Cloud storage systems are rapidly becoming a small business owner's best friend because they allow for global document sharing, do not require office space and are scalable. However, some cloud packages have become the cable companies of data storage by hiding all kinds of extra fees, price changes and costs for directional accessibility. Add the operational costs associated with security and planning, and suddenly the cloud-based company management has a potential for huge costs. Here are a few ways to choose a cloud company and avoid any hidden costs:

Trust But Verify

One quarter of Chief Information Officers think that cloud storage will be a top priority in the next five years, and 79 percent are concerned with hidden costs, reports a study conducted by digital research company Dynatrace. With so many platforms popping up, it makes sense to use customer reviews to help weed out the good from the bad. The website Top 10 Cloud Storage lists out the best cloud storage systems, their costs and consumer reviews so you know what you are getting into in advance. The site breaks down the reviews between their professional editor, business consumers and non-enterprise users. This way you can get a sense of the integrity of the reviews—it is easy to pad reviews by paying the reviewer, but it is a lot harder when you have this type of editorial mix.

Plan Ahead

When first looking at cloud systems, document sharing and storage were probably the only concerns on your list. Many small business owners don't know the power of the technology, and, after setting up the system, they find out the full capability of the cloud.

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By its definition, cloud storage is elastic. For most systems, you pay for the data stored, which means you can calculate the cost linearly. However, what many do not understand is that there are other things that can affect the data. For example, data transfer frequency, integrity, density and reliability are all factors that can change the cost of cloud storage.

So, before investing in a system, understand your data needs. Look at programs you will be using, and decide which ones will reside in the cloud and have data requirements. Then, find out how much they will cost, and document the price in writing.

Prepare for the Worst

Cloud storage's biggest downfall comes from expenses associated with operations that were unforeseen. Training is a big one on this list because the benefits of cloud-sharing mean nothing if your counterpart does not know how to access or navigate the system. Security is another cost you need to consider. All of this data is being accessed from different areas, which often include non-secure Wi-Fi systems at cafés, restaurants and co-working spaces. This means that you, your employees and anyone else with access to your data need an appropriately powerful security software package. And, the more you use cloud storage, the higher the expenses can go.

Overall, cloud storage is a great tool for small businesses and startups. As long as you are vigilant about all of the costs, you can enjoy the many benefits the cloud brings to your company.

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