The Cloud: Online Storage Pros and Cons for Small Business3
“The cloud,” in simple terms, is the Internet. It’s like an online hard drive – all your files and applications can be stored apart from your own network. This data can be accessed from any computer that has Internet connectivity.
For example, if you’ve ever used any webmail like Yahoo mail, gmail, or hotmail, your messages are considered to be “in the cloud.”
You may have heard of “SaaS,” or “Software as a Service.” SaaS refers to applications designed to run “in the cloud,” like Google Docs, for example. You log in to a website that contains your spreadsheets and word processing documents. You edit them as needed, and then they are saved online (“in the cloud”) instead of on your local machine, an external hard drive, or a privately-maintained server.
What advantages does the cloud have for small businesses?
The benefits of the cloud are enormous. Here are some of the ways it makes life easier:
1. Automation. The IT department can provide greater value by managing pre-built products and services instead of having to design/implement custom systems as well as maintaining them.
2. Cost. There is usually a only a nominal monthly fee for connecting to the cloud. Converting to the cloud can save you money on your bottom line.
3. Services you can offer. Your company can offer services it may not have been able to afford before, because overhead for hardware and maintenance are significantly reduced.
4. Power and speed. The amount of processing power needed Is greatly diminished, which is a necessary feature in the world of mobile devices and tablets.
5. Mobility. Files will be able to accessed and shared from any computer connected to the Internet, so employees will have the flexibility to work from anywhere they choose.
What are the problems a small business could have with the cloud?
1. Security. With the cloud, the data is maintained by a third party, so the security of the system is out of your hands. However, you can rest assured that providers in this discipline place security as their top priority.
2. Blackouts. Though applications in the cloud are becoming more and more sophisticated, there can still be outages in the system. If you are completely cloud-reliant, you can be left in a bad spot when these outages occur. Tolar Systems recommends a hybrid approach, where your day-to-day work takes place in the cloud, but all fundamental files are stored and backed up locally in case of an outage in the cloud.
3. Connection issues. Cloud computing cannot be done without Internet connectivity. And let’s face it: there are still many places in the world where a connection is either unavailable or unreliable. It would be important to build contingency plans that would outline courses of action in case an Internet connection is unavailable.
4. Non-customizable. If the procedures your business runs are very unique, an application off-the-shelf may not meet all your needs. However, your company may find it valuable to creatively change your processes in order to fit the applications that are available.
Converting to the cloud is much easier than you may think. It can save money, time, and computing costs; it can add mobility and potentially increase your ability to collaborate. However, it is important to realize the risks and develop work-arounds that fit your unique situation so you can take advantage of its many benefits.