How effective is cloud computing?

B2B Editor1 March 2013
Small to medium sized businesses are finding ways to streamline their business operations by moving away from traditional on-site servers to internet based servers, a process known as ‘cloud computing.’
Cloud computing refers to the storage of information, applications and other business tools online. The hardware used for this information is stored in a remote location and managed by a third party. The information is delivered over the internet, making it accessible anytime, via any device with internet connection. The users rent the ‘cloud’ from the provider, effectively reducing technology costs.
Before making the decision to move business operations to the cloud, owners should weigh the positives and negatives of cloud computing.
Positives of cloud computing
Reduction of cost Cloud computing reduces paperwork, lowers transaction costs, and minimises investment in hardware (and the resources to manage it). Moving a business to ‘the cloud’ also reduces the need for IT staff.
Pay for usage Like electricity and water, some cloud computing services allow businesses to only pay for what they use. As the business grows, more server space can be added.
Levels the playing field Cloud computing providers offer small and mid-size businesses access to sophisticated technology at lower prices. Sharing IT resources with other companies reduces the cost of licensing software and buying servers. New cloud-based and mobile technologies mean smaller companies can now access cost-effective tools, such as a 24/7 online FAQ-style support centre that allows them to match the scale and capabilities of big business.
Easier collaboration Since services in the cloud can be accessed anytime, anywhere from any computer, it is easy and convenient to collaborate with employees in different locations.
Negatives of cloud computing
Privacy One of the main questions businesses should be asking is, how much data cloud companies are collecting and how that information might be used.
Availability As with all internet technology, the cloud service can go down unexpectedly, leaving businesses without important information for hours.
Data mobility and ownership Deciding to stop using the cloud service means some data may be lost. Businesses cannot be certain that the service provider will destroy all data once the service has been cancelled. Having access to technology features previously only the preserve of bigger organisations is levelling the business playing field. Small businesses that embrace cloud computing are the real winners in today’s fast-changing technology scene.