In this guest article, Martin Danner, an IT expert from Aerorock, takes a critical look at the Cloud and digital technology.

Does the idea of having your critical business applications in the cloud worry you? Maybe you’re thinking about ditching your office server and replacing it with online applications for accounting, email, file storage, backup and so on. Or maybe you’ve already taken the plunge, but news stories of high profile data breaches and privacy issues have you wondering if you’re vulnerable. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of running your business in the cloud.

What’s up with the cloud?

Cloud computing is a term used to describe computer applications and data storage services that are managed by third parties and accessed remotely via the Internet. This arrangement offers significant advantages over the traditional approach – no software to install, no servers to manage, and no backups to fiddle with. You have anytime, anywhere access to business communications and business apps across all your devices, including mobiles devices like smart phones and tablets. Cash flow and tax treatment is improved – replacing capital expenditures with cost effective operating expenses.

For these reasons cloud usage is skyrocketing. However, using cloud-based services is not without risk. As a prudent business owner or manager, it behoves you to evaluate that risk before making the cloud a critical part of your operation.

It’s a matter of trust

There are three primary factors you need to consider when evaluating the trustworthiness of a cloud computing service:

  • Security – how well do they protect my data?
  • Privacy – how will they use my data?
  • Reliability – will they be there when I need them?

It’s really hard to discover this sort of information on your own. All the cloud apps tout cost and features on their websites. Most of them offer a privacy policy. But not nearly enough disclose their security practices and reliability statistics. Fortunately, some of the bigger players offer this sort of information, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Dropbox. Make sure any cloud service your business depends on does as well.

Who reads the Terms and Conditions?

Most of us don’t bother to read the terms and conditions – a long and tedious document that you must agree to before using an online service. But, a lot of important information regarding the trustworthiness of a service provider is contained in that document. If you’re unwilling to endure the ordeal of wading through it, then you should proceed on the following assumptions:

  • The service provider assumes no liability for data breach or data loss. Further, the service provider may charge you to export your data from their system, or make it very difficult to do so.
  • The service provider will use your data for marketing purposes, and may sell it to others (typically in a summarised, non-identifiable form)
  • The service provider makes no guarantee regarding reliability of the service, and the service may be discontinued at any time.

Note: desktop and server software is not necessarily a safe haven. Their licenses often have terms and conditions that are every bit as onerous.

Ultimately it’s your responsibility

Finding trustworthy services providers is only half the battle. Multiple studies indicate that over 50% of security breaches result from employees misusing access privileges, either maliciously or unwittingly. For this reason, effective information security requires both the use of trustworthy service providers and dependable in-house security practices. But don’t despair. It all comes down to practical risk management – applying effective security measures where they’re needed without going overboard. The rewards of cloud computing are definitely worth it.

Additional Information

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About the Author

Having been a small business owner for over 15 years, Martin Danner understands the needs of small business. His first-hand experience dealing with the cost and hassle of IT led him to realize that small to medium sized businesses stand to gain the most from cloud computing. He’s moved his own company completely onto the cloud, learning along the way what’s good, bad and downright ugly.

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