Bekir Kilic, Managing Director, PRO IT Pty Limited
Should I be moving my IT and business applications to the Cloud? I’m not sure what exactly it is or how it would benefit my company. Also, is it safe to keep our client and employee data on the Internet? What about hackers?
Your confusion and hesitation about cloud computing mirrors a wider perception.
What exactly are we talking about? The “cloud” is an IT term for the Internet, and cloud computing or cloud integration means storing and having access to your computer data and software on the Internet rather than running it on your personal computer or office server. In fact, we have been using cloud services since the formation of Yahoo Mail in 1994. Since then we have seen the rise of services such as eBay, Google docs, Online Banking, Travel and Accommodation booking sites and Social Media.
The first use of “cloud computing” in its modern context occurred on August 9, 2006, when then Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term to an industry conference.
Part of the confusion is that the terminology is used widely but is misunderstood, particularly for non-tech-savvy types, including many small business owners. It does however represent a major shift in how businesses and individuals use and store digital information. We’ll go through some pros and cons that may help you decide whether this is right for your business.
On the plus side, having your data and business computing programs running online, rather than exclusively on your office computers, means that you and your staff have access to them anytime, anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
Small businesses like the idea of being able to access their data from home, at a client’s location, on the road, or even on a smartphone.
Cloud provides a fixed-cost advantage and hassle-saving factor. Software provided online is upgraded and maintained by the provider, so the small business owner does not have to purchase the newest version of a software program or download fixes and patches. Not having to buy a program outright but entering into a monthly or annual contract (the “SaaS” or software-as-a-service model) is also appealing, as is the fact that many applications are offered for free. The fixed cost allows business owners to plan rather than be caught off-guard when a costly software or hardware upgrade must be purchased.
But the issue of security cuts both ways. On one hand, many small firms do not have the budget to invest in adequate on-site security and backup systems, leaving their business data vulnerable to theft, loss, hackers, power outages and natural disasters.
With your company documents, customer relationship management and shopping cart data stored in password-protected, secure sites online, it’s not necessarily a disaster if a sales rep loses a laptop or there’s a break-in at your headquarters.
On the other hand, the idea that extremely sensitive data, perhaps including trade secrets or confidential legal documents, is not locked up on company premises but is hovering somewhere in a cloud worries some business owners. “You are trusting your entire business operation to someone else that you think is doing a good job of backing up your data and making sure it’s secure and available.
Keeping data safe while anonymous computer hackers are very unlikely to gain access to your business information in the cloud, a disgruntled former employee familiar with your company might be able to guess your passwords or answer your security questions and get into your accounts to do mischief — or worse.
Also, there have been a couple of highly publicized incidents recently where online services lost supposedly secure data or went offline for some period of time, during which their customers’ accounts were inaccessible.
The key to using cloud hosting safely is finding a responsible provider that provides back-up programs so your online data can also be stored in-house.
Alternatively you can also store data with specialist storage cloud providers including Dropbox, Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive.
Key industry people recommend that businesses choose established providers, talk to their existing customers and ask what kind of redundancy the company has built in to deal with disasters such as a server crash or a power outage.
As we’ve seen, there are many advantages for small businesses in using cloud computing. It enables you to do more with less, accessing critical business applications without the need to pay for ongoing maintenance or upgrades. It also enables services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter which can offer you unique ways of reaching out to customers and potential employees.
Our advice is gain the full knowledge on Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing before deciding move to go there.