The terms ‘Cloud’ and ‘cloud computing’ are have become synonymous with small business IT when discussing technology for small businesses. The issue is that with so much miscommunication and hype about cloud computing many small business owners and even medium to large business owners are confused about what it all really means. In this article i hope to clear the confusion and to provide you with enough information to help you to decide if using cloud is right for your business.
What is cloud?
One of the greatest causes of confusion regarding what the cloud is, stems mostly from disagreement amongst peers within the IT industry as to what they perceive mean. In general cloud is described as any IT service that is available over the internet. For instance, if you use an online file storage system i.e. Dropbox or Copy then you are already using something that is described as a cloud service.
The primary reason it is continuing to be a hot topic is that it’s a slight departure from the “traditional” approach as how businesses used to run their IT; with a small server room which held all the company information, applications and data on-premises. These server rooms, equipment and general IT maintenance were handled by either internal IT teams or IT support companies.
What are the benefits of cloud?
Moving all of these pieces of information and services to a location outside of your business can have significant benefits for your operations. First and foremost, your data is protected from loss. If your office burns down for example, your information is safe. As well as data protection, the cloud can also provide greater flexibility. For instance, if bad weather keeps your employees at home, they can simply access business information from another internet connection without compromising the security of your digital assets.
Many providers offer a pay-as-you-go service so you can scale your cloud solution depending on your business needs.
If you have an existing IT infrastructure and are paying to maintain equipment that may be heavily out of date, the cloud provides an efficient way of managing your IT equipment with minimal investment. An external provider will manage everything for you and many providers offer a pay-as-you-go service so you can scale your cloud solution depending on your business needs.
How to assess cloud provider
Before making the jump to the cloud, speak to a few IT providers to determine the best fit for your business. If you’re unsure of technical jargon or exactly what you need from a provider, it can be worth asking an IT consultant who can break down the complexity around cloud and identify the right service for you.
Below are some of the key questions to consider asking:
- Do you run regular back-ups? If you’re storing client data externally, you need to make sure the information is safe no matter what situation may occur. Regular back-ups ensure all your information is secure and not at risk from loss
- Do you have a pay-as-you-go option? One of the key benefits of cloud is its scalability. By using a pay-as-you-go service, you can manage your IT costs effectively
- How can I access my data? Some services may provide access via an app or web portal
- How much control do I have over my data? You should have entire control of your data no matter where it is stored. Ask for a plan of action in the unlikely event that data could end up in the wrong place
- How do you keep my data from other clients? Ask for details of how the provider keeps your data isolated from other clients to ensure secure and flexible access