To avoid the hassle and expense of storing and managing data and applications in-house modern businesses often turn to the cloud. Choosing a provider can be tricky however, as it’s necessary to ensure that the storage app is business-grade and secure enough to meet the needs of the company. Let’s have a look at some of the options to help you to make the best choice.

Apple iCloud Drive

This one’s for die-hard Apple users, but there are some concessions to people on other platforms. iCloud Drive lets you store documents that weren’t created using the Mac environment. Files can be accessed through iCloud.com or iCloud for Windows, and there are mobile apps for OS X and iOS devices. None for Blackberry, Android or Windows Phone, however. There’s a range of third-party apps that are compatible with iCloud. The iWork Office suite is available for iCloud, via their website. Its Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps can sync with their counterparts on your iOS or Mac device. The service starts you off with 5GB of free storage. You can upgrade to 20GB for 79p a month, with an increasing monthly scale of £2.99 for 200GB, £6.99 for 500GB, or £14.99 for 1TB. Apple pledges to “a minimum of 128-bit AES” data encryption, and reserves the right to delve deeper into your file system if illegal or offensive material is suspected.

Barracuda’s Copy

An enterprise-level alternative to big players like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can access the service through a Web portal, or download desktop client software for Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X. Barracuda Copy also ships as mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. New users get 15GB of storage space, which can be extended to 40BG by referring people you know (5GB extra, per referral). On desktop, the service creates a special Copy folder, through which you can drag and drop files to sync them with your cloud storage. Collaboration with other Copy users is supported, or you can link to certain files for associates and colleagues who aren’t on the service. As owner of the file, you can set permission levels to allow different editing rights. Previous versions of files are held on the Copy servers, so unwanted changes can be reversed. Copy uses 256-bit AES encryption on their servers, and for data in transit. Parent company Barracuda offers several applications that extend its features, such as backup software, digital signing, and on-site hardware tuning. Users can split their storage into Home and Work, with enterprise IT policies applying only to Work-related storage.

Box

save files from anywhere The forerunner to Dropbox, Box is a more business-oriented service. Personal (free) storage starts at 10GB, but with a file size limit of 250MB. This may be a problem for very large files, like videos and presentations. Version control is also not available for free account users, who can’t revert to previous edits of document files. The Starter plan costs £3.50 monthly, and offers 100GB of storage with files limited to 2GB. This scheme supports reversion of documents back to 25 levels. For £7 a month you’ll get 100GB of storage space, and boost your file size limit to 5GB. The Box Web portal lets you create documents using Google Docs, Microsoft Office, or standard Web formats. You can edit them using a free plug-in. Data is encrypted to 256-bit on the Box servers, with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) being used for transmission. Mobile apps are available for Android, Windows Phone, iOS, and Blackberry.

Dropbox

The Dropbox free account only gives 2GB of storage, but you can increase this through referrals (500MB per person), setting up an account with their Mailbox (1GB extra), or linking to Twitter or Facebook (an additional 125MB, each). There’s 250MB available, if you take the Dropbox tour, and turning on Camera Upload will get you an extra 3GB, and automatically back your phone or tablet photos up to the cloud. All of the above can boost you to a maximum of 16GB. For about £8 a month, you’ll get the Dropbox Pro option, with 1TB of storage. Files are encrypted on the Dropbox servers to AES 256-bit level, with SSL for data transmitted. Two-step authentication (your phone identifies you, as a second line of login defence) is also available. A Dropbox folder is created on your system, to enable file syncing. For phones and tablets, all files are available offline by default, but you can tweak this setting to specify only certain files. File sharing can be done by sending out links to users outside Dropbox, or by sending an invite within the service. Permissions can’t be set on free accounts, so anyone can delete or edit a collaborative file. Dropbox holds a backup copy of each file for 30 days, though. There’s support for a wide range of mobile platforms, with Dropbox apps on Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows (desktop and Phone), Mac OS X, Linux, and Blackberry.

