This month marked the 10th anniversary for our Office Administrator, Ellyn Olney. Over the past ten years, Ellyn has become a respected leader at Micro Visions and the ultimate “go-to gal” for just about everything around the office. Ellyn keeps us running smoothly by handling all of the accounting, human resources, facilities management, and anything in between. She’s had at least some type of interaction with each and every client over the years, yet still finds time to make the coffee for us in the morning and stop by the bakery when somebody celebrates a birthday. It’s safe to say that Ellyn is the glue that holds our office together, and we certainly are grateful for her dedication and friendship.
Thank you, Ellyn, for all your hard work! We’re looking forward to working with you another 10 years!
Online file sharing is among the quickest ways to improve business productivity. As our workforce increases its demand for mobility, online file sharing is also quickly becoming a necessary business tool. Yet, choosing the right cloud storage service for your organization can be confusing. CNet Associate Editor, Sarah Mitroff, recently published the following comparison of the most popular services… read on or follow this link to read the full story on CNet.
OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box: Which cloud storage service is for you?
If you’re ready to take the plunge into storing your files, photos, and more in the cloud but need help deciding which service is right for your needs and wallet, we’ve got you covered.
Sara Mitroff/CNET – Original publication date: February 14, 2014. Edited July 10, 2014 to include details about the cloud storage service Copy.
Microsoft gave its cloud storage service a makeover in 2014, replacing the now-defunct SkyDrive with the shiny, newOneDrive. After a legal battle, Microsoft changed the name and used the opportunity to add a few new features to its cloud option.
Though not much about SkyDrive changed in the switch to OneDrive, we took the opportunity to outline the differences and give you a guide to the other popular cloud storage options out there. Whether you’re unhappy with your current cloud service or have never dabbled in keeping your files in the cloud, this primer will help you get acquainted with the major (and some of the minor) players out there.
File size restrictions?
None with Dropbox apps
250MB for free plan, 5GB for paid plan
Can I earn extra free storage?
$2/month for 100GB, $4/month for 200GB
$10/month for each 100GB, up to 500GB
$2/month 100GB, $10/month for 1TB
$10/month for 100GB
$10/month for 250GB
Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Kindle Fire
Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Windows, Mac, Android, Blackberry, and iOS
Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS
OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive)
First up is OneDrive, Microsoft’s storage option. Those who use Windows 8 and 8.1 have OneDrive built into their operating system, where it shows up in the file explorer next to all of the files on your computer’s hard drive. However, anyone can use it on the Web, by downloading a desktop app for Mac and earlier versions of Windows, or the OneDrive Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox apps.
You can store any kind of file in the service, including photos, video, and documents, and then access them from any of your Windows PCs or mobile devices. The service organizes your files by type for you, so it’s easy to find what you need.
With the launch of OneDrive, Microsoft updated its Android app to add automatic photo uploads, meaning that when you shoot a photo with your phone, it’s automatically saved to OneDrive. That same feature has been available on iOS and Windows Phone for a while.
OneDrive’s biggest strength is that it works closely with Microsoft Office apps, such as Word or PowerPoint, so when you launch one of those applications you’ll see a list of recent documents, including those saved to OneDrive. If you have an Office 365 subscription and open a document saved in OneDrive, you can collaborate on it in real time with other people. You’ll even be able to see the changes they make as they make them.
Microsoft is hoping that OneDrive will be the place where you store your photos, and the company is working on technology that will eventually sort all of the photos you take based on how important and meaningful they are. For instance, if you take a photo of your kids, a picture of a special meal, and a shot of your parking space so you can find your car later, OneDrive would be able to understand the importance of each picture, save the ones it thinks are the most useful, and trash the rest. That’s still big-picture stuff for OneDrive, but it gives you an idea of the direction Microsoft is moving in.
Where it excels
OneDrive works seamlessly with Windows devices because it’s baked into the Windows operating systems running on PCs, tablets, and Windows Phone. It’s easy to open and edit files from OneDrive in Microsoft’s other applications, such as Word or the Photos app. Since OneDrive is closely tied with Office, it’s a good choice for anyone who uses Office frequently.
Where it falls flat
If you don’t have all Windows devices, OneDrive doesn’t have as much appeal. There are apps for other devices, but it’s clear that OneDrive is really meant for the Windows set.
In order to use OneDrive, you must sign up for a Microsoft account, which gives you access to Outlook, Xbox Live, and other Microsoft services. Whether or not you want all those extras is up to you.
