Going paperless can feel like a daunting task, but making the transition is easier than you might think. With today’s cloud services options, it’s an inexpensive and effective solution for your business.
But what, exactly, is “the cloud”? The cloud refers to an independently hosted storage area that can be accessed by you from any place on the planet with Internet access. It means that you don’t have to wait until you get back home to access a document. You can have all of your information at your fingertips no matter what time of day or night.
Paper vs Digital
Paper filing is a traditional, solid method of keeping track of your business. It comes with limitations, however. With the cost of ink and paper, printing costs are overhead expenses your business doesn’t need. Finding what you need can be daunting, especially when you have multiple people filing papers or if you’ve gotten behind in filing or organizing your paperwork. Digital filing, on the other hand, comes with a search toolbar at your fingertips – allowing you to quickly find any document by doing a simple search. Both paper and digital files allow your files to be organized, categorized and filed in the same place. Reorganization of your digital file system is also a lot easier since you can drag and drop files wherever you need them. In addition, digital filing takes less physical space, leaving you with more room to help your business grow.
Cloud Storage Options
When it’s time to organize your digital files, you’ll want to consider a system that offers the most versatility, ease of access and use, and cost-effectiveness for your type of work.
When shifting to the cloud, I would recommend any combination of these four options: OneDrive, Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box. We won’t mention Apple’s iCloud Drive because it’s not available for Android. Having that type of restriction for your digital filing system may severely limit you in the future. Because of that, we’re going to focus on universal storage systems for organizing your digital files.
OneDrive is a Microsoft product, but it can be used by Mac, Android, iOS, and Windows phones users. It offers 5GB of free storage and a limit to the files size of 10GB. You can’t earn extra storage with this system, but the paid plan is $2 a month for 50 GB of storage. If you’re a Windows 8 or 10 user, this is already built into your operating system. It has a desktop app for all other options. There’s even an app for the Xbox.
You can store any type of file in the service and it organizes them for you. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone apps have automatic photo uploads so that any photo you take is automatically saved to your account. It also allows you to collaborate in real time on Microsoft Office apps if have an Office 365 subscription. It’s easy to open and edit files for Microsoft’s other applications and signing up for OneDrive gets you a Microsoft account. One downside is that it’s automatic file organization doesn’t always put files in the proper folders.
Google Docs (Google Drive) is another option that many cloud users have relied on for years. It offers 15 GB of free storage and a 5TB file size restriction. Google docs are a word processing option within your Google account that lets you work online in a collaborative, real-time manner. There is a drive app you can download that has unlimited storage capability. You decide what gets uploaded to the drive. With its built-in office suite and additional third-party apps (like one that lets you send faxes or sign documents), it’s the most versatile of all the options. It’s easy to use and set up. All you need is a Google account. Keep in mind that your drive shares the storage space with your Gmail, but the upgrade cost for storage is the lowest of all the services.
Organizing your digital files is as easy as dragging and dropping them into the folders you create. You can also adjust the file folder color and icon as needed for your storage solutions. When you use the Google office suite apps it makes a Google version of it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to export those files in the proper format (.doc, .docx, .pptx, etc.) to use them in other programs. Other than that, it’s an excellent solution for going paperless.
Dropbox is a unique storage solution among the others. It allows you earn 250 MB by completing the Getting Started tutorial. If you turn on the automatic photo upload feature on any of the mobile apps and you’ll get one time upgrade of 3GB of extra space. For every friend you refer to Dropbox, you’ll get 500 MB for each friend. This is limited to 16GB total or 32 referrals. Paid plans are $10 a month for 1TB and support Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire. It is the most versatile of all the options since it’s available for so many platforms. It’s also a huge favorite because it’s easy to use, a breeze to set up, and super reliable. This also lets you upload any file types and synchronizes automatically across all your devices. The biggest downside is that it doesn't let you control how your files are displayed. This is an excellent storage option for simple sharing, but also doesn’t work for real-time collaboration.
Box offers 10GB of free storage, but it has the largest restriction for file size upload (250MB for the free plan and 5GB for a paid personal plan). For $10 a month, you can get 100 GB of storage, but it’s available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry. This system was built specifically for business and IT users. Box also takes collaboration to the next level by allowing you to share files with colleagues, assign tasks, get notifications when a file changes, and leave comments on someone’s work. Like Google Drive, you can control the privacy of your files and determine who gets access to what file. Box takes it a step further, however, by password-protecting individual files and set expiration dates for shared folders. Organizing digital files can’t be simpler. Other business apps like NetSuite and Salesforce can connect to Box. It comes with a host of tools for businesses. It is a much more complicated system than you need if you’re using the service for personal storage, but if you have teams of employees working together or need a place to securely share documents with multiple people, Box is a fantastic choice.
Whatever you decide, make sure you keep your logins and passwords to yourself. Most of these options allow you to collaborate with others, so they can set up an account.
Organizing your digital files is a task you can start today with scanning receipts and saving digital copies of bills into appropriate folders. Most companies allow you access that directly and even offer perks for going paperless since it costs them less in print cost and postage. Take the first step today!
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