With all the hype surrounding cloud computing, I feel the need to set things straight and help small biz owners to decide whether they are going to adopt cloud computing or not based on a well-informed decision. Are you ready to go cloud? Let’s go!
Back in late-2010, I know nothing about cloud computing. I’ve heard about it for some time but I have no idea whatsoever what it is all about. So, as I am a website builder, I set up a blog on cloud computing for two purposes: To document what I’ve just discovered about cloud computing, as well as capitalizing on the fast-rising trend of cloud computing.
For a good 2 years I dwell into the world of cloud computing – not as a techie, though… I learn about the cloud as an interest first and as a cloud user second. During those 2 years, I’ve seen a growing trend that I see, as an enthusiast, pretty disruptive.
For a deeper look, here’s my conclusion on what I’ve been learning so far about the cloud trends:
Small business owners are either don’t trust the cloud or trust too much on the cloud services they are using.
It’s a trust issue, really… for those who don’t trust the cloud, their main reason is understandable: How can you trust your important (and sensitive) data and information to be stored in the cloud? What if someone stole your data; what is the cloud service provider lost your data? What if the cloud vendor went out of business?
On the other hand, small biz owners who trust the cloud so much often do so without knowing what “cloud computing” is! They are clueless about the cloud: Why is it called “cloud”? Is adopting the cloud really give you the much touted cost savings and increased productivity? Or are they simply adopting cloud computing because… everybody does it?
I would like to capitalize on my 2-year learning experience as a cloud user to offer you these issues to help you understand whether going to the cloud is the right decision for you or not. Please note, I am not a cloud expert – you might very well contact the right person for authoritative advice or read this cloud computing wiki first, but these issues are from my personal observation:
1. Is using cloud services really cut my costs?
It’s almost like a marketing gimmick; the cloud saves you money, improve productivity, and so on… I’m not sure many cloud vendors’ marketers tell the pros and cons of cloud adoption. Yes, there ARE pros and cons – just like anything else in the world.
Cloud computing is NOT the ULTIMATE solution for your business. It must be viewed on case-by-case basis. In some cases, cloud adoption can actually increase your overall costs.
Let’s take cloud hosting. In traditional web hosting, you are given a certain disk space and/or bandwidth offered at a fixed pricing paid monthly or yearly. Your website hosting’s costs are predictable, but the downside of this is you are most probably not using ALL the resources allocated for your business.
Cloud hosting comes to the rescue! If you are partnered with true cloud hosting provider, you are using hosting resources like they way you use electricity: You pay only for the resources you use, and it’s very flexible – if you use a lot, then you will need to pay more, and vice versa – all happen in real-time.
In some cases, I know some people rant about how cloud hosting costs him a lot of money; he didn’t monitor the usage, and he didn’t optimize his site for cloud hosting. He didn’t know that in the background, processes are running continuously, hogging unnecessary resources. What should cost him hundreds of dollar grew into thousands of dollar.
As you can see, cloud computing is not always saving you money. However, when your small business requires a certain scale of IT infrastructure investment, then the cloud can reduce that significantly.
For example, if you need a system to let you communicate with all of your team members, you don’t have to invest in a $10,000 custom built system; instead, using online collaboration tools like Huddle and BaseCamp can save you plenty of resources by letting you “rent” the tool for, say, $20/user/month.
The bottom line, if you are sure you need the powerful feature of the cloud, then using true cloud services can offer you competitive advantage over the competitors. But if you aim for cost cutting only, sorry to burst your bubble, but the cloud might not be for you.
2. Are cloud services really improving my productivity?
In general, yes – I agree that cloud services improve productivity. Thanks to Google cloud, I can get my business done anytime, anywhere. All you need is a good mobile device and a reliable Internet connection, you are off to go working on any part of the world; cloud services facilitate your mobility, by allowing you to connect with your office, your team and your clients on the go.
However, be warned – adopting the cloud for the sake of increasing productivity is not entirely a good decision. Flexibility – yes; but productivity – depends. When it comes to productivity, there are tools that can give you just that and cloud-based tools are just one of them. Again, the cloud is not the ultimate solution to your productivity.
