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Recently, it seems that almost every company, small business and even individuals are making use of that ever-elusive, intangible, yet so important, “cloud”.  Even Hewlett Packard is jumping on board (perhaps rather unsuccessfully as one of their rep’s intelligently stated, “we’re doing that cloud thing”), but is it right for you?  Hopefully you’ve done a little more homework than HP and you’re wondering if cloud computing will beneficial or detrimental to your needs.  You might be a little reticent into making the switch, “My client’s intimate account details could be exposed!” or, “there’s just too many risks!”  Hopefully some of the information in this article can help answer some of these concerns.

The jargon associated with cloud computing can often be the first deterrent for a potential user of the technology.  The first thing that should be cleared up is what exactly this mean.  Cloud computing is very similar to storing information or data on the internet.  By making use of a cloud service you are essentially eliminating the need to purchase and uphold your own servers and any associated software to keep them running.

So should you make the move over? Let’s look at the pros and cons of implementing a cloud computing model into your regiment

PROS of Cloud Computing

Speed and Ease

Creating your own system of storage for data retrieval and entry can be time consuming and costly.  Chances are if you are already savvy in the business world, running the software won’t be a problem but do you want to allocate all that time to setting up and maintaining it?  Most cloud service providers boast that their services can be in full swing and be used within an hour or so of your purchase.  This means good news for those of you with multiple locations and employees who need to utilize the same spreadsheet or document simultaneously.

Costs and Expense

Depending on which model and company you go with you will be presented with a couple different varieties of payments.  One popular model is a pay as you go service which can either be monthly or annually depending on the business.  Cloud computing providers allow for multiple clients to access the same storage but without access to each other’s personal information.  Depending on your area of business, you could potentially be dealing with sensitive information, but rest assured that it will be kept safe from outsider’s eyes.  Being able to avoid paying in-house technicians and IT personal can be another potential money saver if you chose to go with this service.

In Case of Emergency

Any business has the worry of what could happen to all of their information in the event of a fire, flood or other catastrophe.  Backing up your information to a tape or hard drive will be a thing of the past as you can rest assured that your cloud service provider is taking care of that for you; backing up your information multiple times and generally in several locations.

CONS of Cloud Computing

Are They Certified

When seeking out the services of a cloud computing company you will want to make sure they have all the necessary certification and procedures under their belt if they are going to be housing all of your important information.  As this is a constantly evolving technology, the rules and regulations governing how these companies are ran are continuously changing.  If you chose to go with cloud computing, you will need to make sure you are staying on top of these changes, than subsequently making sure your provider is following suite.

Keeping Tabs

Most experts on the matter are in agreement that anyone using cloud computing services should employ some sort of security software to check the reliability and confidence of their site….on a daily basis.  That’s right; this means opening up your virus software and scanning their site to make sure it isn’t susceptible to any attacks or viruses.  Again, another possible time sink to calculate into your already busy day.

Uptime versus Downtime

The Uptime & Downtime of Cloud ComputingAt the heart of the matter, a cloud service’s database and hardware needs to be maintained and looked after just like any other form of storage and data retrieval software.  What this means to you is the question of uptime and downtime.  More and more, work days are extending far into the night and sometimes beginning early in the morning.  I advise to check when your provider schedules their maintenance to make sure it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your own work.

Either way you look at it, the trend towards cloud computing and storage is becoming more and more prevalent.  If you haven’t made the switch yet, chances are you will have to make this choice sometime in the near future.  Do your research, ask the appropriate questions and see which company will be right for you.

Have you used a cloud storage service? If so what have been your experience?  Was it as useful and convenient as they claimed? I’d love to hear your stories.

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Published by Richard Bracke

As a writer and computer enthusiast, Richard Bracke was helping his friends program their computers and protect their documents for years before he became the resident blogger for Vanguard Archives of Chicago.

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51 Comments

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  1. Thanks for this article.
    Would you say that a fair amount of business owners are getting more comfortable with storing data rather than keeping it on premises? Is it becoming mainstream?

