Head in the Clouds: Can Your Business Fully Operate in the Cloud?

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Cloud computing hasn’t been around for all that long a time: in fact, it was only in 2008 that NASA launched OpenNebula, the first cloud computing platform for managing storage, network, monitoring and security for private and hybrid clouds.

But flash forward less than a decade and you’d be hard-pressed to find a company or individual under a certain age who does not use at least one cloud-based application. Heck, it’s why I started my company.

From Gmail to Spotify, and iCloud in particular, the cloud has truly descended upon us, with seemingly limitless capabilities over mobile and desktop. Aside from individual functions, cloud computing has also revolutionized how we store our online goods: rather than hosting on a dedicated server, the cloud shares all its data across a network of servers, which affords smaller businesses and startups a good amount of flexibility (as those don’t tend to require a large amount of storage all the time).

But there are still factors to be considered for those who are making a decision between a web-hosting server, a cloud service, or just doing it the old way and investing in physical servers.

Related Article: 6 Industries that Could Benefit from the Cloud

The Cost of the Cloud

For a new business owner and entrepreneur, it makes all the sense in the world to start a business on a cloud platform: cloud platforms provide a great array of applications that can help perform tasks suited for a new entrepreneur, like order production, invoicing, accounts receivable and other services.

Cloud services even go as far as inventory management services like offered by Wasp, a company that we use to fulfill all our warehouse inventory. Everything in the cloud. These apps mean that companies no longer need to hire IT support to install software, manage email, and file transfers, or run backups.

Cloud platforms also allow you to pay for what you use and they require no hardware, which can financially benefit smaller businesses or companies who have occasional but unstable traffic surges.

However, for those who are pursuing larger ventures that require large databases, or involve large scaling or very industry-specific software features that are not included in the cloud apps, it might be worth it to invest in a private hosting server.

Companies that scale dramatically might be surprised by their monthly bill after a while—after all, there’s no cap on the “pay for what you use” model. Once your bill begins to match the price of a few physical servers and an IT consultant, it may be time to get off the cloud.

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For small startups that can’t necessarily afford their own dedicated office space, or have more employees working from home than in office, using a cloud system absolutely makes sense.

Since cloud applications are browser-based, all users need to complete their tasks is log-in information, a mobile phone, tablet or computer, and a stable internet connection. And with the variety of cloud apps available on Amazon, Wrike and other cloud platforms, anyone on your team will be able to do whatever they need to do.

The only thing that might pose as a problem for larger businesses that need their services to be up and running at all hours is that, sometimes, the Internet doesn’t necessarily run smoothly at all hours of the day, or servers go through the occasional downtime.

Also, cloud systems notoriously fall short of providing users necessary support within a reasonable time period, so those who need a lot of assistance on short notice might want to consider more personalized hosting platforms.  

Related Article: “Secure Cloud” is No Longer an Oxymoron

Safety Not Guaranteed, but Strongly Assured

An ongoing debate around cloud hosting is over the question of security. In light of more and more high profile system hacks, many fear that entrusting third-party hosts like Google, Amazon, and Rackspace with such sensitive information as credit card numbers and other personal information might be risky.

From a legal standpoint, they might be correct: as a report from Forrester’s Market Overview: Cloud Data Protection Solutions states, “If your firm uses cloud services, you are still responsible and liable from a legal perspective for protecting your customers’ data. It’s not the cloud provider’s liability.”

However, it has been argued that any information that is kept secure by Google’s 500+ security researchers, whose sole task is to locate and solve bugs in its systems, it is probably safer there than sitting in its own independent server.

And the largest security breaches have been against large companies like Sony Pictures, Home Depot and Target and even the U.S. government, all of whom surely have their own in-house servers. 

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