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Utilising the cloud for small business

29-Oct-2013

'Cloud' and 'cloud computing' are popular terms that are often mentioned when discussing technology for small businesses. To decide if using cloud is right for your business, it’s worth understanding exactly what it is and what it can do for your business.

What is cloud?

At its most simplistic, 'cloud' is used to describe any IT service that is done on the web. For instance, if you use an online file storage system such as Dropbox, email or some kind of data back-up, you are already using the cloud. The reason it is continuing to be a hot topic is that it’s a radical departure from how a business used to run its IT; with a small server room which held all the company information and data on-site.

What are the benefits of cloud?

Moving all of these pieces of information and services to a location outside of your business can have significant benefits for your operations. First and foremost, your data is protected from loss. If your office burns down for example, your information is safe. As well as data protection, the cloud can also provide greater flexibility. For instance, if bad weather keeps your employees at home, they can simply access business information from another internet connection without compromising the security of your digital assets.

Many providers offer a pay-as-you-go service so you can scale your cloud solution depending on your business needs.

If you have an existing IT infrastructure and are paying to maintain equipment that may be heavily out of date, the cloud provides an efficient way of managing your IT equipment with minimal investment. An external provider will manage everything for you and many providers offer a pay-as-you-go service so you can scale your cloud solution depending on your business needs.

Questions to ask a cloud provider

Before making the jump to the cloud, speak to a few IT providers to determine the best fit for your business. If you’re unsure of technical jargon or exactly what you need from a provider, it can be worth asking an IT consultant who can break down the complexity around cloud and identify the right service for you.

Below are some of the key questions to consider asking:

  • Do you run regular back-ups? If you’re storing client data externally, you need to make sure the information is safe no matter what situation may occur. Regular back-ups ensure all your information is secure and not at risk from loss
  • Do you have a pay-as-you-go option? One of the key benefits of cloud is its scalability. By using a pay-as-you-go service, you can manage your IT costs effectively
  • How can I access my data? Some services may provide access via an app or web portal
  • How much control do I have over my data? You should have entire control of your data no matter where it is stored. Ask for a plan of action in the unlikely event that data could end up in the wrong place
  • How do you keep my data from other clients? Ask for details of how the provider keeps your data isolated from other clients to ensure secure and flexible access