I don't want to get too existential in a technology blog, but I thought that spending a few minutes talking about "Cloud" might be informative. It seems that over the last 5 years, the trend has been moving to the "Cloud". Whether it is hosted applications, data storage, or collaboration services, "The Cloud" has been a growing market for the past several years. Understanding what the "Cloud" is and more importantly isn't may help you make a more informed decision about whether to use cloud-based services.
Why do I say "There is no cloud"
? Because the term "cloud" connotes something that you can't see or touch, but rather just floats above us and exists. Rest assured that for every cloud-based service, there is at least one physical server sitting in a data center somewhere. The only difference between a local application and a cloud-based application is who is responsible for the maintenance, support, and licensing of equipment and software. A cloud-based server for you is actually a locally-managed server for the cloud-based service provider.
So what are the issues that should be considered when evaluating the use of cloud-based services?
Size of Business - While businesses can be measured several ways, total revenue is a standard measure that everyone can understand. Gartner Group cites a benchmark of 4% of revenue as an average across all for total IT spend. This number includes salary, hardware, software, and support fees. Clearly, a $100 million company with a $4 million IT budget has more options when staffing and designing their IT infrastructure. On the other hand, a $1 million company with a $40,000 IT budget will need to utilize cloud services to keep hardware, software, licensing, and support fees within a reasonable range.
Control of Data - If a company truly wants to control their data, storing it on a shared cloud-based server may not be the answer. While most cloud-based application service agreements state that you own your data, try getting a complete data dump in a usable format from your cloud-based provider when you want to leave them to go to another solution.
Privacy - Most cloud solutions are required to share data with government agencies including but not limited to the NSA. These requirements are expanded when that data moves outside of the United States. Did you know that many cloud providers have their servers clustered all over the world for redundancy purposes? That means that an email you send to someone in your same town could actually be routed through an off-shore server. And because the information left the United States, it is subject to different surveillance laws. Most of us have nothing to hide, but it is a consideration when choosing to move your email to the cloud.
Internet Access - The more that you utilize cloud-based services, the more you are relying on your internet service. This is not necessarily a negative, but just make sure that you have reliable internet service AND adequate bandwidth to best support your use of the cloud.
Hacking - This may sound counter-intuitive, but the smaller you are, the less likely you will be hacked. While Microsoft's spends more each year on data security than the GDP of some third-world countries, they will be hacked before your local Microsoft Exchange Server will be. Yes, it is much more difficult to hack Microsoft, but hackers are hunting for big game. Therefore, if the hacking of your data would ruin you or your company, think twice before you move it to the cloud.
As always, if we can help resolve any of your IT issues, please don't hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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