For the past few years, there’s been a lot of buzz about migrating data to the cloud. For many, making the decision as to whether or not to rely on cloud computing and storage is not an easy one.
It’s a bit like the renting vs. buying argument. When you upgrade your current on-site infrastructure you are faced with a larger upfront cost for hardware and software, along with installation and ongoing maintenance costs. If you choose the cloud, the upfront costs are smaller but the monthly cloud fees are never-ending. There are other considerations as well. Let’s take a closer look and compare these two options.
Hosting Data in the Cloud
Hosting data in the cloud means you are paying a hosting company a monthly fee to host your information in their datacenter. The physical security of these facilities is pretty intense; some require a retina scan just to enter. Included in the monthly fee are services such as redundant internet, power sources, and servers; as well as other things like regular backups and email services.
Here are some of the benefits of migrating your business to the cloud:
- The Lights Are Always On! Datacenters where cloud providers host their infrastructure have both redundant power and internet access. The power is usually sourced by two or more providers and backed up with enterprise level battery backups and generators. The datacenters also host a number of internet service providers, giving redundant internet access to all their clientele.
- Flexibility. With the pay-as-you-go model, it makes it easy for companies to scale up or down as needed. Datacenters can easily accommodate companies in growth mode that need to add more bandwidth or resources; and can just as easily scale back resources when not needed. In both cases, your monthly fees get adjusted accordingly.
- Low Capital Expenditure Costs. Most businesses have to replace their servers every three to five years. This recurring investment can have a significant effect on a company’s cash flow. Hosting your data in the cloud eliminates the need for hardware refreshes, as this becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility and is included in your monthly fee.
- Work from Anywhere! When your data is hosted in the cloud, all you need is an internet connection and you are at work. Although remote access isn’t a new concept for most companies, the remote technology used by cloud providers is quite superior to the applications typically used to remotely access office computers.
While interviewing potential cloud providers, be sure to ask for a full list of what is and is not included in your hosting agreement. Different providers include different features. For example, there may be licensing and firewall costs that need to be considered, along with bandwidth and data transfer capacity limits that you need to understand to avoid running into performance problems or overages. Remember, knowledge is power!
Keeping Data Hosted In-House
There are some business owners who have a tough time with the idea of their data sitting on someone else’s servers. The cloud can be scary when you don’t know where your data is kept, who has access to it, and who is securing it. The most important thing in this scenario is to ensure you are securing and backing up your data regularly, as well as testing your backups to ensure they are in working order should you ever need to restore it.
Here are some reasons for keeping your data stored in-house:
- Peace of Mind. With an in-house server, you know exactly where all your company data is at all times. In addition, some companies must keep certain applications in-house for compliance reasons.
- Costs. Cloud storage is essentially “renting space” vs. “buying space.” While many cloud providers advertise cheap monthly hosting fees, it’s important to add up all the expenses involved in order to properly compare the investment. In addition to the monthly hosting fee, you’ll need to consider backups, security updates, maintenance, and more. These fees can really add up over time, and in some cases far exceed the costs of an in-house network.
- No Outages or Connection Issues. Just because your cloud provider claims 99.95% uptime, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can always access your data. In fact, earlier this year Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the largest cloud providers in the country, suffered a half-day outage. This left thousands of companies without access to their data. Other disruptions, such as power and internet outages, can also leave you without access to your data when stored in the cloud.
- Security. Now this is an area that can be argued on both sides. In the virus/ransomware era of cloud computing, securing your data should be your number one priority. Cloud providers are a target for hackers, leaving some with the feeling that their data is more secure when stored in their own facility. Questions to ask a potential cloud provider include: “What measures have they taken to protect your data from the next cyber-attack?” And “Could another customer’s threat affect your data?” On the other hand, some cloud providers offer real-time security updates and patches; but be sure to verify that it’s included in your monthly service or your data may be vulnerable.
No matter how you feel about it, cloud computing and storage is here to stay. When deciding whether it makes sense to migrate your company’s infrastructure to the cloud, be sure to weigh all the factors involved and clearly understand the benefits of each. Don’t jump on the cloud bandwagon simply because everyone else is; but don’t ignore it simply because you may be unfamiliar with how it works. Ultimately, your decision should support your anticipated growth and add to the productivity, profitability, and success of your company.