One last note; Microsoft has a stricter code of conduct for the files you upload to OneDrive than any other cloud service. You may not store any file that depicts any kind of nudity, or that incites, advocates, or expresses pornography or racism, to name a few. It’s tough to say how vigorously Microsoft enforces these restrictions, but they are nonetheless part of the Terms of Service you agree to when you sign up to use OneDrive.
Best for: If you have a Windows PC, tablet, and phone, and need to get to your files from any device with little effort.
Dropbox is a favorite in the cloud storage world because it’s reliable, easy to use, and a breeze to set up. Your files live in the cloud and you can get to them at any time from Dropbox’s Web site, desktop applications for Mac, Windows, and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, or compile your own), or the iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire mobile apps.
You can store any kind of file in Dropbox, by either uploading to the Web site or adding it with the desktop apps. Those apps live in your file system so that you can easily move files from your computer to the cloud and vice versa by dragging and dropping them into your Dropbox folder. The service automatically and quickly syncs your files across all of your devices, so you can access everything, everywhere. There is no size limit on files you upload to Dropbox with the desktop or mobile apps, but larger files can take several hours to upload, depending on your connection speed.
Dropbox gets a lot of praise for its clean design, and rightfully so. Though I am not a fan of Dropbox’s Web site because the design is very basic and it doesn’t give you many options to view and organize your files, its mobile apps and desktop apps are beautiful and easy to navigate.
Dropbox gives its users plenty of opportunities to get extra storage to beef up the paltry 2GB you get when you sign up. If you participate in the quick Getting Started tutorial, you get 250MB. Turn on the automatic photo upload feature on any of the mobile apps to get 3GB of extra space (you can get only 3GB total, not per device). You can earn 500MB for each friend you refer to Dropbox who actually signs up for the service, up to 16 GB total, or 32 referrals. If you have a brand-new HTC or Samsung phone on select mobile carriers (T-Mobile and Sprint, to name a few) with the Dropbox app pre-installed, you can earn up to 48GB of additional storage for up to two years, depending on the device.
Dropbox’s greatest strength is that it works equally well on PCs and Macs, Android and iOS. The service is so simple and elegantly designed, that it’s easy for anyone to master. Its desktop applications seamlessly blend with your computer’s file system.
Where it falls flat
In my experience, Dropbox’s Web site design is one of the weakest of the cloud storage services. It’s simple and clean, but you can’t control the way your files are displayed. However, you do get many more sharing options on the Dropbox Web site, which almost makes up for the bare bones design.
Best for: Simple sharing when you use tons of different kinds of devices.
What started as just a handful of helpful online office tools called Google Docs, has transformed into Google Drive, a complete office suite with cloud storage. You get a little bit of everything with this service, including a word processor, spreadsheet application, and presentation builder, plus 15GB of free storage space.
If you already have a Google account, you can already access Google Drive. You just have to head to drive.google.com and enable the service. You get 15GB of storage for anything you upload to Drive, including photos, videos, documents, Photoshop files and more. However, you have to share that 15GB with your Gmail account, photos you upload to Google+, and any documents you create in Google Drive.
While you can access any of your files from the Drive Web site, you can also download the Drive desktop app for Mac and PC to manage your files from your computer. You can organize all of your files in the desktop app, and they’ll sync with the cloud so you can get to them anywhere.
Drive is built into Google’s Web-based operating system Chromium, so if you have a Chromebook, Google Drive is your best cloud storage option. Like other cloud storage services, Drive has apps for iOS and Android, so you can manage your files from your phone.
Google Drive has the benefit of a built-in office suite, where you can edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, even if you created the document in another program. The service also a large collection of extras, such as third-party apps that can send faxes or sign documents.
What I like most about Google Drive is that you can drag and drop files into the Drive Web site and they’ll be uploaded automatically. You can also preview attachments from Gmail in Google Drive, and save those files to your cloud.
Where it excels
Google Drive requires very little setup if you already have a Google account. What’s more, if you use Gmail, it’s easy to save attachments from your e-mail directly to Drive with just a few clicks.
Where it falls flat
While you can organize your files and photos in Google Drive, there’s no way to automatically upload photos from your phone directly to the service. Instead, Google has an Auto Backup feature in the Google+ mobile apps, which sends your photos to your Google+ profile. I’d like for Google to create a central space where I can store and upload all of my files that combines the best of Google+’s photo editing features and Google Drive’s document editing tools.
Best for: Google diehards, or anyone who wants a few office tools with their cloud storage.