    1. Susan,
      Cloud computing is desfinitely becoming more mainstream. I think one of the most popular reasons for using the cloud is offsite storage. For example, the highly popular WordPress plugin BackupBuddy makes it simple to set up remote backups with online cloud storage sites such as Amazon S3, DropBox and Rackspace.

      1. Sherry,
        Thanks again for responding,
        I think small business owners still have some security questions when it comes to their data. Even the major hosting companies such as Amazon has down times on their servers. Just as an example, the streaming of NetFlix experiences frequent lulls during peak viewing times. But, I do agree that it will become more mainstream sooner than later.
        Just as a precaution to small biz owners, it’s good to know what questions to ask cloud service providers before signing up. I found these tips to be useful: hartmannsoftware.com/Blog/Articles_from_Software_Fans/Is-Cloud-Computing-Safe-for-Your-Business

  2. Cloud computing improves the accessibility by enabling you to access anywhere and at any time.There is no need to spend money on hardware, software or licensing fees.Also we can streamline the processes.Thanks for sharing this post and it was interesting reading it.

    1. Peter,
      Thanks so much for adding your insight to Richard’s guest post about cloud computing. I truly apologize for not replying to your comment sooner. (It’s been over 7 months!) Somehow, I totally missed it!

  3. Cloud computing is brilliant, however others users might be more sceptical to the idea. For me it is a cheaper alternative to the traditional storage methods. Files can be stored and shared with relative ease with all colleagues in a business. The new google chromebook shows me that companies are taking cloud computing more seriously than ever before.

  4. Cloud computing is being utilized by more and more businesses, and security is pretty tight with most providers. In my experience, the key is researching each provider to see which service works best for your needs and most effectively addresses any concerns you have about security, accessibility, and so forth. My favorite feature of cloud computing (aside from being able to backup data without taking up hard drive space) is the collaborative options offered through most services.

    1. Thanks for weighing in on this Raina. You’ve raised some valid points. I agree with you that while cloud computing is very convenient, it’s also extremely valuable as a tool to expedite collaboration.

  5. Hi I have been looking at using cloud for a while. I know I should really as I am away from my main computer quite a bit and am often using my tablet over wifi. I am sure cloud would make access to everything so much easier I always seem to divver for ages though. I get used to things and how they work and don’t look at the advantages of change sometimes.

    Ok you’ve sold it to me thanks lee

    1. Hi Lee,
      I confess that I was late to the game on cloud computing too. I’ve been using cloud for some file sharing, data backups and collaboration but up until I purchased a license for BackupBuddy, I really hadn’t taken it that seriously. Now, I’ve signed up for Amazon S3 and am totally enjoying the convenience of being able to know that I can rely on them to safeguard my (and my clients data).

      Thanks for letting us know that Richard’s article has motivated you.

  6. In my opinion, cloud computing is a great opportunity for small businesses to off-load the hassle and costs of IT management – as long as they can live with the disadvantages. Security issues related to having their business data \’out\’ on the Internet seem to be the number one concern of small business owners.

    1. This is completely true. When housing sensitive data off site you will always run the potential risk of having that data be exposed to eyes to which it was not intended. Always good to do a quick Google search and see where a company falls in this area and if they have had any problems with outages and security.

  7. The Could computing is one of the best things that has happened in the era. It has really revolutionized and changed the way we work and has simplified it to a great level. As earlier commented, the disaster recovery has also become simple with this technology.

      1. I of course cant help but agree, I’ve talked with a few people since this article went live and they’ve expressed to me how they never utilized the service because the term itself sounded too complex. Hopefully this myth can be debunked as more and more people start to take advantage of what a good cloud storage service can do for them.

  8. Hi Richard,Yes – Though the security side of cloud computing can be a bit worrying, but I know a couple of people who use cloud services (Google’s to be specific) and haven’t had a single breach or loss of data since using their services.

