The Cloud: Consider This before You Move Your Business’s Data Off-Site

In All, Operate Efficiently, Plan Strategically by Mike Abbott

Businesses all over the world are migrating their data and software to the Cloud and the rate at which this transition is occurring has been increasing at a rapid pace in recent years. What does that mean exactly? According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. There are many reasons why businesses make this move and some of them are quite good.

The following list includes some of the primary reasons why businesses move their data to the cloud:

1) Reduce Waste.

When a business manages its own data, it must purchase enough computing power that it will never max out its system and more storage than it needs so that there will always be room to store more data. When a

2) Capital Expenditure Free

Purchasing hardware requires a business to make a significant up-front investment. While this investment may reduce operating costs in the long run, it has a negative impact on the bottom line here and now.

3) Ease of Collaboration

The cloud provides tools, a well-known example being Google Docs, that allow individuals to work on the same document or spreadsheet concurrently. Of course these capabilities are also supported in the client host architecture; however they are far simpler to manage in the cloud. For small businesses, the idea of managing Microsoft SharePoint, for example simply doesn’t make sense.

4) Work from Anywhere

The ability to access data on the go and with any device is a huge benefit, especially in this day and age when individuals are connected and reachable 24/7 and a quick response is often more of an expectation than a pleasant surprise.

5) Environmentally Friendly.

This is, obviously, not the primary reason businesses choose to migrate to the cloud but it is something to consider. More direct benefits related to the reduction in power use include a lower utility bill. Additionally, a business can list this as green initiative and garner a positive PR boost if they are so inclined.

As nice as all of that sounds, moving your data and or software to the cloud can have a considerable negative impact on your business. The following list is composed of reasons why this may not be the best decision for your business.

1) Privacy:

when a business moves its data to the cloud, it is relinquishing control of that data to its cloud service provider. This raises a number of privacy concerns, such as:

a. Is the data being stored securely?

b. Who has access to that data and is it being monitored? The way many cloud services are set up would result in a de facto breach of attorney client privilege.

2) Compliance:

Is the cloud service provider you are considering compliant with the standards relevant to your business’s industry?

a. The two most well-known standards are PCI-DSS and HIPAA, relating to Credit/ Debit card payments and health information respectively.

b. If the service provider you use is not compliant and your business is audited or experiences a data breach, the consequences could be dire.

c. These aren’t the only two standards to be aware of – there are many more sets of standards, each of them industry specific. Examples include Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd Frank act which set forth guidelines for Data security in the financial sector.

3) Will your business be able to adapt if the Cloud Service provider stops providing service?

Businesses rise and fall – cloud service providers are not exempt. It is essential to ensure that your business is not dependent on a particular provider, less it lose access to its data.

If your business’s data is migrated to the cloud it would be wide to preemptively form a contingency plan for the unlikely advent that service stops abruptly.

4) If it is important that your business have the ability to permanently delete data in a complete fashion, cloud computing is not going to be an effective solution. This end may only be truly accomplished if your business owns the servers that host its data.

5) Is the communication line between your business and the cloud service provider it is using or contemplating using secure?

a. In order to use the cloud, data must be passed between endpoints owned by your business and the cloud provider it uses.

b. If this data is not properly encrypted, it could be intercepted.

c. If securing your business’s data is a concern, you should be using either an encryption service or encryption software in conjunction with a modern next generation firewall.

There is, of course, much more to consider when considering making a transition from on-site to cloud-based storage. The good news is that First Service Carolina has plenty of experience walking small and medium-sized businesses through this process. If you have any questions about this topic, we are more than happy to lend a helping hand.