‘What’s the cloud?’ or better still, ‘Where is the cloud?’ both are very commonquestions that we encounter in everyday interactions with both our partners and prospective partners. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's or servers local hard drives. The cloud is quite simply (in most cases) a metaphor for the Internet.
What cloud computing is not- is a personal physical hard drive. When data is stored on -or programs run from- the hard drive, that's called local storage and computing. All data is physically close by, which means accessing data is fast and easy (for that one computer, or others on the same ‘local’ network). Working off a hard drive or local server is how the business technology has functioned for decades.
Many business leaders are poorly informed of the possibilities the cloud holds for business efficiency and continuity. Misconceptions surrounding the security, convenience, and reliability of cloud services are very common. In reality, an expertly strategized cloud solution can increase productivity, reduce cost, and decrease reliance on IT support. Let’s clarify the concerns and benefits of moving to the cloud.
The number one most common business IT disaster is data loss, with number two being system downtime. Both of these business disasters are most often caused by human error, hardware failure, natural disaster or theft. By moving storage off site to the cloud, the risk of downtime and data loss is essentially eliminated. As mentioned previously in this blog: over 50% of small business disasters are result of hardware failure and on average a hardware-related disaster will require 30 hours of recovery time, not to mention an unexpected blow to the IT budget. For some businesses, the cloud offers less overall risk of downtime or system unavailability.
Storing data in the cloud means having access to all your data and business applications all the time and from anywhere. While 62% of small businesses already have remote users, access to everything off-site is becoming increasingly more popular and beneficial to businesses that thrive on a nimble, efficient workforce
The cloud also offers virtually unlimited data storage at a fraction of in-house hardware making your IT budget a little easier to manage.
Cybercrime has increased 78% this past year (2013) and the time required to recover from such crime has increased by 130% over the past four years. These stats seem like reason enough to keep your data access limited to a local network, but why not double up on security? By using a reputable cloud provider, data is protected first by the local network security measures set up for your business needs and then protected by the cloud provider’s high level of security which is almost always stronger than what the average small business is capable of deploying.
Collaboration in a cloud environment gives your business the ability to communicate and share more easily outside of the traditional methods. If you are working on a project across different locations, you can leverage cloud computing to give employees, contractors and third parties access to the same files. Over 53 % of companies that switch to a cloud solution report increased data efficiency and utilization.
After cloud adoption, 82% of businesses reduce overall costs. Upfront cost of data storage on the cloud versus local hosting is significantly lower and common business applications like the Microsoft Office Suite are now offered as a very affordable monthly cloud subscription. Of those companies that have switched to cloud data storage, 90% report lower energy costs after moving from physical data storage, making the switch to the cloud better for both your IT budget and the environment.
Decrease IT Support
Moving to cloud computing may reduce the cost of managing and maintaining your IT systems. Rather than purchasing expensive systems and equipment, costs can be reduced by utilizing the resources of a cloud computing service provider. Many businesses can decrease operating costs because the cost of system upgrades, new hardware and software can be replaced by identical cloud services. More than 40% of businesses using cloud services require less IT assistance, reporting a reduction of as much as 50% of billed hours for IT services.
It’s not at all a stretch to say that aside from a locally installed desktop operating system and browser (or increasingly, from a single mobile device) a lot of today's small business technology needs can be fulfilled almost exclusively with cloud-based offerings. This is really great news for small to medium sized businesses looking to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
While the cloud has a lot to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes, its not always a perfect fit. If you are contemplating adopting a cloud solution, consider having a Needs Assessment done for your business.
Whereas this post is a more in-depth look at cloud computing, we have also created an easy, concise, guide to cloud computing in the infographic that you see here.
Don't Fear the Cloud: Cloud Computing Clarified - An infographic by the team at Entech IT Business Solutions
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