With most large computing companies making major pushes to migrate users to the cloud, small businesses are left wondering how this affects them and if they can do more to leverage cloud services for their day to day operations. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before considering the change.
Do I want or can I put my data in the cloud?
Once your data is in the cloud you inherently have less control over it. This is not to say that the cloud is insecure; however, data may be replicated to several sites across the US or the world and in some instances certain regulatory bodies may dictate in what physical locations you are allowed to store your data.
How important is access to your data?
You are also trusting that your cloud hosting provider is able to get you access to your data when you need it. While cloud services are generally stable with high availability, they are not perfect. Internet outages either locally or globally may restrict access to your cloud data and applications.
Am I going to save money?
It depends how you look at it. The cost of purchasing new server hardware and support services to install and maintain it over the life of the equipment is significant. Cloud services on the other hand have a much lower entry cost but those costs add up over time and can often exceed the cost of self-hosting.
The most common service to be hosted in the cloud is email. Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps are the two most common platforms. Office 365 is geared more towards users who prefer Microsoft Outlook as their primary email client whereas Google Apps is geared towards users who prefer a web browser as their email client.
The next most common hosted platform is sharing data files. Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Box and Dropbox are all examples of cloud data storage platforms. The type of data you would like cloud hosted can drastically affect both your costs as well as user experience.
Application hosting is also a possible cloud service. Many vendors are moving to a cloud hosted model as it lets them control the environment that users work on to ensure stability and compatibility thus resulting in a better user experience. Cloud applications now exist for virtually any industry and many applications that are not currently available as a hosted solution from the vendor can be built to run in the cloud by a third party.
Gather a list of your applications, evaluate the three listed questions and discuss a plan with an IT professional.