Productivity lies in the process flow: Using a cloud service without a good process flow would be counter-productive. I work more efficient not because I can work anytime, anywhere I want; it’s because I build a plan to allocate the time of the day for the right kind of work, with productivity tools help me to carry out my plan.
3. Is cloud computing more secure than your own system?
Maybe. Maybe not. If your small business doesn’t have an IT guy to oversee your IT system, then going cloud is probably a good decision. But if you have an in-house IT guy, then there are some things you should consider before you go cloud…
Firstly, you need to consider how you will use cloud services and how you can be sure that your data is secure. Are you going to move the entire business operation to the cloud? If so, you need to ensure the security of your cloud account even more. Why? Because your digital assets are managed by a third party. Are you sure it’s what you want? If so, you must be sure that you have a Plan B – e.g. local data backup.
Secondly, please bear in mind, going to the cloud doesn’t necessarily eliminate the role of your IT staff. While many small biz are going all out to the cloud, adopting “public cloud” services (your typically well-known services, such as Dropbox, Google Apps for Business, Office 365, and so on) experts agree that “hybrid cloud” approach is the best: Connecting your “private cloud” (your on-premise IT system) with the “public cloud.” In hybrid cloud, your IT guy’s role is becoming more important in ensuring the security of your system.
4. Is cloud computing more reliable than your existing system?
If you are adopting the cloud for the sake of its reliability, you need a reality check. It’s true that, technically, cloud services will not go down. As your data is hosted and managed on multiple servers in the cloud, when a server failed, the workload is taken over by the other servers seamlessly.
However, in reality, cloud computing is still considered a new technology. It experienced the normal growing pains; a few hiccups here and there, and as a cloud user, you need to be aware of this so you can manage your expectation.
I have learned this the hard way. Two years ago, I use a cloud hosting service for one of my blogs. Everything goes so well, until the day when services were disrupted on regular basis. My blog’s accessibility was unstable at best, losing me money and visitors. I have no backup. I end up going back to the conventional web hosting service, which I use until today without any issues whatsoever.
Have you heard that businesses were tumbling down when Amazon’s cloud, AWS, has a disrupted service? As I mentioned above, hiccups are still there; unfortunately, businesses trusting AWS so much that they don’t have a backup system to take over the workload when things go wrong with the primary service provider. The businesses are disrupted, and opportunities were lost due to this.
5. Can the cloud ensure your business’ continuity?
Yes, yes and yes. When I am endorsing the cloud, the one and only thing I will recommend the cloud for are backup and disaster recovery. The cloud has proven to be able to help businesses in backing up their important data, due to its nature: It’s not residing on your computers, on-premise.
When disaster strikes – earthquake, floor, fire,… – your digital assets are safely stored off-premise – in the cloud. Indeed, the best investment you can make for your business is cloud backup solutions.
There is, however, a situation where the disaster is actually striking the data centers that are part of the cloud you are using. When this happens, the good thing of adopting a hybrid approach like what I mentioned above is that you must have already had your data backup also stored on-premise.
So, there you go – I try my best to give you the pros and cons of moving your business operations to the cloud and/or integrating your existing IT system with the cloud.
Just like any advice I would give to anyone who needs it, I recommend you to do your due diligence BEFORE you make any decisions with regard to cloud computing adoption.
Use your common sense: Just like approaching a business opportunity, be sure you also approach cloud computing in the same way – with caution.
Well-equip yourself with the right information and follow the right advice from the right IT consultants/experts. Consider your options, and always keep in mind that cloud computing is not the ultimate solution for your business problems. It can be a game-changing for your small business if you adopt it for the right reason.
Remember, adopting the cloud is one thing, but backing of AFTER they system has been put in place would be resource-intensive. Rather than throwing your hard-earned money away, it’s better to approach things carefully.
So, are you using cloud services? If so, what do you think of the cloud – is it helping your business? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment on this post.