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February 21, 2023
By now, everyone has heard of cloud storage.
But even if you know what it is, do you know how it works and, more importantly, if you should use it for your self storage business?
Keep reading to learn the potential benefits and drawbacks of using cloud storage in the self storage industry!
More and more, the data storage world is moving onto the cloud. Operators in every industry have good reasons to move their sensitive documentation onto the cloud - not to mention the everyday stuff.
Using cloud storage lets you access all of your information from anywhere, on any approved device. This makes communication between different arms of your business much easier.
It does open you up to some new vulnerabilities, though. Before you invest in cloud storage, you need to understand how it works, how it interacts with your self storage software, and what risks you might be exposed to.
Cloud storage is a method of storing data online by distributing it to several different server farms and accessing that data through the internet. Most self storage operators will have cloud storage available through their self storage software - usually the PMS.
When you put data into cloud storage, the provider (which is usually a large data company like Amazon Web Services) will distribute and organize the information on their giant computers. By storing the information in multiple places in multiple server farms, the company can ensure your information isn’t lost even if one or more computers fail.
The actual technology behind the process is incredibly complicated, but we don’t need to worry about how to code anything. We only need to know how it impacts our self storage business.
From the user’s end, cloud storage works incredibly well (if everything is working as it should). Instead of having to make copies of paper documents or send hard copies of paperwork back and forth, you can access your information from anywhere.
Whatever you upload to the cloud is kept safe for you to access again anytime, anywhere, and this is the foundation of its appeal.
You may have access to cloud storage already and not even know it! There are lots of different options that either come with software you already own or have free versions you could use for a limited number of files.
This is the favored cloud storage of many StoragePug blog writers. It offers fifteen gigabytes of data storage for free, and if you've already got an "@gmail.com" email account, you already have access to Google Drive!
Google also offers upgraded cloud storage for businesses and anyone who needs extra space, for a fee. Of course, Google is the biggest name on the internet, so it's the first place many people start. If you're already using Google for email, definitely start here.
Microsoft OneDrive is another major option for cloud storage. If you're using Microsoft365, it comes with a free terabyte of cloud storage! If you're using an Outlook email address, you've got access to OneDrive already as well.
This is a very similar service to Google Drive and other cloud storage options, but if you're using Microsoft software, you've probably already got some serious storage space in OneDrive.
Apple's version of the above two. If you've already got an iPhone (or any other apple device), you've already got access to iCloud document storage - though the free version, like with the other two, is made for personal, not business, usage.
You can upgrade to get more storage and more features, as with the others.
Dropbox is the biggest cloud-storage-only option. If you're not using one of the major companies, Dropbox can be a great option that won't tie you to the others.
Dropbox also offers some of the best features for cloud storage, including eSign, large file transfers, and others. It's the most specialized of the services - but many of these features only come with paid accounts.
Adding Dropbox to your existing software slate isn't necessary if you're just trying to store a few documents, but if you want to start sending large amounts of files, collaborating between locations, or collecting eSignatures from your tenants, check it out.
Convenience is the main reason cloud storage is valuable to a self storage operator. Using the cloud to store your vital information can save you time and headaches.
You can delegate access to your documents to anyone that you decide. If your manager needs access to the stored leases, you can grant that from your phone, laptop, or computer. Cloud storage is perfect for information that multiple people will need access to.
If you realize you need some of the stored information when you’re not at the office, with cloud storage you can access it from wherever you are.
It also saves you space. You won’t need to keep filing cabinets full of documentation on the premises, nor will you have to worry (as much) about how to organize those documents to make them easily findable when you need them.
The other major benefit of cloud storage is document safety. Whether you’re replacing paper copies of documentation or simply moving stored data from your computer to the cloud, the move will ensure your information stays accessible.
Cloud storage won’t potentially have an error and lose all of your stored data - at least, the odds are much, much better than if you have the data stored at home.
Cloud storage has your information stored in different servers in different places, so power outages, hardware failures, and other mishaps would have to occur in multiple places simultaneously for you to lose your data.
However, storing information on the cloud does present you with other risks.
The same benefits that make cloud storage valuable can also open you up to other concerns.
1. Information Security
When you’re storing all your important information on your own machines, you have the ability to keep them safe from hackers trying to steal credit card numbers and other stuff.
When you store on the cloud, there’s a possibility that someone else’s carelessness gets your information stolen.
Now, while this is possible, it’s incredibly unlikely. The web service’s whole business relies on people trusting them, so they go to great lengths to keep your data (and everyone else’s) safe. Not only that, these server farms are run by IT pros that are paid to keep up with the latest data threats.
Sort of like putting your money in a bank, putting your data online is generally safer than keeping it at home - but the bank is a much bigger target for thieves.
When you’re taking advantage of cloud storage by sharing access, you’re also increasing the likelihood that someone is sloppy with your IT security. More people with access to information means more chances that access information gets stolen. For example, your manager’s laptop could get stolen or they could click on something that puts malware on their machine.
If all your documentation is on one machine in your office, that’s still a possibility, but with fewer ways for bad actors to access it.
Most big businesses use cloud storage for data, but the choice is yours.
If you don’t already have access to free cloud data storage through a service you’re currently paying for, it’ll cost you to add that capacity.
Depending on the level of service - security features, storage space, etc. - the cost can vary significantly, but cloud storage is not typically going to break the bank.
However, if you’re running a barebones facility, there may be better places to upgrade than with cloud storage. If you don’t already have property management software, that should certainly take priority over adding cloud storage.
On the other hand, if you find yourself struggling to manage your data, cloud storage is a great answer! For more ways to improve your operations with tech, check out our self storage software playbook!
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