Cloud services are big business. That’s good news for you — but also bad.
The good news: Tech providers and their customers can now get gigabytes of cloud storage and a suite of productivity apps for absolutely free. That’s thanks to tech titans like Google and Apple.
The bad? With so many major players offering so many must-have features, you and your customers can be forgiven for experiencing a little option anxiety.
So where should you start when choosing a cloud platform?
For many customers, the go-to metric is price. But a price point can be a red herring that belies the disparate features these services offer.
In fact, the value proposition is far more nuanced than just how much space for how much money. Other factors include application design, the price for additional storage, and capabilities for file management.
Applications: Rent a better workflow
Some of today’s best cloud service providers (CSPs) offer suites of thoughtfully designed productivity apps. These suites can help a user create and manage the files they keep on a CSP’s servers.
Providers like Apple and Google give away their productivity apps with any free account. Others include the apps as part of a paid suite that includes upgraded storage and support as in the case of Microsoft and Dropbox.
Typically, these suites include an integrated word processor such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Apple Pages. They may also offer cloud-based spreadsheets, email clients and presentation software such as PowerPoint.
Not to be outdone, relative newcomers including Dropbox and WeTransfer also offer productivity apps. Dropbox’s Paper, for instance, not only does word processing, but also integrates seamlessly with the Dropbox ecosystem.
Paste: a unique alternative to PowerPoint
To match PowerPoint, WeTransfer recently upgraded Paste, its above-average slide-deck app. Paste now provides better team collaboration as well as the ability to import and export PowerPoint files.
Additional storage: Be prepared to pay
How about storage space in the cloud? Well, anyone with an Apple device — and therefore an iCloud account — already has 5GB of storage, whether they need it or not.
Along the same lines, Dropbox gives you 2GB just for signing up. And Google carves out a generous 15GB of Google Drive space, at no extra charge, for the millions of people with free Gmail addresses.
Why all the freebies? Because these companies are thinking two steps ahead. They know their most likely upgrades will come from customers who have filled up the space they got for free. These users can’t help clicking that little button to get more.
It’s a smart play. By making it easy to relieve the pain of a full drive for the “low, low price of just $9.99/month,” the CSPs are practically guaranteeing an upsell sooner or later.
That common price tag of just under $10 buys you varying amounts of storage space, depending on your provider. With Apple, Google or Dropbox, that $10 a month gets you 2TB of storage. But over at Microsoft, OneDrive takes it three steps further; there, for the same price you’ll get 6TB.
If that’s still not enough, providers including Amazon and Microsoft also offer enterprise storage solutions. Prices for these expanded accounts are usually calculated on a case-by-case basis. But take heed: Fees can quickly reach into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month.
File management: Make it easy
All the free storage in the world won’t help if you have to deal with a poorly designed cloud system. That’s why the best CSPs also make it easy and convenient for you to search, sync, manage and share files — and with both your desktop and mobile apps.
Dropbox proves this maxim by constantly developing thoughtful features. One example is the company’s Smart Sync technology. It automatically identifies files you use only rarely, and then offloads them.
Dropbox Smart Sync: stores files locally or online
That saves you hard-drive space by ensuring only the files you use most often are actually stored on your computer. All other files will remain in the cloud, waiting to be downloaded whenever needed.
Better deals ahead
As good a bargain as cloud storage is now, it’s likely to get even cheaper over time. In part, because an ever-growing installed base will enable CSPs to achieve even greater economies of scale.
Bandwidth costs should drop, too. Especially as 5G ultra-wideband and fiber-optic connections become the norm.
All this points to a likely increase in value for both you and your customers. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the cloud platform that works best for you — and to help your customers do the same.
As part of that, keep a careful eye on the market. Watch for the signs that inevitably precede a major shift in technology, features and pricing.
In other words, keep your head in the cloud.