    1. Hi Anton,
      Thanks for weighing in on this. I seriously considered Google but I took the easy route and went with Amazon because they’re one of the services that is integrated into BackupBuddy. Hopefully, they’ll add Google’s cloud to the mix soon.

    2. This is what i think we need to realise, with companies such as Google and DropBox I feel as safe as storing information on my own hard drive, which could be stolen or hacked into.

      The cloud makes everything so much easier, you don’t need your own computer anymore, just login to your dropbox and all is go. Backing up as well, no need to worry anymore.

      In my opinion I believe cloud computing has changed everything and made everything so much better.

      Regards,
      Simon Duck

      1. Hi Simon,
        Thanks for joining us. I agree with you completely. Everyone is at risk of having their data hacked into. I agree that companies such as Google, DropBox and Amazon are in a better position of protecting our data than many individuals are. Cloud computing offers a huge opportunity for small business owners to easily and inexpensively (often free) outsource some of their IT tasks.

  9. I guess the biggest concern of most people thinking twice of storing data on the “cloud” is security and privacy. I my self was apprehensive but I didn’t have the choice. I have to migrate and use it to store files and have access to these files wherever I am.

    1. Hi Shirley,
      I agree with you that security and privacy are the two biggest concerns that people have about cloud computing. I just replied to Ray that you can password protect your files before uploading them but honestly, most of us have our computers connected to the Internet via cable modems, FIOS or DSL. When our computers are on, they’re accessible via the web. We can protect ourselves by diligently updating our operating systems, anti-virus, anti-span and firewalls but there are still inherent risks involved. The way I look at it is that (hopefully) the vendors that we select for our cloud computing are doing their best they can.

  10. I have been messing with dropbox over the past several weeks. There are some things I like about it, and others that I don’t. I am not comfortable storing anything important or personal there yet. I think we will see more and more companies and small business using some form of cloud based storage from here on out.

    1. Hi Ray,
      I can appreciate your concerns. As an added layer of security, you can always password protect individual files before uploading them. Of course passwords can be compromised and truthfully, even our personal computers can be accessed when we’re connected to the Internet. In some aspects, relying on a vendor who has the resources to engage security professionals is definitely worth consideration. I think the ability to have my data off-site outweighs my concerns about security. (Having said that, I chose to go with Amazon S3 rather than DropBox but that’s a personal decision.)

  11. So Informative things are provided here,I am really happy to read this post,I am imagining about it and you provided me the correct information. So thanks for sharing the information.

    1. Keyuri,
      I think of cloud computing as an affordable solution for solopreneurs to outsource some of their technology tasks. You can setup a free account at Dropbox and Amazon for offsite storage and save data there. (You can also use it to share information if you’re collaborating with someone.)

      Years ago, businesses would have to pay to have their data stored. I still remember (when I worked for Ocean Spray), our weekly backups were stored on huge “platters” of disks (with plastic covers and handles that resemble take-away cake carriers). They had to pay someone to pick them up and drive them back to the corporate office. Even then, the data was kept less than an hour away. By today’s standards, that’s unsafe. With the “cloud”, that data can be stored across the world with multiple backups and security procedures implemented by trained professionals. It would be mind boggling (back in the 70’s) to envision what cloud computing would become and how convenient and affordable it would be.

  12. I would say are two more pluses to using cloud servers:
    1. Saves space; which you can use to add another employee;
    2. Reduces office noise – those server fans are loud!

    1. “Those server fans are loud!” That brings me back to the days when we had rooms dedicated to computers. We had to worry more about the environment in the computer room than in the workspace. I remember co-workers finding excuses to come into the climate controlled computer room on hot days. 🙂

  13. Depending on the sensitivity of your data, the convenience of using cloud based services like Google Docs or Dropbox, far outweighs potential risks, at least for personal use.

    Especially in the growing trend of location independent work, being able to collaborate through cloud apps is really important.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      Cloud computing makes collaboration so easy! That and the ability to so quickly and easily store information off-site are the two biggest advantages to me.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

  14. I am a big fan of the “cloud” and have been using cloud enabled services such as google apps, dropbox, carbonite and even our accounting system. The biggest advantage for me is that you can access/update your data from the multiple locations using multiple devices and I my data and software is not local (so if my hard drive crashes, I am still good).

