The Cloud, with regard to computing, networking, and data storage, has become a ubiquitous marketing term that means many things.  Essentially, any time you access your data over the Internet you are utilizing ‘The Cloud’.  Today, it’s easy to find cloud service providers that will host your email, data storage, applications, or even your entire computer network.  It’s very important to account for several considerations when deciding if ‘The Cloud’ is right for your business.






Your data in the cloud: Food for Thought

 1. What services do you need, and from where should you procure them?

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Depending on the services and applications you need and the location from which you need to access them, it’s possible to house some, part, or all of your IT resources in the Cloud.  Additionally, companies often use cloud providers for some services such as email and web hosting while keeping their primary data and applications in house. 

If all of your employees work in the same office, use programs such as Quickbooks, and share Word, Excel, and PDF files with each other then it makes sense in most cases to use an onsite server and workstations.  However, if you have employees in multiple locations that need access to resources from outside the central office, cloud services may be able to answer your needs.  Many employees and company owners need access to their email from mobile devices, laptops, etc.  In these cases, contracting for cloud hosted email works well.  Hosted desktop solutions are also available that provide a full “workstation” setup that can be accessed from remote computers or tablets.



2. How reliable is the provider and their environment, and what security infrastructure do they employ?


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Reliable access to your data and its security is your primary concern.  This includes protection against network threats, malware, theft, hardware and software failures, and network outages.  Not every provider approaches these in the same fashion.  Some providers attempt to increase margins by skimping on hardware.  For the same reason you don’t want your products delivered on clunky trucks that break down often or may never reach the destination, your business data should be on robust infrastructure with hardened and monitored security with all systems regularly maintained and replaced as necessary.  Many providers also “share the load” between clients they serve, putting multiple companies on the same hardware and software system.  While this does reduce costs and may make for a faster ramp-up time, it might not be the best environment for your data if you routinely deal with sensitive date like social security numbers, credit card numbers and the like.  

Additionally, many industries have specific requirements for network equipment, data security, and storage locations.  Some personal and financial data must be stored on servers within the US.  Others require data not be stored in common servers with other customers.

Beyond this, it’s important to understand how the pathway between where your data and programs are hosted to where you access them.  Is the connection encrypted?  Does it require a VPN?  Or is it available over a common website that is accessible by all around the world?  The data breaches in iCloud, Gmail, and bank sites are common news stories.  Popular cloud or web services are prime targets for Internet villains.  A breach into your business data can cause serious and lasting problems.



3. Does your company have the infrastructure to support your cloud systems?

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Your company has folks in distributed locations, and your cloud hosting company has a strong reputation for reliability and security.  Do your work locations have the infrastructure and resources to reach your cloud systems? 

Everything in the cloud is accessed over the Internet so you need a connection with enough bandwidth to support all the folks using it. If your Dallas office has eight people in it, and they are all trying to use a 1.5Mbps to access hosted email, use VoIP phones, and drive hosted desktops you will hear many complaints about how slow everything is. In the same way, making sure your at-home employees have good Internet service at their house is important to avoid lost productivity because they can’t connect. Services, bandwidth, and connection reliability vary by location.  ISP surveys can give insight into what is available for your locations.

In addition to a strong Internet connection, a person needs a computer, tablet, or terminal device to access the cloud services. There are many options available, and the best ones depend on individual circumstances.


4. Does the expense of the cloud systems meet the goals of your company?

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There is an expense to everything in business. Many business owners look to cloud options for opportunities to save money.  However, many free or low cost options come with limited features, poor performance, and limited to no customer service / technical support. 

In reality, a comprehensive cloud environment involves more equipment and software layers than a standard local network. This means the expense is often more than an in-house setup, and must be justified by the need for remote and/or distributed access. check out more about our services at www.GravityUSA.com