How much cloud storage do I need?

From documents and videos, to spreadsheets and presentations, content runs every business. And if you’re like many companies, you have the flash drives, backup hard drives, and local servers to prove it. While physical storage options have their benefits, they can be a burden to maintain, as external storage equipment wears out or breaks over time. Not to mention, it’s far too easy for employees to accidentally misplace them and leave your valuable assets vulnerable to security risks.

If you've yet to move your content to the cloud, now is the perfect time. With cloud storage, you can access your content from any device that connects to the internet. Additionally, you can assign permissions to each file to give specific users access. In general, it’s a convenient, secure way to store all of your content.

In deciding which cloud platform to use, you’ll first want to determine how much storage your business needs. The answer depends on your company's content volume and usage. 

What is cloud storage?

Before diving into cloud storage needs, however, it’s important to understand a few technology basics. Cloud storage, in a nutshell, is a cost-effective way to store files you'd otherwise keep on physical devices, such as hard drives or USB flash drives. With cloud storage, your content lives on servers managed by the cloud management platform provider you partner with, eliminating the need to store data locally on a device. Instead, you access your files over the internet.

Cloud storage can effectively eliminate the need to store data locally on a device

An advantage of cloud storage is that it frees you from having to use a particular device or transport a physical drive. Let's say you want to edit a video after work hours. If you stored the video on the computer that lives in your office, you'd need to either bring the computer home with you or make a copy of the file and save it to a flash drive.

With cloud storage, you don't have to physically transport a drive or device. All you need to do is connect to the internet, log into your content management platform, and access the video file. If you need to share your progress with another person on your team, they can log into the same platform and check out your work — from any device, anywhere.

Compared to physical, on-premises storage options, the cloud offers several benefits. It's often a cost-effective option for companies, because you no longer need to purchase physical drives or worry about buying computers with ample storage space. There's also no need to pay to store physical copies of your content, such as printed manuscripts or marketing materials.

Importantly, cloud storage providers usually have built-in security measures to protect your data and keep your content safe from bad actors. One critical security measure is redundancy. Depending on the storage platform you choose, it'll likely store your data on several servers. The platform will also have security features such as encryption, user permission controls, and password protection to prevent your content from falling into the wrong hands.

Cloud storage can be infinitely scalable. There's an absolute limit to what you can store on a physical device. An external hard drive may only be able to store up to 1 TB of content. Unfortunately, you can't add more storage space to physical devices. Once they're full, your options are to delete content from them or switch to a new storage device. But with cloud storage, you can always ask for or purchase more storage space.

Cloud storage options - public, private, hybrid

Cloud storage options

When you're looking for a cloud storage platform, you can choose from three main categories. 

1. Public

Option one is a public cloud. In this case, "public" doesn't mean other people can access your files and content. Instead, it means your company shares the cloud server with other companies or individuals. Often, account holders can access content on a public cloud from any device.

2. Private

In contrast, only your company would have access to a private cloud. If your company decides to use a private cloud, it might link virtual servers with a physical, on-premises server to maximize storage capacity and enhance security. Companies that need to ensure their content is kept 100% confidential sometimes use a private cloud.

3. Hybrid

The third option is a hybrid private-public cloud, which provides the best of both worlds — a private cloud for the most confidential or highly regulated documents, and public cloud storage for less critical pieces of content.

How to calculate your cloud storage needs

The cost of a cloud storage platform is often linked to the amount of storage available to you, among other features. To avoid paying for more storage than you need at first, calculate your storage needs before signing up for a platform. Though some guesswork might be involved, you can use factual information to help you make an informed decision.

Calculate your storage needs before signing up for a platform

Your current storage use

Look at how much storage you currently use. Depending on the size of your company and your content use, this can be a sizable undertaking. To make it simple, you can start by looking at how much storage space you're using (or plan to use) on each of your company's devices. 

For example, let's say your company has five laptops. Each laptop has about 32 GB of files stored in the form of documents, images, and video files, for a total of 160 GB. It could be that you produce 20 GB of content every month, so over a year, your company will create about 240 GB of new content. If you have 160 GB of files already, and you expect to create an additional 240 GB over the next 12 months, it's smart to purchase at least 400 GB worth of cloud storage.

