Cloud computing is all the rage these days. The storing of contacts, tasks and meeting dates is taking many by storm, especially in the mobile world. But is it right for everyone?
If you use any of Google’s Applications (like Google Calendar or Google Docs) or any other company’s over-the-web creation and/or storage, then you’re already a cloud computing participant. Shared and on-demand resources fall under the “umbrella” of cloud computing.
Many cell phones and data devices also promote and support storing data in the “cloud.” Applications can now back up your contacts, task list, calendar and other data in case of damage or loss of the device. This makes a restore quick and easy.
There are, however, downsides to using the cloud. While the cloud concept has been around for decades, Cloud Computing, as we know it today, is relatively new. This means a great deal of newcomers to the game – many companies of which we’ve never heard nor had any previous experience.
There are pros and cons to converting usage and storage of data to the cloud, the most appealing features being reduced costs (long-term, because conversion does cost money) and ease of access (lose your phone on the plane? No problem!).
Alas, I’m all about what really matters, so here are my warnings about living in the cloud:
Who has access?
Make sure you’re working with a company you trust. I used Quickbooks Online for years, and I trust Intuit with my information. I’ve used Google Calendar, but only as an option to publish my blocked time.
However, when it comes to client info – I’m talking private numbers and statistics – it’s something I’m not comfortable potentially sharing. Thus, my devices are set not to back up data over the air.
Who has a stable platform?
Just yesterday, Google Calendar went down. Anyone relying solely on this cloud method had zero access to their day’s routines for several hours. That would drive me nuts.
Accessing data from anywhere is very appealing, but if it’s the only place you’re storing that data, what happens when networks fail? Local backups are key.
What’s the cost?
What is the cost of cloud computing opposed to transferring a backup to, say, an encrypted flash drive or other device? A service like GoToMyPC
gives me access to my office 24/7. Yes, I know, what if the power or network drops? So far, this has been a reliable service.
Is it Secure?
There are many arguments (pro and con) concerning the security of cloud computing. This isn’t just about who has access to the data, but exactly
how the data is transmitted.
The weakest link breaks the chain – always. Cloud computing relies on security at every level, from the host computer, through the router and modem, over the network, and so on… Thus, if you don’t take measures to keep prying eyes out of your own network (by use of a firewall), then cloud backups are less safe than if you disconnected from the Internet and worked with data locally.
Who is Liable?
When selecting a service provider, ask who is liable if the stored data is compromised. In fact, request documentation. Any company unwilling to provide documentation should be suspect. Don’t take a company’s word for anything. Research each company before making a decision.
Am I against cloud computing? Not at all. But in my experience, many small business owners looking for cost-effective measures frequently don’t realize they’re actually seeking “cheap” services. Reliability and stability, as well as privacy protection and insurance, should be among the top reasons for selecting a provider.
I also recommend not putting all your eggs in a single basket. Cloud computing should be used as a backup and accessibility feature, but it should never be the sole place in which we store information necessary to business. Secure, local storage (even if just on an encrypted, portable hard drive in a bank’s vault) gives us an alternative should a company, or its service, fall off the radar, even if just temporarily.