Cloud computing, which is anything you do on the Internet outside of your firewall, is a fairly new concept that has become the latest new buzzword since “dot-com.”
Cloud computing, including the hosting of your e-mail, data, and applications, is being offered by major companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. But the jury is still out on whether cloud computing is as safe as doing business on your own servers.
Though cloud computing is widely considered the next best thing (and a natural progression), some worry the bubble will burst if it’s allowed to grow before a code of standards is put in place. If you’re thinking about moving your business into the cloud, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
Pros of Working in the Cloud
The main pros of cloud computing are reduced cost, improved IT flexibility, and increased storage capacity. With a cloud vendor, the cost of processing power and storing data is spread out among many users. Often the service is free. A business won’t have to invest in new infrastructure, IT personnel training, or new software licensing every time it wants to update its applications or increase its data storage.
For smaller businesses without a large IT department, cloud computing can virtually eliminate the need for advanced IT knowledge or resources. It also allows a business to scale its computing resources and needs to meet user demand and to store the bulk of its data online, which frees up local servers.
Cons of the Cloud
There are two main cons: reliability and issues relating to compliance and security. For one, your business will be in serious trouble if the cloud “disappears.” If your cloud vendor’s server goes down, you will be unable to access any data, including e-mail and important documents, until the server goes back up.
Also, there is no security standardization for cloud vendors. You never know where your data is being stored, which raises compliance issues when data is stored with offsite third parties in countries that have different standards for data privacy and security. Some cloud vendors are starting to give users more control over their data location, including Google, which lets customers specify where their Google Apps data is stored. It’s predicted that this will become a standard option for most cloud vendors in the near future.
Making the Move
If you’re contemplating moving some of your business into the cloud, consider these tips:
- Shop around: There is a vast difference between many cloud vendors in their service offerings and service levels. Don’t just choose a cloud vendor because of its big name. Choose one based on services that best match your business needs.
- Be picky: Decide which services and applications to put in the cloud based on how important they are. Determine their risk factor to your business if the cloud disappears or its security is compromised. If your business can survive without the data or application, consider the cloud. Otherwise keep it behind your firewall.
- Place limits: If you’re concerned about storing sensitive information in the cloud, don’t put it there. Make sure your employees are aware of what is and isn’t allowed to go in the cloud.
Cloud computing is a safe solution for most basic business practices. If you’re concerned about relying on the cloud for certain applications, keep them behind your firewall until the cloud matures into a solution you’re comfortable with.