What is “The Cloud” and Should I Be Using It?
Recently a few of my clients have been inquiring to me about the Cloud and whether or not they should be using it. It’s a very valid question, considering a large portion of the population still doesn’t have the best grasp on what the Cloud is, let alone the pros and cons of using it for your business. So we here at Groff NetWorks decided to take this opportunity to explain what exactly you should consider when deciding what to do about the Cloud.
What is the “Cloud”?
The Cloud is a phrase that is used often by the everyday individual without a second thought. We store pictures on the Cloud, back up our phones with the Cloud, and any online shopping you’ve ever done has been done on the Cloud. But what does that mean? Well the phrase “Cloud”, or cloud computing, is referring to a larger infrastructure of servers owned by a company that stores all the information you send it, making the data accessible via any device with an internet connection as opposed to storing data on your own personal hard drive. So while the Cloud is often perceived as a metaphorical floating storage location, it is quite tangible. Clouds are used more often than you think; Google Drive is a Cloud, as is Dropbox, and any social media site uses cloud computing.
Should I use the Cloud?
Now that you have an understanding on what the Cloud actually is, do you think you should use it? Or would you rather keep everything internal with your own personal sever and hard drives? There is a lot to consider when making this choice, and pros and cons to each option. First we’ll talk about some pros:
1. More Accessibility cost savings, storage space, disaster recovery/safety
With Cloud storage, you will not be limited to your own organizations computers on ability to access your data. You can reach your Cloud sever from any device with an internet connection.
2. Savings in Cost
For some small to medium sized organizations, cloud storage may have little to no cost! It will reduce your annual costs and will save you thousands in power usage to store information and sever costs.
Also, often capital costs can be relatively high to invest in completely new server infrastructure when the time comes. For some companies, this favors the monthly ‘operating cost’ option that the Cloud provides. A lot of cash now, or save your cash and pay smaller amounts over the longer run?
3. Storage Space
If physical space is an issue for your company, you may want to consider using the Cloud. With the servers being in a warehouse far and separate from your business, you will have more space for whatever your business needs to set up. Space will not be taken up by some servers and lots of large equipment.
4. Disaster Recovery/Safety
In a previous blog post, we discussed the dangers to your business that come with storm season. This is relevant once again when discussing cloud computing. If there is some sort of disaster where your computer is shut off unexpectedly or your files are lost, you’ll be covered. A second copy of the lost data will be stored in the Cloud and can be accessed via any device with an internet connection.
While there are a lot of pros to using cloud computing, there also are a lot of cons that come with it too:
1. Security and Privacy
This is the biggest downside for cloud usage. When using a public cloud for storage, you are trusting a third party with your sensitive business data. That third party has the power to put your company at risk, so it is important to choose a vendor that is trustworthy. Also, the Cloud market is still young, with many of the providers not having reached the first refresh cycle of their hardware. You don’t want to be the one with the data ‘you own’ on the wrong side of a padlock should that company fail.
2. Data Management
Data management could be difficult considering most cloud storage’s have their own structures. The storage system you are currently using may not align well with the clouds structure, causing it to be difficult to relocate your data.
3. Vulnerability to attacks
The internet is by no means completely secure. You are subject to the hardware or software you or the provider chooses, along with the vulnerabilities that come with those. When you choose to use cloud storage, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of external hacking attacks without the full power of controlling it.
4. Long-term Costs
Over time, the annual fee of using the Cloud will begin to add up. It is a new business expense the must be kept track of during yearly fiscal reports, and for some companies, the new business cost is not something that the budget cannot afford. The yearly price of the storage will vary, depending on what cloud service you use and how much storage you require. So while you can save on capital cost up-front, the monthly cost never goes away.
So should you use the Cloud? The decision is only for you to make. The pros may outweigh the cons to some businesses and vice versa for others. Whichever you decide, the choice should be backed up by research done and support from those most qualified around you.
Of course, you probably are already using the cloud for some of your services. But what to do about other pieces, or some of your applications, or your main network infrastructure? Some small businesses are going to do very well moving some pieces over time. Whereas others would be ready and able to move all of it there now. To know the best path for you, requires someone who has a strong knowledge of your business and someone who has a firm grasp on your best options.
If you require any further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us at 518-320-9806.