Anyone can sign up for a free individual account on Box, but the service’s endless list of sharing and privacy features were built specifically for business and IT users. Beyond the basic cloud storage setup, where you can store just about any kind of file, Box lets you share files with colleagues, assign tasks, leave comments on someone’s work, and get notifications when a file changes.
You can preview files from Box’s Web site and even create basic text documents in Box. Like other cloud storage services, you can download a desktop app and sync your files between your hard drive and the cloud.
Box also gives you a lot of control over the privacy of your files. For example, you can decide who in your business can view and open specific folders and files, as well as who can edit and upload documents. You can even password-protect individual files and set expiration dates for shared folders.
Business users can also connect other apps, such as Salesforce and NetSuite, so that you can easily save documents to Box. There are also plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom that let you open and edit files saved to Box from those applications.
For business customers, Box is a great choice because it comes with so many tools for collaboration and file privacy control.
Where it falls flat
While anyone can sign up for a free individual account on Box, the service’s endless list of sharing and privacy features can be lost on someone who’s just using the service for personal storage. Because of all those features, it can feel overwhelming to navigate the Box Web site if you’re only trying to manage a few files and folders.
Best for: Teams of employees working together on projects, and large companies that need a place to securely share documents with everyone.
Copy hails from corporate IT company Barracuda Networks, but it’s just as great for regular individuals as it is for teams and businesses. You get 15GB of storage for free, which is on par with Google Drive and OneDrive.
One of the best features of Copy is how it handles shared folders–you split the space with the people you share a folder with. For example, if you have a 20GB folder that’s shared between four people, that folder only takes up 5GB of space in each person’s Copy account. That’s different from Dropbox, where the entire size of a shared folder counts against your storage limit.
Like other cloud storage services, Copy has desktop software for Windows and Mac (Linux too), plus mobile apps for iOS and Android. You can also use Copy’s website to manage your files.
If you need more storage space than 15GB, you can pay $10 per month for 250GB. Copy also has business plans that are priced based on the number of users. There’s a free plan for up to 5 users, and the paid plans start at $79 per month, or $890 per year, for 1TB and access for up to 10 users. There’s also a referral program where you can earn 5GB of free storage when you get someone else to sign up.
Where it excels
Copy is a simple, fast, and solid cloud storage option. You get 15GB for free, and the paid plans are inexpensive.
Where it falls flat
There’s hardly anything negative I can say about Copy, but I will say that, like Dropbox, Copy’s website is its weakest point. It’s just not as easy to navigate as the desktop and mobile apps.
Best for: Anyone would wants an impressive alternative to the more mainstream cloud storage options.
Lesser-known cloud options
Of course, OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box aren’t your only options for cloud storage. First, there’s Amazon Cloud Drive, which can store videos and photos you take with your phone to the cloud with its iOS and Android apps. There’s also a desktop app where you can manage your files as well.
Next is SugarSync, a Dropbox-like alternative with apps for every mobile platform. The catch is that after your 90-day free trial, where you can play around with 5GB of storage, you need to pay at $7.50 per month for 60GB to keep using the service (you can upgrade to more storage for extra money).
Lastly, there’s Space Monkey, which has an entirely different take on cloud storage. For $200, you buy a 2 terabyte (TB) hard drive from the company. You get to use 1TB of the drive’s space to store any and all of your files as a local backup. Your files also get encrypted and broken into bits that are sent to other Space Monkey users’ hard drives, so that you can access your files from another computer or mobile device. That’s where that extra 1TB of space on your drive comes in — it’s used to store bits of other people’s files.
The service is free for the first year, then costs $49 per year to keep storing your files in the cloud. At that price, Space Monkey is far cheaper than Dropbox, which charges $50 per month for just 500GB of storage, but much more expensive than Google Drive, which now only costs $10 per month for 1TB.
For additional information on cloud storage for your business, call Micro Visions at 616.776.0400.
Last week we highlighted a survey that revealed many small to midsize businesses were slow to implement new technologies. In fact, 80% of business owners polled said that their teams did at least some of their work remotely, yet only 30% of them had embraced cloud computing. If your company is one of those struggling to bridge the gap between an increasingly remote workforce and their need to more easily collaborate, we’d like to introduce you to, or at least shed some light on, the benefits of cloud based document sharing.
Traditionally, companies would store, share, and backup their data on a central server, with files accessible on individual workstations. This traditional server model works great and is extremely secure. However, a virtual private network (VPN) is required to enable external access. Though this system works very well when properly maintained, a new, simpler option now exists – in the cloud. Online services such as Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, and OneDrive now allow users to immediately access, edit, and sync files across multiple devices anytime, anywhere, without the costs associated with managing and maintaining a VPN. Syncing is done automatically, and most robust programs offer the ability to see who is working on a particular document at any given time.
