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Avoiding Cloudy days

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The Cloud, when used well, can be a fantastic asset for any small business. Using the Cloud enables a business to avoid the, sometimes crippling, costs of buying IT assets and pay on a ‘commodity’ basis for services as they are consumed.

The Cloud, when used well, can be a fantastic asset for any small business. Using the Cloud enables a business to avoid the, sometimes crippling, costs of buying IT assets and pay on a ‘commodity’ basis for services as they are consumed. But the Cloud is not the panacea of all things. There can be pitfalls to the Cloud too – and some of these could be catastrophic for a small business that either didn’t foresee them, or chose to ignore them. The main advantages of the Cloud are that all costs are operational rather than capital, the flexibility and elasticity that it offers, (allowing the amount of IT equipment in use to grow and contract as the business evolves), and the speed of deployment. The main disadvantages can be inflexibility in the services offered, security and business risk.

Whilst Cloud offers a huge amount of flexibility in that there are many different ‘flavours’ of Cloud available, (Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, etc.), offered through a variety of channels, (Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud), the services can also be quite rigid. It can be very much along the Model T Ford lines, ‘you can have any colour as long as it’s black’. Some Cloud services are like this – the service offered might not fit your business, but that’s all that is on offer.

Security is a significant concern for many businesses considering the Cloud. The reality though is that, thankfully, Cloud security breaches are relatively rare. In most cases, breaches tend to be targeted at a specific company rather than the Cloud itself. And, in reality, it is the company that has inadequate protection, (against hacking, for example), and not the Cloud provider. Security should be a consideration for any business thinking about the Cloud, but the probability of a breach should also be taken in perspective. The likelihood of a member of staff opening a suspicious attachment or clicking on a malicious link is actually probably higher than the risk of a breach.

Business risk is a much larger potential problem. If a small business is thinking about Cloud, they should consider carefully who they choose as a provider. Is it right to go with one of the bigger household names? Or would it be better to choose a smaller provider. The problem with the very big players is that, whilst their service is generally very good, if they were to have a major service impacting issue, (and they do happen), then a small business will be so far off their radar that they’ll have no consideration what-so-ever. If the business relies on the services provided by the Cloud provider, (an ecommerce business, for example, or one that uses their website as their shop window), the impact could be catastrophic. The major Cloud provider will only prioritise their very large customers and everyone else will be left in the long grass! A smaller provider may offer cheaper services but, more importantly, is far more likely to treat a small business customer with much more consideration than a larger player.

The Cloud can be a great business enabler, but should always be approached in an informed way. Picking a major Cloud provider may be right for your business, but if you want to avoid a cloudy day, be sure you understand the risks as well as the advantages.