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Sometimes, having your company’s head in the clouds can be a good thing. Cloud computing is becoming more and more favored by small businesses thanks to its ability to decrease the amount of on-site paperwork and hardware needed. It can also provide businesses with more resources than their income might suggest. There are potential pitfalls when it comes to cloud computing, though, so the big question is: do you want it for your business?


Getting on the Cloud

Using cloud computing usually involves contacting a third party organization that can provide managed services for your business needs. You will select a service plan, sign a contract, and then provide that third party with the documents and software that you intend to store on the cloud. Small businesses typically choose these services as a way of providing them with the analytics data, storage capacity, and software assistance that larger companies have but which are otherwise not possible due to a lack of financial capital. You do need to be aware that cloud computing isn’t a cure-all solution for small businesses, though. Anytime you involve a third party in your business, there will be complications.

Typical Service Options

Before we get into the pros and cons of cloud computing, it is important to know what service options will likely be available to you. Most providers offer four different service options: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Network as a Service (NaaS). IaaS is the most common service model and focuses on virtualization and data storage space. PaaS provides applications development tools that can be remotely accessed. SaaS provides popular software suites through a remote link, and NaaS focuses on network connectivity. These services can also be mixed and matched to meet the exact requirement you need fr om the cloud.

Cost Advantages of Cloud Computing

One of the major reasons a lot of businesses switch over to a cloud system is because of the increase in cost efficiency. Not only is less server equipment needed when using managed services, but there is also a savings in software licensing. Employees can connect using one virtual gateway, meaning that you only need to purchase one version of any given software. The ability to scale your service to your specific needs can also be quite helpful. This reduces the need for a full IT staff, since you will be relying on the infrastructure used by your managed services provider for most issues. Rather than use more service than you need, most providers will work with you to customize your cloud package.

Convenience Advantages of Cloud Computing

Many companies also find a move over to a cloud system to be more convenient than the traditional method of information management. There is no need for downtime in order to upgrade servers, and the backup and recovery process is handled entirely off-site. Cloud systems also tend to have more redundancy built into them, providing a stable and secure experience for all users. Instituting a cloud-based system tends to be much easier than making a major server change. In most cases, the changes and training needed to institute such a system can take a week or less.

Potential Privacy Issues

Security and privacy issues are the biggest potential problems with cloud computing. Because there is the need for a third party organization to be involved, this can create some breaches as private information and personal data is exchanged in order to set up the services. This is a huge potential liability for organizations that are involved in healthcare, military systems, or similar industries with lots of confidential information. If you have sensitive information, you should either forgo moving to a cloud system or make sure you have a well-reviewed nondisclosure agreement that you can get your provider to sign off on.

Limited Flexibility

The other major drawback you should consider when it comes to cloud computing is the issue of flexibility. By using a managed services provider, you will be entering into a long-term data management agreement. That means that you are effectively making your business reliant on that other business. You should make sure to choose a provider that has been in the business a long time and is likely to remain in operation long-term. If you ever change providers, there will be new software you will need to learn, and data retrieval during such a move is not always easy.

Cloud computing offers many different opportunities for businesses of any size as long as you know what you are getting into. By following the advice above, you will be better suited to decide whether your business should head into the cloud.

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