Is Your Small Business Ready for the Cloud?
Beam me up, Scotty. At least, that's what some business owners might think when they're deciding how to store their digital assets. Documents have gone from being something we can file away in cabinets to strings of cyber code that drift through the tubes and wires of the Internet. To add more futuristic logs to the fire, certain paperless storage methods are already becoming obsolete.
Gone are the days of saving things to jump drives or external memory disks. Business leaders have pulled the plug on their desktops, choosing instead to send their data to the cloud - a mystical, infinite space that is literally all around us. It is here that data sits and waits, patiently, for employees to call upon somewhere else, moving from one device to another.
Like with any new technology, there are growing pains that need to be sorted out. For instance, is this mystical force safe? Is it really better than a filing cabinet? Are flying cars next? Let's break it down:
- PRO: Flying might not be real, but the cloud is - and it's here to stay. Try to think of the cloud as something you've always had. If you've ever used email before, then this is more true than you might think. Although it has transformed since its earliest iterations, the cloud is really just a more universal form of email. Data is sent and received at the user's request, and the only true difference is that the cloud allows individuals to autonomously access information. Rather than requiring the original sender to forward documents to the receiver, an employee can simply log onto the company's cloud database.
- PRO: Savings. Enough said. For small-business owners, there's nothing more frustrating than reaching the end limit of a legacy storage solution only to realize that your project is nowhere near completion. When data is in flux, estimating how much information will be needed is the hard part. As it isn't very economical to buy a couple terabytes every time a new initiative is born, decision-makers had to rely on guess work to ensure that their digital infrastructures were up to new tasks. Now, space on the cloud can be purchased - whenever it's needed. Seriously, it's easier than buying a Coke at the vending machine. Live long and prosper.
- PRO: It's Internet-optimized and has apps. Because the cloud is a byproduct of the Web, it can work easily alongside any of the other Internet-borne, sky-rocketing trends. The app craze, for instance, isn't lost on cloud providers, and now that this technology has begun to mature, the market is saturated with options. For business owners, this is an excellent way to invite competition - as there's nothing better than being the company everyone's fighting over, decision-makers should milk the explosive cloud growth.
- CON: Security is still a question. Although the cloud has entered the long-awaited phase when different loose ends are being tied up and the public's criticisms are making an impact, there is still a question about its ability to hold a company's information securely. The more nefarious breed of hackers has been diligently picking away at the chinks in the cloud's nebulous armor, but as 2014 unfolds, this might become a fading memory due to improved security solutions.
- CON: It might replace the old school strategies. When new technologies take over, the old regime slowly disappears. As more companies make the switch to the cloud, the outmoded bastions of storage are also hurrying to keep up with this quick-paced growth. Whether that means they'll marry cloud-based data solutions to their own products or undergo a rebranding process, one thing's for certain - decision-makers who are skeptical of the cloud should consider getting on board, and soon.