The term cloud computing keeps increasing in popularity, with major software and hardware companies offering their own options. But what really is the cloud and who are these solutions best suited for?
First, the term cloud or cloud-hosted is another term for a colocated server or servers clustered together. Companies will either rent or purchase servers that are located within hosting providers or data centers. Some solutions offer more protection than others. Because of this, you will need to do some due diligence on your part to ensure you are protected. Some smaller companies offering solutions could be hosting on a single server while larger companies will distribute between many servers (typically in different regions of the world to offer redundancy).
One of the major advantages of cloud- based computing is the ability to access your applications and data regardless of location. Many people have switched to cloud solutions after a major storm that caused either internet or power disruption. Typically with cloud-based solutions, the software is on a rolling release cycle with updated software versions being pushed out often. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. If changes to the software’s functionality that effect your work flow negatively are rolled out, there is no recourse. However, you will never end up with an unsupported version of software by falling behind with updates.
On the opposite side, there are several downsides to a cloud-based solution. Depending on software vendors, the ability to retrieve your data if you decide to part ways can become an issue. Another consideration is the reliability and the speed of the internet. If the application is mission critical, a fail over solution should be considered such as a router with multiple fail over internet connections (with at least one being cellular). Often few and far between, expect some planed downtime due to maintenance.
Choosing a cloud-based solution can be a fairly difficult choice. When weighing your options, keep these questions in mind:
- What is the infrastructure that hosts the application like?
- What safe guards are in place to protect your data and ensure a high level of availability?
- How mission critical is access to the application and data?
- What is the track record of the company?
- Is there a backup policy in place that will allow you to revert to a prior version of data?
- What is the company’s policy regarding allowing retrieval of your data?
- Is you data encrypted on the server when not being accessed?
- What is the company’s policy regarding data breaches?
As with any decision, the proper amount of due diligence now will greatly help not only in the future but in many years to come.