Google Drive

saving files to the cloud If you have a Gmail account or use Google Calendar or YouTube, you may already have Google Drive. The cloud service is central to the Google suite of online applications and resources, offering 15GB of free storage. This limit takes in the combined services, however. Videos shorter than 15 minutes and photographs at resolutions below 2048 x 2048 are exempt from this, as are Google Docs, any files that have been shared with you, plus Presentations, Drawings, Sheets, and Slides. There’s no boosting through referrals, but some product-related deals and promotions are available. Version support is applicable to files stored, as is collaboration using Google Docs. There are desktop clients for Windows and Mac, with mobile apps for iOS and Android. Data is encrypted using 128-bit AES, with a two-step verification option for accounts. And Google pledges not to pry into your affairs unless compelled to do so by law enforcement.

Mega

New Zealand start-up Mega puts the focus of its cloud service on security. This self-styled “Privacy Company” provides data encryption for files locally, in transit, and on the Mega servers. Customers keep and hold their own encryption keys, so your data can’t be accessed by Mega itself. There are desktop clients for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. Plugins are available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Android, Blackberry, iOS and Windows Phone are also catered for, through a range of mobile apps. The Mega free package starts with 50GB of storage. Professional accounts give 500GB for 99 Euros a year, while annual fees of 199 Euros will upgrade you to 2TB, with 4TB for 299 Euros. Bandwidth limits increase as you scale up, so you can share and collaborate with greater numbers of people.

Microsoft OneDrive

This service is available for Windows desktop, Phone, XBox and Tablet, as you’d expect. OneDrive is an integral part of the Windows 8 operating system. Android, iOS, Mac OS X and direct Web access are also supported. Storage space starts at 15GB, and can be boosted through referrals to an additional maximum of 5GB (500MB per person). Monthly subscribers to Office 365 get 1TB of OneDrive file storage as part of the package. If you’re using Windows 8.1 or higher, the Fetch Files option (which lets you access OneDrive hosted files remotely, via the Web) is no longer available. And Microsoft reserves the right to search your storage for offensive content.

SpiderOak

collaboration and the cloud The SpiderOak desktop client is available for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows. Once installed, it creates a local folder in which files are encrypted before being synced up to SpiderOak. This so-called “Zero-knowledge privacy” means that files can only be read by you. The same holds true for any members of your team who also use SpiderOak. Co-ordination between users is done through the SpiderOak Hive, an administration hub at the centre of the service. It runs on each machine as a local app. You can send direct links to files by setting up a ShareID for the intended recipient. Collaboration and Office-type applications aren’t the focus here; it’s security. Free storage starts at 2GB, which can be boosted to a maximum of 10GB through referrals (1GB per person).

SugarSync

Like Dropbox, SugarSync lets you select the folders and files you want to sync to its cloud service. But you can do this directly, without having a special folder created on your desktop – though the Magic Briefcase lets you sync the Dropbox way, if you choose. Android, iOS, Macintosh and Windows are supported, and there’s a range of mobile apps. There’s a 90-day free trial, after which you can expect to pay $9.99 a month (or $74.99 a year) for 100GB. 500GB will cost you $39.99 a month or $249.99 a year, with a first year discount to $124.99.

Tresorit

This Swiss company has notably offered a bounty of $50,000 to anyone who can hack its security set-ups. Desktop clients for Mac OS X or Windows encrypt data locally then use TLS (Transport Layer Security) to send it to Tresorit’s servers – where it remains encrypted. You hold all the encryption keys, so even the Tresorit staff can’t read your data. You can also use two-step verification. Swiss data laws apply, so applications from third-party agencies like law enforcement will have to contend with that. Tresorit’s free package starts at 3GB of storage, with a 500MB file size limit, spread over three devices. You can share files with 10 people, and create 10 encrypted links per month. A Premium account costs £8 a month for 100GB of storage. There are no limits to sharing, controls over editing permissions for collaboration, and support for previous versions of edited files. So there you have it, a round up of the best cloud storage solutions suitable for business, we think you should find something in there that suits you.

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