Here at NoBlue, we spend a lot of time talking to people who are thinking about moving their business operations to the cloud, but aren’t quite sure it’s right for them. So we’ve decided to go through some of the common concerns we hear, and explain how many of them are unfounded provided you choose a reputable cloud provider.
Many people are concerned that their data won’t be secure if they move to the cloud. But the fact is, when you are paying a cloud provider, you are also paying them for security and data backup. Cloud service providers can afford to devote large resources to maintain the latest protections, and this is something they take very seriously because it is what their business model is all about.
Security involves data privacy, encryption, intrusion detection, password policies and disaster recovery. Can you say that you know for sure that your servers are being monitored 24/7 in the way that cloud providers monitor theirs? Can your business deal with setting up firewalls, carrying out maintenance on your servers, or backing up your data throughout the day?
By entrusting your data to a reputable cloud provider, you get enterprise-grade security which includes all the latest protections, updates and patches. You can then focus all of your energy into growing your business.
Loss of control
Another concern people often have is losing control of their servers and software. They have been looking after things themselves for a long time, so it can be difficult to trust a cloud provider to take care of everything for them.
But if you’re not a technology company, does it really make sense to own and manage your IT and the overheads that come with it?
Consider this analogy – you trust your bank to look after your money because they have the security measures and procedures in place that mean you trust it’s in safe hands. It wouldn’t be any safer to keep control of it and store it under your bed at home.
The same goes for your IT. And with relinquishing this control comes freedom – while the cloud provider is spending the time and money looking after the servers and software where your data is stored, you can concentrate on other things.
Threat to IT department
By choosing to run your business in the cloud and handing over the management of your servers and software, are you going to still need an IT department? The answer to this is yes.
The IT department is still needed to evaluate the different cloud offerings and available apps, and make them work together, or with existing systems.
Rather than spending their time maintaining servers and dealing with software upgrades, IT staff can take the time to find solutions that will help to improve the business. They can work more strategically and focus on growing the company, rather than ‘fire fighting’.
And there’s always going to be a need for managing and maintaining other hardware, such as laptops and tablets, and checking that the correct security and cloud computing policies are in place, well documented, and recognised throughout the organisation.
One of the biggest perceived disadvantages of cloud-based solutions is a loss of control over your data. Some people are worried about storing it in a cloud provider’s data centres, but an important thing to understand is when it comes to your data, you still own it.
That being said, it’s important to check with your prospective cloud provider that this is indeed the case. You should also to find out what happens as the end of your contract – double check that the data still belongs to you and that you can easily extract it if and when the time comes. And don’t be afraid to ask how your data will be protected.
One thing to note is that because you still own your data, you are still ultimately responsible to regulators such as the Information Commissioner. You need, therefore, to understand what you and your provider are each responsible for, so make sure you study their service-level agreement (SLA) closely. This is a particularly salient point if you choose a hosted cloud provider – check who owns the SLA – is it the software provider or the hosted platform / cloud data centre?
Also, make sure you check that they have the appropriate certifications (e.g. ISO 27001) and that they are signatories to any appropriate international frameworks, such as the Safe Harbor Agreement.
Cloud software is new and unproven
Something else that we hear is that cloud software is still in its early stages, and would be a risky choice. In actual fact, the cloud has been around for a while now, and you’re probably using it more than you realise in your personal life.
If you’re using a web-based email service such as Gmail or Hotmail, then you’re using the cloud and have been for quite a long time. If you’re using a file sharing and storage service such as DropBox or Google Drive, then you’re using the cloud. And the same goes for social networking, TV and films on demand, and messaging services such as Skype.
Cloud software providers NetSuite and Salesforce have been around since the late nineties, and have a combined total of more than 170,000 customers.
And cloud adoption isn’t showing any sign of slowing down. Forrester recently said that companies are now moving beyond the exploratory phase of their cloud developments and looking to replace many of their main systems with cloud-based tools. The research firm termed this expected boom the ‘hypergrowth’ phase.
Similarly, research from analyst firm Gartner said businesses are now past the small pilot phase of cloud adoption and are moving mission-critical work to the cloud. And according to an infographic published by PC World, cloud adoption in business has now reached nearly 90%.
So all in all, we can say with a high degree of certainty that cloud software is here to stay, as more and more businesses realise the benefits of using it as a fundamental part of their IT infrastructure.
Difficult to customise and integrate
Another misconception is that cloud software is difficult to customise and integrate with other software. With many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models, customisation is part of the offering. Where caution should be taken is if you are making the system do something highly complex and not part of the platform’s competency – though this applies to any and every platform.
This is also where we start to see the differences between software that was built for the internet (i.e. ‘true’ cloud) and software that was built to be on-premise, but has been re-worked to be delivered via the internet (i.e. hosted cloud).
The beauty of ‘true’ cloud software is its flexibility – it can be tailored specifically for your business needs using existing modules or bespoke software development. Hosted cloud solutions are not quite as flexible or customisable.
The subscription-based pricing model of cloud software means that if you don’t need a particular module, you don’t pay for it – you only pay for the functionality you actually need – which means it can be truly customised for each business.
And as for integrating with other software, most cloud providers offer a host of third party apps and APIs that allow different applications to work together seamlessly.
A much-heard barrier to cloud adoption is the fear of vendor lock-in. This is when the customer is in a situation where they cannot easily transition to a competitor’s product or service. People don’t want to end up stuck with a cloud provider that doesn’t meet their needs simply because the process of moving to another provider would be too difficult.
The best way to avoid this is to choose your cloud provider carefully – make sure you read the small print, ask about hidden charges, SQL server licences (hosted), module add-ons, and ask how you would go about moving your data should you choose to change providers (ask this before you sign anything!). Do they have data migration tools to help with your exit from their system?
Reputable cloud providers will make this as easy as downloading the data ready for uploading into the next system.
Reliability / downtime
The final concern we’re going to cover today is the reliability of cloud services. Some people may be worried that by entrusting their IT to a third party means that they are at risk of downtime if something goes wrong.
Reputable cloud providers offer a guaranteed uptime of more than 99.5%, and some also offer compensation should it drop below this figure. You should check any providers’ service-level agreement (SLA) and disaster recovery plan before you choose to go ahead.
If your solution is on-premise, then you must put a plan in place yourself. What happens if your data is all stored in one location and there is a fire or flood at your office?
The good thing about using a cloud provider is that as soon as there is a problem, you can be confident that a team of experts is working round the clock to fix it. Could you say the same would happen if there was a problem with your onsite server?
Cloud service providers also utlilise multiple servers and data centres so that if maintenance is required, or if there is a problem with one server, then the same information can be accessed from one of the other servers. This redundancy ensures clients can access their data at any given time.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below.
Get in touch with us if you would like any more information on cloud software; we’d love to understand your requirements to see if we can help you decide if cloud computing is right for your business.