By default, many business owners build an enterprise with internal, locally hosted systems. They store all their digital files locally on a computer, or on a local server, or worse, are still using paper records to keep track of all the data they need. While this approach is both intuitive and convenient (since it doesn’t require any technical expertise), there are some serious disadvantages to taking it.
With a cloud services provider, you can transition nearly all your needs to the cloud—you can rely on cloud-hosted software programs to do your work, cloud backups for all your files and information, and cloud networks to connect your locations together.
But is this transition really worth it?
The Perks of Cloud Computing
Let’s start by reviewing some of the benefits of the cloud:
- Security and backups. First, the “cloud” provides you with an additional layer of security and backups. Rather than being forced to maintain your own backups and orchestrate your own security, your cloud services provider will be in charge of keeping your data safe—and most cloud services providers take this very seriously. Chances are, your data will be protected with multiple layers of security, including encryption and multiple independent backups in different locations. If your data is ever compromised, lost, or altered, you’ll have reliable backups you can call upon.
- Universal access. Business also migrate to the cloud to get the benefits of universal access. If your software is hosted in the cloud, rather than being installed as a hard copy on a local device, you can hypothetically access it with any device, anywhere, so long as you have an internet connection. This makes it much easier to work remotely, collaborate with others, and communicate reliably.
- Scalability. Cloud-based systems are also highly scalable. If you’re opening a new location while relying on local servers and local storage, you’ll need to build and connect everything from scratch. Most cloud providers give you simple options for expansion, such as adding new accounts or increasing the breadth of your services.
- Long-term costs. You also need to consider the long-term costs of a local operation as they compare to a cloud-based operation. Local servers and other types of equipment require ongoing maintenance. You’ll need to hire experts to maintain it, replace missing or damaged components, and keep it secure at all times. Over the course of years, these costs can grow to be excruciating—especially if you’re managing multiple locations. Because cloud providers offer services with cost-efficiency in mind, migrating to the cloud almost always sets you up for lower long-term costs.
- Flexibility and options. Migrating to the cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all, carbon-copy move. Instead, every business can and will migrate somewhat differently. For some businesses, the only service necessary is a cloud-hosted backup of their data as an emergency restoration plan. For others, a full suite of products and services is a better fit. You can come up with your own plan, suiting your own needs, for an affordable price.
Are There Disadvantages to Migrating?
That said, there are a few downsides you’ll need to consider:
- Initial cost. While the long-term costs of cloud-hosted products and services are typically much lower than the locally managed equivalent, the initial costs can be heavy. However, the costs are usually dependent on your needs and the service provider you choose, so you can usually make adjustments to get closer to your allotted budget.
- Migration time and complexity. The initial migration to the cloud can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially if all your staff members are already used to a locally hosted system. You’ll need to conduct an audit of all your current tech and decide what can be migrated and what can’t—you may also need to retrain your staff members on new software and new protocols, which can take some time.
- Migration risks. While most cloud migrations go perfectly well, there is a small risk of losing something in the process. If you choose a cloud partner with limited experience, the migration process could compromise your records. Preparing additional backups can easily counter this potential downside, as can choosing the right partner in the first place.
- Provider reliability. Your cloud-based future is almost entirely dependent upon the cloud services provider you choose. If they change their prices, remove or change their service offerings, or fail to secure your data properly, it could hurt you.
As you can see, most of these downsides can be mitigated by choosing the right cloud services provider and the right IT support team. Most businesses will ultimately benefit from migrating to the cloud. Do a bit of research, learn more about your needs and the potential of the cloud, and your migration should set you up for success.