The face of business has changed over the years. Gone are the days of filing cabinets, file jackets, and file labels. Digital information has quickly taken over as the preferred medium for the storage of information. However, as the need to store digital information increases, so too does the cost for storage.

In an era where video and graphics file sizes can vary from megabytes to gigabytes, the classic model of storing data on desktops or servers is quickly becoming increasingly expensive and a nonviable solution for small to medium-sized businesses. Organizations now more than ever are seeking effective and inexpensive means to store digital information.

What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage, though it may sound weather-related, involves saving data to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party. Instead of storing information to your computer’s hard drive or other local storage device, information is saved to a remote database. The internet provides the connection between your computer and the database.

This is not to be confused with a data center which refers to on-premise hardware that stores data within an organization’s local network.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage

There are advantages and concerns for moving files to cloud storage, which will be briefly outlined here.

Most businesses are utilizing cloud storage primarily for the many advantages it presents. First, off-site storage takes away the hassle of cabinets of files and the upkeep of pages of documents. One of the most obvious benefits is that in the case of an emergency or disaster, all of the files have a backup, securely stored thousands of miles away. Because the information is wireless, connection to the internet allows users to access information anywhere. The cloud storage capacity can be increased to match business needs. This prevents outgrowing storage capacities. 

However, there are also some concerns when utilizing cloud storage. Large businesses may have very complex and specialized needs, and cloud storage can at times be cumbersome to adapt to those exact specifications. Switching to another cloud provider can be quite difficult, if a cloud service isn’t meeting business needs. Another disadvantage is that a secure connection is needed to access the cloud. Although this is typically not a problem, it could create an issue if an internet connection was unavailable or compromised. Many people worry about security. Cloud storage is quite secure, and most often better than an individual business’s effort. However, there are rare instances where private sensitive information has been broken into and accessed by hackers. Although extremely rare, there is precedent.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing and cloud storage are similar but not synonymous. Cloud storage refers to the overall cloud storage capacity that different organizations offer. Cloud computing includes cloud storage, but it also involves servers, databases, networking, software, analytics, forecasting, and other services. The goal is to assist business processes, growth, and development. Cloud computing services are available at a wide range of cloud storage capacities, features, and prices. In this article, we will be discussing how to go about estimating the storage requirements for your organization to prevent overbuying or under-buying a Cloud storage package.

Collect Data

The first step to estimating your Cloud storage requirements is to collect and assess the current storage occupied by all of your organization’s digital assets. This can be achieved by the use of various storage capacity tools which may be found online. Creating a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet may also be a crude way of estimating the total disk space usage.

However, specialized tools can help you calculate your usage with greater efficiency with finer accuracy. There are also specialized capacity calculators available online for free from storage vendors, such as Dell’s Data Capacity Planner. Knowing your current storage usage can help you to determine a storage capacity baseline to start.

Determine Growth Rate of Data Storage

After having determined a baseline for your storage needs, it is important to find out what storage you will require for future use. Therefore, the next step is to determine the rate at which your data needs are increasing. This can be done on a monthly or an annual basis. The most economical method of determining your storage growth rate would be to consult your log files and assess how your storage capacity needs vary monthly. Capacity-planning software will also provide you with growth-rate requirements using inputs from a storage management software.

Consult with Stakeholders

Another important step to estimating your Cloud storage needs would be to consult with IT personnel and employees to capture business drivers that may affect storage growth in the future. Meeting regularly with IT management to discuss the current organizational trends and budget can assist in making an informed decision.

These discussions will also address the issue of initiatives that may affect storage in the future, giving rise to a spike in growth. Previously, we discussed “natural growth,” or growth due to natural progression of the company and technology. However, growth is not linear and can be difficult to predict.

Are you planning any major IT upgrades in the next year or two? Will there be an increase in the number of employees? Will the business be expanding? These are questions that need to be answered to address complex levels of growth that will have an effect on your data storage needs. Also to be considered is the natural increase in file sizes that come with technological advancements.

Set Realistic Data Storage Goals

You are almost on your way to properly estimating your Cloud storage needs. The last thing you may need to consider is cloud storage capacity savings. Ask yourself if there are any ways storage space can be reduced or how the efficiency of storage may be improved. Data reduplication and archiving of older data both have the potential to yield massive savings in storage and cost.

Consider Available Storage Options

As mentioned earlier, Cloud storage involves saving data to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party. Cloud computing and storage are generally classified as SaaS (Software as a Service). This describes any Cloud service where consumers are able to access software applications over the Internet.

These days, there is no shortage of Cloud storage applications.

To get you started, consider a few of these popular Cloud storage applications and their features:

  • Dropbox—Dropbox has, in a relatively short space of time, become the most popular Cloud storage application. It is reliable, easy to use, set up and sports a clean interface. In addition to the free storage package for individuals, Dropbox packs a hefty 5TB of storage space for businesses.
  • Google Drive—Google drive combines a complete set of office tools with Cloud storage. Google Drive is seamlessly integrated into your Google account, making it easy to access files on the go. In addition to the 15GB of free storage for individuals, Google Drive offers an unlimited storage option for businesses.
  • Other popular options—Microsoft’s One Drive, Box, and Amazon Cloud Drive.
  • eFileCabinet has a Cloud storage document management application with automation capabilities which makes it the ultimate business tool.

Estimating Cloud storage requirements requires special attention to planning, knowing what your immediate and future needs are, exploring the different tools that are available, and determining where you can reduce capacity and save on overall cost. With this knowledge, determining which Cloud service is right for you can become less frustrating and less overwhelming.

If you need help estimating how much cloud storage capacity you’ll require for your data and implementing a document management system that allows you to store, search, let’s talk.