Cloud computing has picked up steam in just the past few years as a staple of business function management according to a whole host of recent studies on the subject. Furthermore, the prediction is that the increase in cloud computing services by businesses of all shapes and sizes will be nothing less than exponential between now and 2015.
For home-based or other small business opportunity or franchise owners in particular, making the best decision when it comes to whether or not this growing trend is something they should take advantage of and when can be tricky, and it starts with a firm understanding of the pros and cons.
Cloud Computing Pros
Just a quick glance reveals some of the key reasons many business owners are opting into the “cloud” when it comes to managing their technology infrastructure, as well as their software application and data storage needs:
- Considerable cost savings—Cloud computing can save your business money. It often costs much less than you would spend on desktop software and its upgrades and/or modifications, not to mention licensing for multiple users; and it can significantly lower your in-house IT costs, both in terms of equipment and labor. It’s also worth noting that there are a number of free-for-life cloud computing options out there that, if they meet your needs, couldn’t get any cheaper.
- Increased mobility—With cloud computing, you can access your information anywhere there is a network connection (the Internet), which also facilitates your collaboration with your colleagues across time zones and geographic locales like never before.
- Hassle-free back-up—All your data is backed up automatically in the cloud, and service providers are usually pretty reliable when it comes to their recovery systems.
- Storage capacity—It’s pretty much unlimited, so no worries about having to up your memory or increase your system’s storage capabilities.
- Elastic costs—By accessing the cloud you can scale your needs up or down depending on service demand within your organization and pay accordingly. That cost can then be expensed. Of course, the delicate balance between when to rent services of this kind or invest in a long-term fixed-cost IT asset such as a server constitutes an equation only you can answer based on the specific needs and goals of your business.
- Focused simplification—Cloud computing allows you to more or less cherry pick the software applications and services that suit your individual business’ needs most, which can be much more cost-effective than being stuck paying for more feature-rich, yet unnecessary software packages. When enough is all you need, cloud computing is a great option.
- Software management and integration—In the cloud, software upgrades and enhancements are no-cost, no hassle and automatic. In addition, there’s oftentimes no need to pay someone to customize or integrate your applications for your specific needs; it’s done for you.
- Rapid deployment—And finally, there’s nothing faster than cloud computing. In fact, you can be up and running in minutes depending on what you need.
Cloud Computing Cons
Although the following list is shorter than that above, don’t be fooled. The potential pitfalls to cloud computing can be serious deal-killers for many business owners and should be considered carefully before you opt in. At the same time, it’s important to understand that the whole concept of cloud computing is in its relative infancy. As a result, many of these concerns may very well become less valid as time wears on.
- Access snafus—While it’s true that access to what is rightfully yours and resides in the cloud is supposed to be 24/7, outages and other glitches do occur. And when they do, nothing about how and when you get access to what you need is within your control. Even the best cloud computing service provider has to conduct routine maintenance or experiences a system failure now and again. And don’t forget, you can’t access what’s in the cloud without a good, solid Internet connection, and you know what that means.
- Security and privacy—When you turn yourself and your business over to the cloud, that third-party involvement in your affairs puts your security and privacy at greater risk than would be the case if you were at the helm. That’s no small consideration in all of this either. If nothing else, it’s a critical reminder that the proven stability and reliability of any vendor you select to provide you with cloud computing services is of utmost importance.
- More cooks in the kitchen—The easy accessibility of all the proprietary information you store in the cloud translates into greater flexibility for and fosters collaboration among your staff, that’s true. However, it also creates many more opportunities for problems to arise. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
- Loss of flexibility—Upgrades and new software features are ultimately up to your select vendor. And while they have a lot to offer, choosing the cloud means you could lose some of the deeper functions that only desktop applications can provide.
- Expense over time—Although cherry picking and paying only for what you need sounds financially prudent, at what point in time would you have been better off making an investment in a fixed asset that would have saved you money over the long run? It’s really important to ask yourself what you have to gain in the short-term by opting into the cloud that you may come to regret in five or ten years. Once again and as is true for so many big decisions in business, it all boils down to your specific goals, what you need to get the job done and for how long, and your business’ available resources.