When I talk to clients and prospects about cloud the first couple of questions I am asked are;
- What does cloud computing really mean?
- Is my data really safe?
My response to them is that Cloud Computing is not a new concept, in actually fact you have been using cloud computing for a very long term you just don't associate with it. By this I mean your personal email accounts on Yahoo, MSN, Outlook.com, and GMAIL are all a form of cloud computing. Your emails have been hosted by a provider for many years and as email communication has become more mainstream you'll find that your personal email accounts have quite a substantial amount of personal information stored - some which may even be sensitive.
Quite often when I tell clients or prospects this they start to understand and associate with what cloud computing is, basically it's nothing more than someone hosting your emails, websites, and/or business applications. It's been around for years but until the recent years where the buzz word "CLOUD" was created no-one thought of it.
Cloud Computing is a buzz word in terms of marketing and its sole purpose is to generate hype and activity within the IT Industry, if every industry continued to market in the same way as business was done 10, 20 or more years ago then industries would not evolve and we wouldn't have new ways to market our businesses to our clients.
How will utilising the cloud help my Business?
The ultimate goal for any business is to generate sales leads from their target market, nurture the leads so they turn into sales, and re-create a buying process so that they can continue to sell to the customer or target market in the future. Pretty simple isn't it!
If only it were that simple - in business you have to think about have I got the stock to deliver to my clients, or if in a service based business do I have the systems and processes in place to support increase demands of my services during peak times, plus everything else that comes with running or being responsible for the operation of a business.
The retail industry is one industry that has been able to benefit from the use of Cloud Computing. Previously most retail businesses had a shop front, now they have a shop front and an on-line store. Now not only do they need to measure the foot traffic into their stores they also need to manage their on-line stores and collect data to determine customers buying patterns and peak buying cycles, all of this requires more systems, processes, and people to manage.
With an online store presence a must retail outlets need to make sure there online stores are operational 24/7 especially in peak buying times, this is where we have seen the benefit of cloud computing. Now a retailer can increase and decrease the IT resources around their on-line stores to ensure that they are operational at all times controlling their costs so that in non-peak seasons IT resources and costs are kept to a minimum.
This is where cloud computing within the IT industry has evolved, the traditional way of hosting has been re-invented to meet the needs and demands of business today.
Is my data safe in the cloud?
My general response to this question is yes your data is just as safe in the cloud as it would be if it was within your business. However I also inform them that the cloud itself does not determine whether your data is safe or not, it's about how your cloud environment is built and managed that is the key.
A poorly built and managed IT environment will mean your data is at risk - this rule applies to in-house IT environments as much as they do for cloud hosted environments.
In some cases you will actually find that moving your IT into the cloud will provide even better security than what you may have had when your IT is on-site - Why is that you may ask?
When IT is on-site sometimes businesses become complacent and the security of the IT is not what it should be, but because the IT is on-site and in a room that a business owner can go and see/touch - businesses tend to feel secure and therefore become complacent.
A cloud service provider on the other hand has a commercial duty of care when it comes to security and compliance obligations, after all if they don't invest in the security of your data they could quickly find themselves paying huge fines by industry bodies who govern data protection.
Whether to use cloud or not?
At the end of the day whether your business moves more of its IT to the cloud or continues to keep it in house depends on a number of factors and for each business these factors will be different.
Questions that need to be answered are;
- What benefits will using the cloud present to my business?
- Do I need an IT system that allows scalability based on my business needs without a capital cost?
- Do I have, need, or want the admin and overheads to maintain IT on-site as my business grows?
- What do you expect from a cloud service provider?
- What is your budget?
Budget is very important when considering cloud, a lot of businesses are informed that cloud will give them huge ROI's on their IT budgets. In some cases this will be true but for others you could end up paying the same or more than your current in-house costs.
Whatever your needs are cloud computing can be a very valuable asset or investment your business ever makes, done correctly it will open your business up to opportunities you might not otherwise been able to achieve.