The rise of Cloud computing has enabled businesses in every sector to improve efficiency, cash flow, collaboration and the flexibility of their operation. In fact, it’s so widespread you may already be using it without even realising (hint: social media is all cloud based).
However, despite the many benefits it offers, there are still concerns around the level of security it offers as well as questions about the technology itself. To help you work out if Cloud computing is a viable option for your business, we’ve put together this essential guide.
What is Cloud Computing?
Traditionally, your IT system would run on software which you had to download onto your computer or server. Cloud computing enables you to use the same types of applications and software but via the internet. The Cloud can be used for storage, sharing, backup, software applications and hosting which means you could run most aspects of your business wherever you have an internet connection.
There are 3 types of cloud services which businesses can take advantage of. A public cloud service is managed by an external provider. They manage the responsibility and security of your business’ data alongside that of their other clients. This low cost option usually means you receive the most up to date technology but you don’t necessarily have full control. If you would prefer to host and manage your own system, a private cloud gives more flexibility, access and control but it tends to be a more expensive option. You could also choose to use a hybrid of the two systems. For example, you could manage a private cloud which stores your business’ sensitive information but delegate other areas to an external provider.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
If your business’ storage and general level of use is likely to fluctuate a cloud service is perfect. You’ll be able to scale up or down as needed with very little delay to your business operation.
Backup & Emergency Recovery
A cloud storage solution means that in the event of a disaster, security breach or loss of a device your data isn’t lost. For small businesses it’s a low cost solution. If all your information is stored on a laptop, losing that laptop could cause serious damage. When data is stored in a cloud as well as on physical devices, you can remotely wipe the devices to prevent your business’ data falling into the wrong hands.
If an external provider is managing the cloud all software updates and maintenance should be carried out by them. This not only saves you time and ensures you have the latest security measures in place.
No Hardware to Buy
With a cloud solution there’s no need to purchase hardware or pay setup fees so you can avoid unnecessary strain on the budget.
You and your team can access the cloud anywhere there is an internet connection. This means they can view, share and edit documents as a team with ease. They’re no longer tied to the office or traditional working hours. By enabling a more flexible work / life balance you
can really enhance creativity and motivation.
Real-time Document Control
Edits made to a document saved on the cloud are instantly visible to all users. There is only ever one version of a document which avoids the need to send several versions of documents back and forth which can result in errors and miscommunication.
Moving to cloud technology has enabled many small businesses to access top quality functionality that they would otherwise not have been able to afford. Pay-as-you-go, flexible contracts and scalable services mean you can keep up with the big players like never before.
What About Security?
Security is a common concern amongst business owners who are considering cloud computing. Cyber attacks are a very real threat which can be made more likely by keeping data in an improperly protected cloud system.
However, it is possible to make a cloud system as secure as an on-premises option. To be sure your provider has all the proper precautions, encryption and contingency plans in place.
Possible questions you could ask a potential provider include:
- Who can access my data?
- How do you encrypt my data?
- What security certifications do you have?
- Who should you contact for ongoing support?
- Do you have multiple data centres so my information is protected against regional attacks?
- What are your contingency plans if the system should fail?
Cloud Computing Costs
The cost of introducing a cloud computing system is difficult to estimate as it will depend on several factors such as the type of service you’ll need, your industry sector, the number of users, the provider you choose and any support they offer in addition.
Providers will base their costs on the required network, compute and storage capacity needed. Be sure to source quotes from more than one provider so you can compare the services and costs.