For some, cloud computing is an obvious choice, bringing greater flexibility and other benefits to their business. Yet many potential users hold back because of fears over data security and loss of control over data. Are you thinking of moving to the cloud, but not sure whether to take the plunge? If so, this article is for you.
In a recent survey conducted by eXpd8, we found that only 11% of survey participants thought that their data was more secure on the cloud than a local server. The main reasons for that were the fear of handing over their data to a third party and the perceived loss of control that results from this.
It is true that the prospect of a cloud data breach is a frightening thing. These fears need to be thoroughly addressed by using a reputable cloud provider who clearly explains where and how data is stored. When these concerns are fully addressed, then businesses can often receive many benefits from using cloud computing services for their important applications.
What is Cloud Computing?
In simple terms, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services including storage, software, databases, over the internet.
When it comes to storage, data ‘on the cloud’ is stored within a centralised data centre. In the case of SMEs, multiple SMEs’ data will be stored within the same data centre. Each company is on their own virtual ‘tenant’ with the data centre system (using virtual machines) so that the data doesn’t mix with other clients’ data. An enterprise may use a centralised data centre or run their own with data from across the company.
Modern data centres often also use ‘mirroring’ techniques so that clients’ data is stored within several different data centres. This means that if there was a physical disaster, power outage or cyber-incident in one data centre then another data centre would keep the cloud service running without any interruption. High quality data centres will in addition have a range of security measures including physical perimeter security, security guards, cameras and advanced access control to prevent unauthorised outsiders or malicious insiders from accessing data.
What Are the Advantages of Using Cloud Software?
There are a number of potential benefits of cloud computing that companies can take advantage of.
Flexibility is one of the key advantages of the cloud. Pure cloud software can be accessed on any internet-connected device in any location. Important company data can be accessed from home, from the client site or whilst travelling.
This firstly helps the business to serve employees better. 39% of Irish workers consider flexible working as a top priority when looking for a new job. Employers who want to hire and retain the best talent need to find ways to accommodate this and provide flexible working options. Cloud software gives workers a technological platform for remote working and the keys to the work-life balance that they desire.
Cloud software also helps a business to serve customers better. For example, think of a senior employee who is visiting one client when another client calls with an urgent question. Answering this question will most likely involve another call to the office, where someone else has to look through the internal system and find the answer. The senior employee then needs to either manage the situation remotely with lots of back-and-forth to the office or delegate the matter to someone else – neither may be an ideal choice.
With cloud software, the senior employee can connect to the company system on their laptop or mobile device – using just wifi or mobile data and their web browser. They can find the information quickly and then manage the client query directly.
2. Frequency of Updates
For server-based software, any updates to the software must be deployed on a client by client basis and often involves a site visit, with related costs incurred. This means that updates to server-based software tend to be less frequent and server-based software is less responsive to any urgent fixes needed.
With cloud software, updates can be deployed instantly to multiple sites without any on-site installation being needed. This ease means that cloud software providers often update their software more frequently and can be very responsive if an urgent fix is required.
3. Data Security
As previously discussed, concerns over data security prevent many firms from investing in cloud software. The truth is that a badly managed or poorly protected cloud poses a significant risk to businesses who use it.
However, when a well-run cloud is chosen, then business’s data is often safer than it would be if stored on the company site. For example, are there any SMEs out there with biometric access controls, 24/7 security guards and a state-of-the-art camera system guarding their server room? Yet if the same SME used a reputable cloud, then this is the level of security their data would receive.
eXpd8 uses Microsoft data centres for both our eXpd8 Cloud and Thread Legal solutions. Microsoft datacentres are the most independently certified in the world, trusted by international governments and deploy outstanding physical and software-based security at all datacentres. Users can be confident that when they use eXpd8 solutions, their data is in safe hands.
4. Data Protection and GDPR
Many businesses worry that if they use cloud software they might inadvertently breach GDPR regulations.
One of the main stipulations of the GDPR is that data must be kept in the EU, unless specific agreements that ensure safe storage have been completed.
For businesses, this means that the safest thing to do is to ensure that their data is stored within the EU. If it is stored outside the EU and an incident happens, businesses will have very little control over minimising the damage and repatriating the data.
Competent cloud software solutions should give users the option to store their data solely within the EU. For example, Microsoft has EU data centres and eXpd8 Cloud or Thread Legal customers can choose to have their data stored entirely in the EU.
In terms of other GDPR regulations, Article 32 of the GDPR Act requires that users will be able to “restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident”.
If data is stored onsite within a server or on paper, then a flood that destroyed the office would permanently destroy the data as well. If cloud software is used then a business can quickly get up and running again, even if every PC in the office is destroyed.
This means that with the right cloud storage solution, companies can actually improve their compliance with GDPR regulations and create a more effective disaster recovery plan in case the worst does happen.
5. Reduce Costs
There are several ways in which smart businesses can use cloud software to reduce their business overheads.
- Avoid spending money on technical infrastructure such as servers and infrastructure maintenance. This technical infrastructure often involves significant upfront costs which can be avoided.
- Avoid the costs of too much or too little capacity. Upfront spending on computing power and infrastructure that is not fully used is wasted money. Equally, businesses can struggle if they increase the headcount in their company and their technological infrastructure does not have the resources to cope. With cloud computing, because the technological infrastructure is centralised, businesses can easily add or reduce capacity and only spend what they need.
- Avoid the costs of outdated technology. All businesses want to keep their overheads as low as possible. When upfront costs are involved in upgrading this technology, then businesses often delay in order to save money and end up paying the price with inefficiencies and less productivity. Using cloud software, with its automatic updates, ensures that a company is always working at peak technological productivity.
Do the Advantages of Cloud Software Outweigh the Disadvantages?
The truth is that unless a business is large enough to run its own data centres, using cloud software always comes with an element of risk. The business must trust a third party to keep their data secure.
However, if a business chooses that third party wisely then the advantages can clearly outweigh the disadvantages for employees and for a company’s clients. Companies gain the benefits of greater flexibility, up to date technology solutions, secure data and sometimes even a lower price than alternative options!
For companies looking to gain these business advantages, the cloud can help them to complete their goals, grow their business and achieve more.
Applications are stored within a centralised server system and accessed via the internet by users.
2. More frequent updates
3. Secure data
4. Reduced costs
This depends on the cloud software involved.
Using cloud software can help with Article 32 regulations on recovering data after an incident.
However, the cloud provider needs to store data securely and in a GDPR-compliant location in order to achieve compliance.