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The Cloud and Your Small Business

Published by Dave McCann in Cloud Computing · 31/1/2015 16:03:00
Tags: cloudsmb
Cloud computing has become much more common and most everyone interacts with a business or service whose services are provided from the cloud.   If it makes sense for some of the largest business, why not your small or medium business as well?   We'll explore some options to help start the converstation about whether you should or should not go to the cloud.

What can you run from the cloud?

  • Backup - a very obvious choice and one that's been used for years, keeping data offsite is a necessary part of doing business and cloud backup will automate that task.
  • Running Applications - hosted applications make sense in many cases, whether it be an accounting system, CRM system, or plain Office applications, doing so makes these available from wherever you are working.
  • Storing Data - you probably do this now, using DropBox, Google Drive or OneDrive.   Sharing and controlling access becomes a problem with these types of "consumer" services, but there are "enterprise" options available.

Running any or all of the above would be considered a hybrid-cloud model, where local servers are still maintained for certain aspects of your business.

  • Running your Network - you can host servers and data with companies such as Amazon (AWS), Rackspace, and others where complete virtual environments can be setup, your servers, desktop, data and infrastructure are completely cloud-based.  All you need is a relatively low-powered computer or computing device to access the system.

Some benefits (of full cloud):

  • Simplicity - having servers and data in the cloud can simplify equipment and upgrade cycles.
  • Security - can be improved if the cloud vendor is experienced and offers the latest technology.
  • Continuity - should be better, because the cloud vendor will invest heavily in redundant systems.
  • Mobility - you should be able to work from any location easier, as long as you have internet access.

Some concerns (of full cloud):

  • Control - turning over control to a cloud vendor can be a little intimidating, you'll still need someone to manage your cloud.  Without control over your own equipment, you may be at the mercy of your cloud vendor if they change things up on you!
  • Security - can also be worse if the cloud vendor is not experienced or is targeted by hackers.
  • Cost - despite what cloud proponents may tell you, it can cost more on a monthly basis than maintaining your own equipment, because most SMB owners don't buy high-end equipment and therefore owning your equipment is favorable.
  • Performance - while many applications can run really well in the cloud, many do not and nothing beats a "local" application

We've taken a cautious approach with recommendations to our clients due to the many data breaches that are in the news, there is no thing as a completely secure cloud in my opinion -- at least not yet!   So that has to be weighed heavily.   In addition, selecting a vendor that will be around in many years is also very important -- migrating data from an old server to a new one already is an effort, doing so from one cloud vendor to another can be difficult or iimpossible if the wrong vendors are chosen.   As the industry matures, this will become easier.

Putting backup systems in the cloud makes complete sense, data can be encrypted during transit and encryption applied to the files making it virtually impossible for anyone to access data.   However, we recognize the potential advantages for some clients to move more of their business into the cloud and believe than many businesses will embrace a hybrid approach until if and when it becomes the norm.

In the future, whether local or cloud based, we'll be there to manage your network and data.

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