Beyond the cost savings, online document sharing is not hindered by file size. Many times throughout production or life of a project, the need will arise to share large files either inter-departmentally, with vendors, or with clients. Unfortunately, email systems have limitations on file size. If the file was too large, a transfer to disc would be required, resulting in additional costs and loss of productivity while in transit. With a cloud file server, this no longer happens. Those requiring access are provided a link and or password for immediate access.
Additionally, work flow is often enhanced with online file sharing. Because everyone is working within the same file, there are no version mix-ups. Audit trails are typically available on more robust systems, older versions are protected, and notifications to team members can be automated whenever someone reviews or completes another phase of the project.
Though borne from the 21st century’s need for better workforce accessibility, online document sharing and collaboration is a technological advancement that, if utilized, can improve the lives of almost every computer user. Students are collaborating on projects, and study groups no longer face traditional scheduling restraints. Organizations are planning events based on the latest attendance forecasts. Teammates are sharing photos, confirming schedules, and organizing carpools. Personally, even my “mom-duties” are easier now. Having the grocery list attached to the fridge with a magnet is incredibly helpful when someone polishes off the peanut butter. However, the poster board needed for a project and the cookies someone committed to bring often resulted in an additional trip to the store for me. Not any longer. These items are easily added to the shared list that everyone has access to. As an added bonus: I never forget the list on the counter anymore — I simply pull it up on my phone at the store!
Though many advantages exist for online file sharing and collaboration, businesses are cautioned to do a thorough analysis to determine whether introducing this innovation is best for their individual situation. Two key areas to fully investigate are, obviously, security and cost. Remember, while cloud computing is generally deemed to be safe, you are allowing your data to leave the confines of the environment you control. Traditional servers are not without risk, but you and your IT partner do have complete control there, which is reassuring to many business owners.
If you do make the switch, be sure to invest in a professional version. Many companies offer free versions designed for personal use, which may be tempting to smaller businesses. These versions, however, do not provide adequate access control, encryption, deletion recovery, or remote wiping. Imagine your receptionist “cleaning up her files” and deleting a batch of files she never opens. Is your biggest client’s proposal now gone forever? Or, what if your salesman’s luggage — including his laptop — is lost on the way to Atlanta. Will your company’s sensitive data become available to the highest bidder at the unclaimed baggage auction in Fresno? Though not without cost, investing in a professional version will ensure that you have the features necessary to protect your valuable data assets.
Interested in learning more about online document sharing? CONTACT US for additional information. We’ll translate the technical details into business language you can use!
Microsoft recently commissioned a survey to appraise the adoption of new technology by SMBs (small to midsize businesses). The results are in, and it appears that while smaller businesses feel new technologies are important to their success, they’re still not using them.
The survey was conducted in May of this year by Ipsos, and included 551 small business owners that represented 5000+ adult workers over the age of 18. They were asked to rank the importance of technologies, ranging from traditional items all the way to the latest headline grabbing trends. Which ones fared best? While the new “hot” items such as tablets and payment solutions were judged to be important, they weren’t nearly as important as laptops, desktops, and even landlines. In fact, despite the overwhelming acceptance that it can improve flexibility in the workplace, only 30% of respondents reported their company was currently utilizing cloud computing.
So why the discrepancy? Per the survey, the number one concern for smaller business owners was the cost involved with investing in these new developments. Additionally, respondents felt that their questions and concerns over the security of these new methods had not been sufficiently answered.
We hear you, SMBs! At Micro Visions, we know the security of your enterprise data is of utmost importance. We understand that every single dollar counts when it comes to your bottom line. However, we also believe that developing a technology strategy that aligns with business objectives is vital, and proactive upgrades can be far less expensive than equipment failures and lost productivity resulting from downtime. Here’s an interesting fact for you: Small businesses as a group are the hardest hit by IT system downtime each year, resulting in a loss of about $15 billion!
You can read the entire survey by following this LINK. And if any of the results seem familiar, GIVE US A CALL. Our experienced team can conduct an onsite audit to help determine if your current technology is capable of keeping pace with your business goals. We’ll explain the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies as they relate specifically to your individual business needs, and we’ll help you determine when the best time is going to be for you to invest. After all, even though we love them, we don’t necessarily believe every employee needs one of these quite yet.