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Separating Fact from Fiction About Cloud Technology: Part 1

Is every company on the planet really migrating to “the cloud” – that magical place where data and applications live, so we mortals can have instant access to everything from trivia facts to client databases on our phones and laptops?

Cloud computing has gone from being a trendy novelty to a necessity – even a way of life. We connect to the cloud every time we check social media, use GPS, or work on projects in Google Drive or Office 365. Cloud computing is popular, because it has some clear advantages for businesses and even makes day-to-day life a little easier.

But does that mean every business should be connected to the cloud? Is cloud computing right for every company – or have its benefits been overstated?

It’s time to separate fact from fiction about cloud technology. In this two-part series, we’re going to look at some common beliefs about cloud computing and examine the facts behind them. (And keep in mind – the answer may sometimes depend on your business and your needs. What’s true for one company may not be true for another.)

Cloud computing is good for everything.

Fiction.

It’s true that cloud computing is great for many things. However, there are some cases where it may not offer the right business solutions. For example:

  • It’s not good for performance-intensive programs that need a lot of processing power, such as video editing programs and some graphic design programs.
  • If your Internet connectivity isn’t reliable or your connection speed is slow, running your business processes on the cloud could mean more downtime for your workforce.
  • Does your business or industry at large have specialized concerns about data, privacy and security? While any server (either in house or on the cloud) that’s connected to the Internet carries some risk of being hacked, if you handle highly sensitive data, you may want to think twice before using cloud services. (More about security on the cloud as you keep reading.)

These are just a few examples. That’s why it’s important to look at exactly what you want a particular cloud service to do for you, how compatible it is with your business processes and current software programs, and what you expect to get for the end result.

Cloud computing is great for accessibility and collaboration.

Fact.

This is arguably the cloud’s greatest strength. Whether you have a remote team, a number of traveling employees, or just want to offer more flexibility to your office staff, the accessibility and immediacy that cloud computing offers has literally revolutionized the way the entire world works. As long as you have the Internet, you can access important files, update client records, and collaborate with colleagues around the globe.

The power of collaboration on the cloud has also increased accuracy while working on team projects. Gone are the days of passing around one file by email or trying to figure out if a client’s record is up to date. People can collaborate on project files in real time now.

Cloud technology helps level the playing field for small and mid-size businesses.

Fact.

Small and mid-sized businesses, including startups, have definitely benefited from cloud technology. From email management services (such as MailChimp and Constant Contact) to customer relationship management (“CRM”) software (such as Salesforce) to enterprise resource planning (“ERP”) software (such as NetSuite), cloud computing gives smaller players access to all the same technology that bigger companies have without having to invest in their own servers and IT departments.

Using software as a service (“SaaS”) can also make it easier to budget. By paying for services on a subscription basis, the monthly costs are predictable and stable. Manageability is also often a plus of cloud technology also, because maintenance and updates are usually included in those subscription fees. Cloud computing gives companies quick access to and deployment of new services, customer portals, and other service-oriented features.

Cloud computing is cheaper.

Fact and fiction.

Cost comes in many forms – not just money but time and effort, too. It’s true that for many companies, cloud computing is cost effective, as mentioned earlier. Smaller companies can have access to powerful servers and data warehouses without the large initial cash outlay of buying them outright, and the subscription fees can be easier to predict and budget.

On the other hand, sometimes cloud computing isn’t a good deal and could be more expensive when:

  • The cloud software you want doesn’t have all the features you need
  • What you need is fairly simple, and in-house or OTS software that you buy and use for years costs less, even with licensing and maintenance fees
  • You transfer lots of data on a regular basis, and going over your data limits will incur additional fees each month
  • The service you use has a tier-pricing system, and a sudden influx of users can unexpectedly kick you into the next higher pricing tier unexpectedly

To determine if cloud computing really is a good deal for you, you have to do a cost analysis and compare what your cloud and non-cloud options will cost, including updates, maintenance, and any other additional fees. You then have to ask, “Is this cost worth the service I’ll be getting?”

The technical side of cloud computing

Logistically, cloud computing clearly solves some problems in the workplace, such as connecting remote teams and making certain services more affordable for startups. In Part 2 of “Separating Fact from Fiction about Cloud Technology,” we’ll look at the technical features that could determine whether or not cloud technology is a good fit for your organization.

About the author: Paul Doucet, BAS, is National Leader of Cloud Solutions for Cherry Bekaert. Prior to Cherry Bekaert he founded and became president of his own technology consulting company. He consulted with companies about technology trends and solutions, including SaaS, cloud, and mobile and digital solutions, for management and business processes. He’s worked in the technology, health sciences, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, professional services, private equity and nonprofit industries. He was also a CPA for 13 years. Paul’s full bio is available at CBH.com.

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