Can Cloud computing work for my business?

Where on earth is the Cloud?

(Answer: Slough. Exciting, eh?)

You’d be hard pushed to find a smartphone user who doesn’t know about popular Cloud services like Gmail, Dropbox, iCloud Drive and Instagram - even if they don't think of them as part of the nebulous and intangible 'Cloud computing' phenomenon.

Cloud computing for business is somehow less understood and far more mistrusted, despite it being (spoiler alert) one of the safest places you can keep your company’s critical data. Filing cabinets are susceptible to floods, fires and thievery. Papers can be left on trains, in cars or be ruined by a spilled mug of coffee. By 2021, it’s estimated that over 50% of all company data will be stored in the Cloud*. This is seen as a conservative estimate by many industry experts, but there can be no doubt that the whole world is headed towards the Cloud.

If you're unsure whether the Cloud is for you - particularly if your business is a legal or professional service - here’s a jargon-free guide to the different types of Cloud service and an honest approach to the pros (saving a hell of a lot of money, and possibly even your business) and cons (choosing from the myriad of services, which luckily we can help you with).

First up...

The Myth: the Cloud is really unsafe – anyone could get hold of our company data.
The Facts: Business-friendly Cloud services use complex end-to-end encryption making it tough for any unauthorised access to your data. Think of it as a bit like storing your confidential paperwork inside a bulletproof box with a combination lock – unless you know the combination, you’re going to have a pretty hard time getting into it. Compare that to hard copies of client data in your office’s storage room, or a locally-stored, unencrypted document on your (hackable) laptop and you can see why Cloud storage is the safer option.

The Myth: But I’ve heard about companies getting hacked…

The Facts: Of course some hacking of Cloud services does still occur – nothing is 100% foolproof – and it’s always well-publicised by the media. Why is that? Because it’s so rare. Whilst people download viruses, have their laptop stolen or lose paperwork every day, hacking Cloud services happens very infrequently and are usually down to a basic error such as poor password policies. 

The Myth: the Cloud is expensive to implement and difficult to manage, especially for a small business.
The Facts: the Cloud is one of the most scalable business solutions out there and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s all about choosing the right option for you, which is why anyone worth their salary will recommend you speak to an expert to help choose the best solution and architecture for your business. From Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Microsoft Azure and Google Drive as well as private offerings built to suit your needs, the Cloud is far more flexible than purchasing physical hardware and storage. In terms of management it’s also far easier: Cloud management is typically more intuitive, and  the management is often largely done for you by the provider. Very useful indeed as it means more time doing what you want to do, not what you have to do.

The Myth: Can my business really benefit from the Cloud? What would I use it for?

The Facts: The Cloud can be used for anything from day-to-day storage of data – freeing up memory on your laptop, tablet or desktop and therefore making it run faster – to Disaster Recovery and Backup. These are the most popular options for Cloud services in the business world and for good reason. Imagine losing all of your company data? Your client’s names and contact details; contracts; project plans; financial data; presentations and reports: it doesn’t bear thinking about. That’s why Disaster Recovery is becoming so sought-after. It’s like an insurance policy for your data and let’s face it, we don’t have to be told how important our data is to our businesses!

Here are the different types of Cloud and why they could work for you:

#1 - Public Cloud
E.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, AWS, Azure

Works for:
Small, medium or large businesses without major privacy and security concerns

Can be used for:
Day-to-day data management
Backup and recovery

Managed by:
Some level of service is always provided by the public Cloud host; the rest can be managed by in-house staff or a Managed Services Provider (e.g. AAG IT Services).

#2 - Private Cloud
E.g. Vendors include Microsoft, Platform9, Rackspace and VMWare

Works for:
Medium to large businesses where privacy and security are paramount (e.g. Government; healthcare providers, law firms and solicitors, companies working with children, or where Intellectual Property Rights are important

Managed by:
An in-house team or Managed Services Provider (e.g. AAG IT Services).

#3 - Hybrid Cloud

Many businesses opt for a ‘Hybrid Cloud’ approach (as implemented by AAG IT Services and Fujitsu for First Scottish) storing some data in a public and some in a private Cloud. This can be very effective and cost-efficient. Give our team a shout on 0114 399 0995 if you’d like a no-obligation friendly chat through your Cloud options.

*Source: Gartner, 2014