Is the Cloud Really for you?
Written by Steve Ross
Multifaceted and multifunctional, the cloud is in almost every workplace - but how does it actually help... and does your business need it?
A small business' IT network is a precious resource - the last thing you want to do with yours is waste it. But with so much emphasis placed on integrating the cloud with your organisation's network, you'd be forgiven for wondering if it's really worth the time, effort and expense... In other words, do you really need the cloud?
Will it save money?
SME IT budgets are stretched: data storage, servers, devices and internet connections all add up - along with maintenance and repair costs. Can the cloud help you save money?
- Hardware: By exporting computing processes to the cloud, the need to buy physical hardware, including servers, is reduced or even eliminated.
- Software: Many business-essential software platforms, like Microsoft Office, Dropbox and Google Apps, are now cloud-based. Rather than paying upfront for installation, businesses can buy in on a lower monthly subscription basis.
- Scalability: Cloud services can be scaled up and down - you'll be able to add or drop apps and storage space as your business needs change - rather than paying upfront for a larger, comprehensive software package you only partially use.
Bear in mind, while many cloud services are free, providers charge for their premium products and platform subscriptions. You'll also need a robust internet connection to take advantage of the cost-saving benefits the cloud offers.
Will it improve productivity or efficiency?
Does your team work together on client projects? Need to connect to your network while travelling or out of the office? Ideally, your IT infrastructure should make work tasks flexible and more efficient - the cloud offers ways to achieve this:
- Collaboration: Gone are the days of hustling everyone into the meeting room to discuss the latest project or pitch. The cloud connects your team's devices and desktops in real time, so employees can produce, edit and comment on documents wherever they are in the office, or indeed, the world.
- Accessibility: The cloud's connective flexibility also allows employees to work wherever there is an internet connection. Employees who may need to work from home (for childcare or medical reasons) can be accommodated, while travelling between meetings no longer means work downtime.
- Space: Without the need for space-hogging servers, your business premises can be repurposed... to hire that extra employee, or simply give everyone more room.
While the cloud liberates your employees virtually and physically, connectivity - or the lack thereof - may also be a curse: if your internet drops, so does your access to the cloud.
Is it secure?
Worried about your clients' data? Sick of fighting viruses and malware? Every business owner should be concerned about protecting their network but the cloud represents a new way of thinking about security.
- Hacking: Rather than maintaining your own business' IT security (antivirus, malware, etc...) cloud data is protected by your provider's security measures.
- Back-up: No more forgetting to save that crucial document. Cloud data is automatically backed up on your provider's servers, removing the need to use you own on-site storage which is, of course, vulnerable to damage, loss and theft.
- Disaster recovery: After fires, floods and similar disasters, cloud enabled networks make recovery that little bit easier since information stored on the cloud will be instantly accessible, even if on-site hardware has been damaged.
The cloud isn't a security 'magic bullet': you'll be moving your data off-site - essentially out of your complete control - so it's important you understand and trust your provider's security measures. Your passwords and login information remain vital to securing your account
Is the cloud for me?
We've laid out the major benefits of cloud computing, but that doesn't mean you should jump in headfirst: there are important factors to consider, not least connection speed, security and cost. Fortunately, there are so many cloud products available you should be able to find a solution to fit your business needs: that might mean only a partial, 'hybrid' migration to the cloud - with some business processes still handled on-site by your own network.
The cloud landscape changes constantly and rapidly: services become cheaper, more flexible and more innovative every day. If the cloud wasn't right for you before, it may very well be now - or sometime very soon.
Still undecided on the cloud? Struggling to navigate your company's migration? Contact us today for help and advice...
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