Types of files

Consider the types of content your company creates when deciding how much space you need to buy, as file sizes vary considerably based on type.

Files sizes vary considerably based on type

Documents

Microsoft Word documents or PDFs often range in size from a few KB to a few MB, depending on their size and content. A one-page PDF might be around 50 KB, for instance. A 20- or 30-page PDF with text and images can be about 5 MB. Word documents that use the .docx file extension are often around 5 or 7 KB. If your company produces 100 .docx files a week, with an average size of 6 KB, you'd need 600 KB of space weekly, or 2.4 MB of space monthly.

Images

Alternatively, photo or image files can range in size based on their quality. JPEGs and other compressed file formats are usually smaller than uncompressed formats, like RAW. Even so, JPEG files are notably larger than the average PDF or .docx — a JPEG file might be around 5 MB.

Audio

Audio files are similar to image files when it comes to size. A lossy compressed file format (such as an MP3) might be around 4 or 5 MB, depending on the length of the recording. A lossless compressed format, like FLAC, will be much larger, with the average file size around 20 MB.

Videos

If your company produces video content, you can anticipate needing more storage space than companies that primarily work with text documents. These files tend to be the largest — video quality and whether files are compressed will influence their storage sizes. As with audio files, compressing a video file can reduce its size and may result in quality loss. Additionally, whether a video is standard- or high-definition matters, with the latter being larger.

Less can be more

When you're purchasing physical storage devices, such as flash drives or external hard drives, more is often more. To accommodate extra content, you often have to keep paying money to upgrade your devices as your company grows. Continuous upgrading becomes a chore, especially when you must have someone actively purchasing new devices as you need them. It's also a waste in terms of sustainability.

There's more flexibility with cloud storage than with physical drives. If your company doesn't yet have significant content needs, it makes sense to purchase the least amount of cloud storage. A barebones cloud content plan might make perfect sense for your company as you focus on getting it off the ground. 

As your business grows, you can make adjustments to your cloud platform. Switch to a different plan, one with more storage space included or one that allows you to upload larger files. If your company decides to start creating video content, you can adjust your storage needs almost instantly to accommodate the new files.

Ultimately, using the cloud to store your company's files saves you time, energy, and money.

By storing files in the cloud, you save on resources

Cloud storage options

There are several options for cloud storage. The amount of storage space available is just one factor to consider when deciding which type of cloud platform is right for you. Another point worth considering is whether you want to use a private cloud or a public cloud or a mix of both. 

Examples of public cloud options include Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, and IBM Cloud. In fact, your company might already be using one or more of these public cloud services. If your company is larger or has sensitive content, you might feel more comfortable using a private cloud storage option. With the private cloud, you either operate your own server or hire a third-party company to do it for you.

What's the difference between public and private clouds?

One way to think of the difference between public and private clouds is to consider the differences between living in an apartment or a single-family home. 

When you live in an apartment, you have a personal living space. No one can get into your apartment without a key or an invitation. The common areas of the apartment building, such as the lobby and hallways, are open to anyone who lives in the building. The public cloud is similar: you get your own dedicated storage space, but other companies or individuals can access the server, taking the "hallways" to their private storage areas.

When you live in a single-family home, you have an entirely private living space. The yard, entrance, and other areas are also private. A private cloud works the same way: your storage area is private, but so is the rest of the storage space. Without your permission, no one is allowed access to your files, and they aren't allowed on the same servers, or your "property."

Cloud storage features to consider

Additionally, cloud storage options vary in terms of the features they offer. As a result, based on your needs, you might find multiple options from the same company. Along with providing varying amounts of storage space and size limits for file uploads, a cloud storage platform might limit the number of users who can access an account. Another key feature to consider is security options.

For a small company, it makes sense to choose a cloud storage plan that allows a few users access. If your company has dozens or hundreds of employees, you should look for a platform that allows you to add more users or allows for an unlimited number of users. Either way, you can ensure everyone who needs access to the cloud has it.

