be emailed, embedded in a .PDF or Word file document or made available on any 3rd party application or website such as Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. Designed specifically for use with large files or when you want to share a file with a large number of users, files are automatically downloaded when a recipient clicks on the link; there’s no need to require them to login to the cloud. You can also choose to have the link expire after a chosen time period (e.g. 7 days).
Public folders – are file repositories that are shared via links; they function much the same as files shared via links, except that the link directs the recipient to a folder rather than a file. When a recipient clicks on the link, they get access to the files in that folder without logging in to the cloud file server.
File annotations – gives users the ability to enter comments against files. As an additional way for users to capture contextual information as it pertains to a particular file, file annotations are a valuable tool for ensuring the success of your teams’ collaborative efforts.
In Summary – there are a lot of web tools out there and storage clouds have some pretty good ones. Make sure that the cloud you choose has the above mentioned functions to ensure that you get the most out of your experience. Some of these tools are nice to have but others should be mandatory. As previously mentioned you should also make sure your cloud has the proper security in place.
In closing – not all storage clouds are the same. They range in features, security, function and of course price. Some are simple – just drop your files and go, others have better functions and greater security. Price is all over the board from a few tens of dollars per month to a few hundred dollars per month. Some are configured for only a couple of users whereas others allow thousands of users. If you must comply with certain government regulatory initiatives, then by all means make sure you select a cloud provider with all of the above features.
If you would like, we provide a free technical assessment. This can be beneficial to new and startup companies that are not sure where to start. Raven Cloud computing provides all of the above mentioned services; you can find these here at our website Cloud Computing. For the above mentioned samples of cloud servers or online storage.