“Cloud Computing” is a phrase that has crept into the general discourse of the IT and business world. It is promoted as a far more efficient, safe and dynamic way of working – and is starting to make local storage look stone-age. In the age of Google Drive, do we need to clog up our laptops with anything except a web browser?
Like most technological developments, there are pros and cons to cloud computing. Here I try to outline these; to help any of you out there that aren’t sure if drifting into the Cloud is a wise thing for your business or not.
Benefits of the cloud – the silver lining:
There are a number of benefits of the cloud – which, after all, is why it is becoming increasingly popular.
It will soon be impossible to escape the reach of an accessible Wi-Fi network in towns and cities across the developed world. High speed wireless hotspots can now be found in cafes, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, trains, buses – and not to mention at home!
So it seems natural that the most appealing thing about storing data on the cloud is that it can be accessed from anywhere with a connection. In many cases, vendors will tailor their product as accessible across a wide range of devices too. This means that if your laptop is out of action, your iPhone or Blackberry can pick up the pieces. As long as you’ve got a password and username, you’re in.
Another attraction for businesses is that often the cloud option is relatively inexpensive to begin with. To build and maintain your own local server can be an expensive and time-consuming task, with unknown IT Support costs if something goes wrong. Cloud storage solutions usually allow you to pay a monthly subscription, with the agreement that any support should be provided by the vendor.
Over time, a monthly subscription may work out as more costly than a one-off payment for a Local solution, but there is less likelihood of unexpected costs and you only pay for what you use and the level you choose. “Try-before-you-buy” is also a great incentive distributed by many cloud-based solutions. Most offer a free trial, so you can test out the vendor’s product to see if it fits. Try to break it and see what happens!

Problems – In cloud-cuckoo land:

Some may argue that as a company, storing all your data in the cloud is pure madness. There are, inescapably, some risks associated with it.
The main issue is that you are entirely reliant on an external vendor to manage and hold all of your information. If you pick the wrong client and something goes pear-shaped, it’s possible you could have difficulty recovering your data. Granted, most reputable companies are fairly impervious from disasters like this, but even Google – the untouchables – have experienced mass outages in the past.
You’ll need to keep up to date with your subscription payments too – otherwise you may get shut down unexpectedly. Can you imagine waking up on the day of a big presentation and discovering that you’re locked out of your work? If there’s a disagreement it could take a while to restore access.
For organised business-owners, this shouldn’t be a problem, but even the best of us are sometimes forgetful.
Although most cloud vendors advertise supreme speed on their products, there is little doubt that a local solution should be significantly faster. The impact of a slower system adds up over time and over the number of employees waiting until their data loads. Weigh the speed up against the cost saving and you should figure the impact.
You may be conducting highly sensitive business deals as a company. There may be a multi-million pound contract being contested. Your prime concern here is security. You need to be sure that the information cannot be accessed by competitors wanting to neutralise your strategy.
If you’re at all concerned about this, make sure there is an option for multi-level authentication. Access and distribution of your data by the vendor itself is illegal (and would destroy their credibility and product), so if you’re working with a reputable site don’t worry too much.
Overcast:
I’m in danger of being incredibly mundane here by evaluating both sides of the story and concluding to somewhere in the middle. But in all honesty, it seems to be the best option. Whether you opt for cloud services or whether you decide on the “stone-age” local, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket.
I think the best option is to employ a hybrid approach. This could involve doing the majority of your work in a Local setting and backing up on the cloud. You could also work the other way around. It entirely depends on what your priorities are and where your concerns lie.
Confidence in cloud technology has not yet peaked, but its popularity is growing. The unrivaled convenience of the cloud as the Wi-Fi network expands is highly appealing, and it would be foolish to not make use of this. The ease of access and collaboration can make your company highly efficient, and the prospect of accessing project plans, documents or presentations on the hop from any device has already transformed modern business.
Admittedly, there are concerns about relying on a third party to handle your sensitive and crucial information – and it would be equally foolish not to protect yourself from potential disaster.
In summary, our advice would be to jump in and exploit the benefits of cloud storage, but do your specific research, be aware of the risks, and fully protect yourself.
What’s your opinion on cloud computing? Please feel free to leave comments below.