The media and tech salespeople have been and still are talking about the Cloud and its many benefits. For many companies that have embraced Cloud Computing, it’s been a business saving move since COVID-19 forced many employees to work from home. But even with the ease of access from anywhere, the Cloud is not for everyone.
Let’s first talk about what you’ve undoubtedly already heard; all the benefits. The one I hear the most is the cost savings. Instead of buying servers, software, and paying a firm to configure it, you have a low monthly cost. It’s available anywhere there is an internet connection, so users can work from home or a coffee shop. As the company grows, the increase in cost is predictable and usually follows a fix monthly cost per employee. Cloud solutions can often scale from a few seats, to thousands with nothing but a button click. Making company growth not require additional hardware or software assets. The cloud provider generally handles all updates and backups. Many industry specific cloud solutions include and/or encompass the compliance requirements of the industry.
Cloud solutions sound like the best thing since sliced bread, right? But let’s take a closer look at the benefits. While companies can avoid the major expense of buying servers and software when going the cloud route, the monthly costs of cloud solutions can often add up significantly over time. Most companies will also need local servers for file storage, applications that don’t have cloud-based solutions, user authentication, and management. Depending on the cloud providers agreement, they can also raise their price, sometimes with very little warning. While cloud solutions are available from almost anywhere, that also means that hackers can attempt to compromise it from almost everywhere. If you share a cloud service with a company that has a high profile and is more desirable to potential attackers, your data may be compromised as part of that targeted attack against the other company. While the cloud provider handles all the updates, they also relieve the customer of any control over when updates are done and what features they will impact. It’s not uncommon for cloud providers to be bought out and migrate companies to a different platform or remove features that have a low adoption rate but high support volume. While backup is usually included with cloud-based solutions, the recovery of data must be handled by the support team at the provider. It’s not uncommon for this to take days or longer. Depending on the provider and service, they may not be able to restore individual things but only the entire platform to a previous point in time, leaving the customer to re-enter all things since the restore point. While most cloud providers make it very easy to move to their platform, they seldom offer a way to leave with your company data in a format that can be used elsewhere. Be prepared to be married to your provider once you move to them; for better or worse.
I know it sounds like I’m against cloud solutions, but I am not. They often work very well when used in conjunction with on-premise solutions and they are a perfect solution for a decentralized company. Companies with compliance requirements can often save significantly by leveraging cloud solutions. The key takeaways are to weigh the risks and benefits, research the cloud vendor and talk to a few of their current customers, read the fine print, and ask a lot of questions.