Should you ditch your office server and move to the Cloud? Some would say yes, and others would say no. Ultimately, it’s a decision that only you can make based upon your business needs. What we will do for you here is give you both sides of the story, so when the time comes for you to choose, you know what you’re getting into.
Cloud computing: what is it?
Basically, Cloud computing is storing data, programs, and software on a virtual server on the internet where it can be accessed by multiple users at a time. The information and resources stored on the Cloud are provided to computers and other devices, on demand, so several people can be using the same resource that otherwise would have been restricted to one computer. Most people have come into contact with the Cloud at some point, for example, email is something that typically operates in the Cloud (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo…etc.)
Why would I want to use the Cloud?
Microsoft and Google Cloud solutions offer a number of benefits to your small business.
Flexibility: they say there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done, but Cloud computing provides flexibility that cannot be matched by traditional computing methods. Wherever you are, so long as you have an internet-capable device, you will have 24/7 access to the documents, information, and emails needed to get the work done. You could even take your office to the beach with you, if you were so inclined.
Many functions that are usually stored on a computer can now be shared via the Cloud. As a very basic example, a Microsoft Word document can be uploaded to the Cloud, where all the people who need to, can access it. Before it would be typical to email the document around the office as an attachment, which leads to inefficiency and time-wasting, but now multiple users can make changes to data at the same time. This is because the document is not restricted to one computing device, but stored in the centre for everyone, in the Cloud.
Cost: for many small-businesses, owning and maintaining personal servers is an impractical expense. Cloud computing alleviates the costs associated with maintenance, back-up, and software licenses.
In case of disaster: If your physical server breaks down, is damaged, or you just can’t access it, you would have revert to the physical back-ups of data you prepared. With Cloud computing, this is not a problem. All your information and data is stored online in a digital backup, and all you need to access it is a computer with an internet connection.
Are there any downsides?
Like everything, there is always a downside. You have to understand that when you store your data in the Cloud, you lose a little bit of control over it, as with everything that is uploaded to the internet. All possible security precautions are taken, but there is always the chance that malware could sneak through, or someone could hack into your Cloud and steal data. Those who have experienced internet banking will know the stringent measures taken to protect customers’ bank accounts online, and with the Cloud it’s much the same. To combat this, Microsoft Cloud solutions provides anti-virus and anti-spam solutions, and the ability to leverage the Forefront TMG 2010 HTTPS Inspection feature to protect on-premises resources. Google’s Cloud solutions boast the internationally accepted independent ISO 27001 security certification, which is only gained through third-party auditing (in this case, conducted by Ernst & Young CertifyPoint).
The nature of Cloud computing means everyone who subscribes to the service is an end-user. Even your company’s CEO! This means that everyone will get equal attention, which sounds great, but could also have potential setbacks if you need to get something fixed now. However, when you choose Cloud solutions by technology giants like Microsoft and Google, you know that if anything does go wrong, it will be fixed pretty quickly. Google and Microsoft can’t afford to take their time in fixing problems because their large customer bases will make their displeasure known in a vocal manner.
When considering the move to Cloud computing it pays to do your research. Read the fine-print that goes with each service-offering, and make sure you understand exactly what the agreement entails. Get to grips with the service limits and features before you sign the contract. If you do this, you will have a much smoother Cloud computing experience.