    The most important thing is to spend the time up front, do your research, read the providers terms, privacy policies etc to make sure that you are comfortable your data is going to remain accessible and your privacy is maintained. Being on the cloud seems to be the future.

    1. Thank you so much Lashan for sharing your personal experiences with cloud services. There’s nothing as reassuring as hearing about real life examples. I totally agree with you that the cloud is the future. It’s still relatively new. So, there’s still lingering doubts and fears but it’s definitely here to stay.

    1. Thanks Catarina! I am a huge proponent of Google Docs and use it everyday. Dropbox is also great for someone who is on the go. They put a free app on the app store and they even give you more storage space for friend invites. I also have it synced up so every picture I take with my iPhone gets immediately sent to my computer, pretty cool imo.

  15. I’ve been considering icloud as I’m a mac user but have been concerned about security. At the moment I back up to a separate hard drive, but not as often as I should. Maybe it’s time I joined the 21st century. Good to hear other people are not having security issues.

    1. A.K., My personal opinion is that you should be backing up both on a separate hard drive and in the cloud. Having your backups in just one place does put you at risk. You can sign up for a free accoun. I’m familiar with DropBox, Amazon and Google. I chose to go with Amazon S3 mainly because I use BackupBuddy and the interface is built in. I could have chosen DropBox too. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

  16. Sherryl — I think a lot of people are using cloud technology but don’t know that’s what it’s called. Amazon S3, where I store my backups, is cloud technology. The cost is infinitesimal for a small business owner like me. I also use an external hard drive for backups. I think the biggest advantage is for large companies because a cloud enables document sharing.

    1. Thanks for mentioning Amazon S3 Jeannette. That’s what I use also. I think a lot of small businesses can get by with the free version.

      BTW – You’ve been speaking highly of BackupBuddy and I finally invested in it. I’m using Amazon S3 for that too.

        1. Jeannette, I just ran into a nightmare with BackupBuddy and a restore. I finally had to rely on my hosting vendor (Rochen) to get my site back online. I’m also running into several quirky messages on different sites on different hosting vendors. Honestly, I’m not thrilled at all with having to rely on posting to a forum for tech support either. I don’t mind self-serve for support but when there’s a sense of urgency and you can’t reach anyone, it’s frustrating.

          1. Sherryl – very sorry to hear about your problems with BackupBuddy. That’s the first I’ve heard. I also hate forums because I find that you never get a response to your query. I hope this is the last problem you have.

  17. Pingback: Is Cloud Computing Safe for Your Business? | Keep Up With The Web | Scoop.it
  18. I use cloud services. I also have multiple backups, including my own external drive. Not a snowballs chance in h*ll I am going to lose my data without a good fight. LOL I am a firm believer in multiple backups in different places in different media forms, including cloud. 🙂 At any given moment I have at least 3 sources of backups for my data. Backups happen at different times of day depending on which one it is. Great Post!

  19. I am not a company but I am an individual that uses cloud with My Apple. It is awesome. I am aware that like anything else it needs some maintenance ans to check the security of every now and then. In any case, as you said, the best part of me is the ease and available use of the information I store. I also have an external hard drive as well for the just in case moments 🙂

    1. Hi Susan,
      In my opinion, cloud computing is one of the easiest new technologies to take advantage of. It’s so easy to set up and most small businesses can take advantage of the free options that are available. Long gone are the days when disaster recovery plans involved having to have agreements with remote locations to setup shop. The cloud is wonderful.

    2. Same 😀 I guess that’s the advantage of cloud computing. It has countless advantages for countless kinds of people in countless trades :p

      1. Good point Kate! I imagine it’s just a matter of time before we start reading about creative uses of cloud computing. I haven’t researched it but I’m sure there must be stories of companies saving substantial amounts of money by outsourcing their technology departments to the cloud.