Is everything really going to the Cloud? Advice for business owners.

“Everything’s going to the cloud,” some say.  And others add, “It’s only a matter of time before everything’s in the cloud.”

But what does that mean exactly? Most business owners still don’t know what the cloud is and how it might affect their business.  I’ve personally spent a lot of time over the last three years gaining an understanding of just what the cloud means to Best Technology–but before I get ahead of myself, let’s make sure we both understand what the cloud is.

The cloud, from the standpoint of a small/medium business owner, manager, or I.T. director, is the term used to describe giving a third-party service provider the responsibility for some technology function of your business. The service provider uses the Internet to deliver access to this function to the users of that function.  An easy way to remember this definition is:

Third-party + Delivered by Internet = Cloud.

Perhaps the function being delivered is e-mail, data backup, or file-sharing.  Perhaps it’s mobile phone usage tracking or fleet management.  Maybe it’s financial record-keeping or billing. It could be medical charting or dispatching for a plumbing business.

Sure, the cloud is capable of many things, and the prospect of moving some of your technology functions into the cloud may seem overwhelming, and confusing. But there are only two questions you need to ask in order  to determine if a move is appropriate:

- Will the cloud save my business money in the long-term?
- Will the cloud make my business more efficient?

Some cloud services provide a near-immediate return on investment (file-sharing and Hosted Exchange, for instance), while others may be purely long-term propositions–like cloud-based backup & recovery services.

Then there’s the question of efficiency. Since cloud services are tied to the speed of your Internet connection (and not your local network speed like traditional in-house applications), they can be subject to slower performance.  Just how slow? Well, that depends on the nature of the function you’re moving into the cloud.

Take file sharing as an example. If you share relatively small Excel spreadsheets (say a few hundred kilobytes each), you aren’t likely to perceive any slowness when opening them and saving your changes to them.  However, if you share large files, like high-resolution photographs, CAD drawings, and big databases, then you will probably notice that opening and saving them is very slow indeed–a real productivity killer.

This is especially true in areas where access to the Internet is relatively slow.  The faster your Internet connection, the more pep your cloud services will convey.

When considering outsourcing a technology function into the cloud, I would suggest that you consult with somebody who has done it before, and somebody who has done it a lot.  The cloud isn’t always a foregone conclusion, and you need to decide which pieces of your business’s technology can be reliably moved.  Will they be cheaper in the cloud? Will they be efficient?

Best Technology can assist you in answering these questions. Give us a call.