How Do Small Businesses Select a Cloud Storage Service?

December 12, 2015

6:00 pm

A surge in cloud storage adoption is evident over the past four years, especially in the small- and mid-sized business (SMB) market. More specifically, 52 percent of SMBs in the US use cloud storage, according to new survey findings.

As the quantity of SMBs adopting cloud storage increases, it is important to understand what criteria they consider when selecting a cloud storage service provider.

A significant room for growth remains for cloud storage usage. And, as the quantity of SMBs adopting cloud storage increases, it is important to understand the characteristics SMBs consider in the selection process and the factors that weigh most heavily on their decision.

Net Promoter Score (NPS), measures customer satisfaction and loyalty by asking the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend this service to a friend or colleague?” Using the NPS to determine the cloud storage service providers with the highest customer satisfaction ratings for SMBs, shows Apple iCloud on top, followed by Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.

Net Promoter Scores_Cloud Storage_Clutch Survey

What makes these cloud storage service providers so appealing to the SMB community?

Overall, four characteristics stand out as key players in the SMB cloud storage service provider selection process.

1. Ease of Use

One commonality among the top-rated cloud storage service providers is how easy they are to install and use.

For example, iCloud integrates across all Apple platforms and automatically backs up data from iTunes, iPhoto, and personal devices, such as the iPhone and iPad. Dave Linthicum, senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners, describes iCloud as a backup tool that makes Apple devices disposable.

“iCloud is valuable to me because it makes my device a disposable item,” Linthicum said. “For some reason, if my iPhone or MacBook is destroyed or ripped off, I can use iCloud to delete the data on the device.”

Dropbox also appeals to a desire for easy use. The company’s name itself describes the service it offers and how to use it: drag and “drop” files you want stored in a “box,” or account. The concept focuses on file synchronization, as opposed to iCloud’s emphasis on file backup.

2. Brand Recognition

Brand recognition and the corresponding trust consumers place in a well-known company, largely contributes to the cloud storage services SMBs choose to use. David Amaya, a consultant at Cardinal Solutions, credits iCloud’s popularity to this phenomenon.

“At first I was surprised [that Apple had the highest NPS score], but when you think about it, Apple has one of the most dedicated group of followers. The high NPS score must come from the large extent of avid fans.”

Brand recognition as a selection criterion poses some risks though. For example, 61 percent of SMBs indicate that they need to be compliant to a standard in order to implement cloud storage. However, these same businesses deem iCloud the most satisfactory cloud storage provider, even though Apple leaves individual users responsible for compliance.

3. Adjustable Cost and Scalability of Data

Migrating to the Cloud can reduce the cost of backing up data. SMBs identify file backup as the most important cloud storage task, according to new survey findings on the topic. Therefore, access to cost-effective and scalable data storage and backup services is a key consideration in the SMB cloud storage service selection process.

Consumer cloud storage services meet SMBs’ fluid storage needs and reduce the headache of maintaining onsite servers. For example, Google Drive and OneDrive offer up to 15GB of free storage space. Additionally, these service providers make it easy to alter the storage space used. SMBs can save money by taking advantage of this solution: they never have to pay for more storage than they need.

4. File Backup and Sharing

Although a fear of the Cloud may hinder SMB cloud storage adoption, the services’ ability to provide effortless ways to backup and share files is an important factor to consider in the service provider selection process.

Put simply, a natural or man-made disaster could strike a business at any time. If a company relies on onsite data storage and backup only, a disaster or mistake could destroy all the information needed to run the business.

“I can’t count how many small businesses that I work with that have a single copy of their data on a hard drive. Using Dropbox, Mozy, or other backup systems … is absolutely imperative these days.” – Dave Linthicum

SMBs look for cloud storage service providers with the best file backup and sharing capabilities. This explains iCloud’s high satisfaction rating and Dropbox’s popularity: both providers are marketed as services that can meet  both individuals’ and businesses’ backup and sharing needs.

Concluding Reflections

Recognizing the characteristics and factors that SMBs consider when selecting a cloud storage service provider not only reveals what the service providers can do to better meet SMBs’ needs but also highlights the inconsistencies in what SMBs value in their cloud storage service.

Improving overall knowledge of how the Cloud works and how it can benefit a small business is imperative, moving forward.

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Sarah is an analyst at Clutch, a Washington, DC-based B2B research firm. She focuses on a variety of topics, including SEO, social media marketing, cloud computing, and Business Intelligence data.

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