Preconceived notions about the Cloud… and our answers for you.
The end of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s were ripe for the Cloud computing environment to begin. Architectures had become multi-tenant, high-speed bandwidth was becoming prevalent, and universal software interoperability standards had been developed. In 1999, Salesforce.com opened its “virtual doors” and (for the first time ever) a business application was available from a “normal” website… this is now called “Cloud computing.”
Of course, all the marketing campaigns and sales literature surrounding the cloud were born in this same time frame. The hype was incredible and intense. Promises were made that the Cloud was unable to deliver and the negative impact has carried on to this day. (Think “flying cars” from the 1960s advertising campaigns.)
However, in the last two years, the Cloud has become a stable environment with extremely robust software. The hype has died down to a simple message… the Cloud has matured and it’s ready for you.
There are some lingering worries from the early days… and Uncommon Solutions would like to give you some realistic and relevant answers to help you make an informed decision as to whether the Cloud is for you or not.
THE CLOUD IS NOT SECURE
Security of data is the #1 concern for most businesses. When talking with clients, we find that almost half of them believe that their data is at higher risk in a cloud environment than in their on-premises systems and almost 3/4 of them think the Cloud data is more difficult to protect. These concerns are not without merit… ANY shared systems is vulnerable. In a shared environment, data may transfer to other Cloud users, a hacker may target a Cloud account in their shared environment, or an employee of the hosting company might even decide to hack the data at the server level of the facility. But let’s not forget, even if you have data in a non-shared environment, such as a closed system in a business or even only on your laptop, that data is vulnerable as well (from an employee or leaving your laptop in a cab).
So how do we address the concerns surrounding security? The simple fact is that you need to approach your Cloud security in the same fashion you would approach your on-premise security. Question. Question. Question.
Cloud providers who are serious about security will include in their offerings things like firewalls, secure login and data transfer, a high-security physical environment where servers are hosted, and more. Also educate yourself on what backups and SLAs are offered in case there is a breach of security or data loss due to a catastrophic event. Finally, create business processes that requires a strong user authentication protocol for any Cloud account. Most easily hacked data is gained through finding a user who has set their password as “password” or another of the most commonly used passwords (e.g.: “admin” or “administrator”). Require passwords to be 8-12 characters with upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and maybe even special characters. Something that is a little hard for your employees to remember is VERY hard for a hacker to guess.
So find out what the Cloud provider is offering and determine if it is the appropriate level of security for your sensitive data. Heightened security will cost more, so be sure that you are purchasing an appropriate level of security.
I LOSE CONTROL OF MY DATA THAT IS STORED IN THE CLOUD
At least half of our clients have expressed concern over a Cloud provider having control of their sensitive data in a Cloud environment. This concern has its roots in the security issue we just discussed. The concern is that you are giving up the data security and backup to a third party… and that is never easy. Giving the data to a Cloud provider takes away the business owner’s personal ability to ensure that the data is handled properly. Giving up control can make many business owners anxious.
Dealing with this problem follows the same path as security concerns… more questions. Unless you are considering some fly-by-night company or some provider in the Republic of “where?” This concern is simply answered through due diligence. You would not buy a Picasso from the back of a van… you would research the institution selling the Picasso and look at its track record, security protocols, backup systems, etc. Most importantly, find out what tools are offered to access your data and determine if you are comfortable with them.
PERFORMANCE IN THE CLOUD
Many clients worry about a cloud-based application and how it will perform. Specifically, they worry about being able to access that application because many factors are outside of their control (connectivity, bandwidth, etc.). In time-sensitive situations, will they be able to access their data?
No Cloud provider can give a 100% uptime guarantee. But the same can be said for an on-premise environment. If there is a hardware failure or software crash, on-premise data will also be unavailable. Most clients respond by saying, “Yes, but I don’t expect that to happen except once in a blue moon.” The same can be said for a Cloud provider. Educate yourself on what kind of SLA uptime is being offered and ask for historical data to support that SLA commitment. With most reputable providers, connectivity loss or server overload is for a very short period of time and most clients will never notice or only be mildly inconvenienced.
I DON’T WANT TO BE LOCKED INTO ONE VENDOR FOREVER
This concern stems from a valid point; it is painful to move from one Cloud provider to another. About half of our client’s worry is that once they commit to a provider they will be locked-in no matter what the suitability of that provider is for their business. Another concern around this point is how data is treated after a contract is terminated.
This concern is valid because most providers work on proprietary software to run their environments and are therefore incompatible with each other. This means transferring data from one provider to another can pose problems. However, moving from one software platform to another (say a CRM system) in an on-premise environment will have the same issues… or even a paper system to digital (consider the medical field). Moving data from one environment to another will always be a challenge, but portability from one Cloud environment to another should be no more difficult than from a Sugar CRM to a Microsoft CRM in house.
MY BUSINESS REQUIRES THAT I BE COMPLIANT WITH GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS
This is a valid but simple to take care of concern. Again, question your provider to ensure that they are aware of the specific state and/or federal regulations involved with your type of business. Discuss with your potential provider whether a public, private, or hybrid cloud solution is best to meet those regulations.
We hope that this open and honest discussion of the Cloud has answered some of your lingering concerns over using the Cloud. If you would like to discuss migrating your environment in order to simplify your systems, save IT costs, or update old and outdated systems, please contact us for a dynamic discussion of how the Cloud might meet your needs.