One of the most common questions we get from new customers is whether or not they can trust their business data in the Cloud. It's a totally reasonable question, but in order to answer it, we need to dig deeper and educate our customers on what the Cloud really is, how it might benefit them, and why the rewards of using the cloud may be worth the risks.
We've decided to explore some of the more important aspects of this conversation as it relates to small and medium sized businesses.
What is the Cloud?
Simple question right? Well perhaps it used to be. These days there are private clouds, public clouds, cloud services, etc... When a business asks us about taking advantage of the cloud, we usually start here and drill down into their needs.
Loosely, the Cloud can be defined as a set of IT systems that are accessible thru the Internet and are diversified across many geographic locations (for redundancy and resiliency purposes).
The Cloud is not a single thing. When spoken about in general terms, it is the collection of all the cloud services on the globe. Things like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google's platform, MS 365, Dropbox, Evernote, and many many more all combined make up "the Cloud".
But in practice, where the rubber meets the road, we talk about cloud services in terms of a specific benefit to a customer. Therefore a business doesn't just "move to the Cloud", they adopt a particular cloud service to solve a specific business challenge.
Some hallmarks of using cloud services are that they:
are very accessible (can be accessed from anywhere in the world)
usually work well on mobile devices
have built-in support (so you don't pay extra for system repairs and upgrades)
are always kept up to date with the latest security patches and features (in theory)
usually have a SAAS (software as a services) models so can be easier to afford
don't require large investments in server hardware, data centers, programming
The best way to frame a conversation about the Cloud is to talk to a client about the business challenges it faces that can be solved by adopting a cloud solution. Here are a few examples of where a cloud service could significantly benefit a business:
"Our email server is hosted right in our office, yet users frequently have problems accessing their email due to technical glitches."
"Our field staff can't access our files from a client site, but if they could it would greatly improve their productivity."
"I'm concerned that our backups are not being performed thoroughly or frequently enough. I want to make sure we can recover quickly from any disaster or loss of data."
How will my business benefit from adopting a cloud service?
The benefits of adopting the Cloud vary depending on which cloud services we're talking about. But there are a few benefits that are consistent across all cloud services, such as:
Accessibility - one of the primary benefits of the Cloud. You can get to it from almost anywhere, including inside the office, at home, or on the go.
Cost Containment - most cloud services are pay-as-you-go. So no need to spend big money on expensive hardware or software. This means no major barriers to entry. (Downside is it's a rented model - you never stop paying for it.)
No repair/maintenance fees - you don't own the hardware/software the cloud service runs on. Therefore you don't pay anybody to fix it when it breaks or gets upgraded. You're buying a fully packaged service, so you can predict your costs as your business grows. You can also expect the cloud service provider to move mountains to restore the service if it goes down for any reason.
Wait, are there risks?
So after all that, why NOT move to the Cloud? As with any good business decision, we need to know what we're losing or giving up in order to gain the stated benefits. Here are the biggest risk factors you should consider before making your decision:
Availability - There are 2 points of failure that could cause your business data to become unavailable on a cloud service. Either your Internet is down, or the Cloud service is having a problem. You must make sure that your business can survive these conditions, and have a plan for what to do in each case. Some cloud services have the ability to work offline and survive Internet outages.
Security - Cloud services get hacked. (as do regular businesses). So you need to be comfortable with the types of security your Cloud provider has in place, and take precautions to prevent a hack from affecting you in other areas. See this post about using unique passwords everywhere to help keep any damage from spreading to other services.
Depending on your business, there are other types of risks to consider as well. For example, suppose you are a healthcare provider. You need to layer these decisions into the larger framework of how you approach HIPAA and HITECH guidelines in your practice.
Having a trusted, experienced IT partner like Techromatic can go a very long way to making sure you avoid mistakes and reduce risk when migrating a part of your business to the Cloud.
So, can I trust the cloud?
Bottom line, the cloud offers amazing opportunities to leverage economies of scale and help SMB's improve their workflows and increase their bottom line. But there are tradeoffs. It's important to understand the pros and cons and have a full 360 degree understanding of the Cloud service you're considering, and how it works within the context of your specific business and within the guidelines of your industry.
Techromatic has spent years understanding the intricacies of the Cloud and helping SMB's grow successfully thru the thoughtful adoption of cloud services. If you're confused about how your business can benefit from adopting a bit of the Cloud, give us a call and we'd be happy to help.
Click here to email one of our Cloud experts, or call us at 212-335-0044.