Pay attention to what happens to your content when it's in the cloud, too. There's no denying that security is a significant concern, and the content management platform you choose should have measures to secure and protect your data. This component will be especially crucial when you're dealing with sensitive, confidential information.

The content management platform you choose should secure and protect your data

Standard cloud security measures can take two forms. First, the platform should have a process to protect your content from loss and ensure that it's always available. Second, the platform should have features that block access to your content from unauthorized users. Those features might include allowing you to set granular user permissions and encrypting the data when it's in transit and at rest.

When choosing a cloud storage platform, look for one that has business features, in addition to or instead of individual or personal options. Any platform designed for businesses is designed to address the unique challenges companies face. These accounts will also give you the most access to significant storage options at the best prices. Plus, you'll likely have access to business customer support.

How much is cloud storage?

How much does cloud storage cost? This variable depends on several factors. The cost of a cloud storage platform can vary widely, depending on the company offering it. Furthermore, the fees from a single provider can vary considerably, based on the plan you choose.

Often, the price is a monthly fee. This cost can have a broad range — your company might pay a fee per user or per gigabyte of storage. When looking at prices, it helps to review the services you get for each price tier. 

Some services you might need and are likely to affect the cost of your cloud storage include:

  • Upload limit on file size
  • Storage limit
  • Number of users
  • Available app integrations
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Security features

Often, lower-priced cloud storage platforms have smaller upload limits. That might not be an issue if you typically only need to upload .docx or PDF files to the cloud. But if you regularly produce larger content, such as videos, you might have to choose a pricier plan.

Some platforms, such as the Content Cloud, give you unlimited storage space, no matter your service tier. Any company that needs to store significant amounts of files will want to consider services with unlimited capabilities. This way, you can choose the service tier based on the features you need, not how much space you require. Starting with a more economical service tier also allows you to test out a cloud service without compromising on space.

If you need to store significant amounts of files consider services with unlimited capabilities

The number of people (or users) who can create an account and access the cloud storage platform also affects the price. In some cases, the more users you have, the more you pay monthly. Be sure to figure out how many employees will require access so you know your needs before purchasing a subscription to the cloud.

Note that the more secure and compliant a platform is, the higher the monthly fee. If you need to ensure the confidentiality of your content and comply with regulations, choosing a pricier, more secure tier is the way to go. You'll have complete trust in your content's security — and for many companies, that's the most crucial point when it comes to storage.

Is free cloud storage a good option?

Many cloud storage platforms offer a free option, which is tempting if you're looking to save money. But often, the free service tier doesn't provide sufficient storage space for your company's needs. Or, if there's enough storage, you might be limited in terms of the number of users you can add or the security features available to you. The adage "you get what you pay for" usually rings true when it comes to cloud storage.

The good news is that cloud storage — even when you pay for it — is still a cost-effective option for many companies. It gives you a secure place to keep your content and streamlines collaboration, allowing you and your colleagues to get more accomplished in less time.  The cloud is also superior to traditional methods of storing files on physical devices when it comes to security.

The Content Cloud offers secure cloud storage

The Content Cloud is a content management platform that provides unlimited cloud-based storage. With Box, you keep your company's content secure while streamlining your workflows. Multiple users can access each piece of content, all from their own internet-connected devices. Any changes made to a file are trackable and traceable. Plus, you can assign user permissions to determine who can do what to various types of content.

With Box, you can keep your company's content secure while streaming your workflows

What’s more, Box goes beyond cloud storage, offering e-signature and workflow management features to help your company collaborate more efficiently. There are also numerous service tiers, which means our product can grow with your business. Whether you're a small startup or an enterprise-level organization, there's a Box plan that's right for you.

Learn what Box has to offer

Box offers unlimited cloud storage across our plans. Whether you're looking for a solution that will allow you to collaborate on projects more effectively or need secure and compliant storage, we have options tailored for your business. Contact us today to learn more about our plans and see how Box can help you get more from the Content Cloud.

Box takes you beyond file storage with tools to manage the entire content journey