Q: There is a lot of talk about 'cloud' technology at the moment. Is this really the way forward? I feel a bit nervous about storing everything on somebody else's computer.
A: Cloud technology offers a wealth of on-demand applications and data storage options accessible via the Internet rather than direct from your office or company-owned network.
The services offer new opportunities for businesses versus a traditional 'in-house' model.
The immediate advantages to businesses include:
• New options for staff mobility become possible as information is available from virtually anywhere
• Opportunities to remove on-site servers, backups and associated infrastructure and, with that, support and maintenance costs
• Upgrades and patches are handled by the cloud service provider rather than needing the skill in-house
• Disaster recovery becomes easy to implement as there as various options to store and duplicate data in different locations rather than just in the office
• The need for less in-house computer power meaning cheaper laptops and PC's can be considered
• Software licensing issues become the responsibility of the cloud service provider
A greater emphasis is placed on a fast, resilient internet connection which is being helped by UK telecoms providers replacing aged copper infrastructure with faster optical-fibre.
Among the challenges surrounding cloud computing include security, a greater need to examine the data protection act compliance and integration with legacy in-house applications.
Storing businesses data on the Internet may seem less secure than having it inside the firewalls of a business network but the following should be considered:
• Good cloud service providers are investing millions in network security and have teams of people monitoring round the clock
• How effective is your current security model, how often is it tested for penetration and what is it costing you to maintain?
• There are robust and proven technologies to protect data in-transit
• Many security threats often come from within. Staff procedural compliance and document management are vital elements in any security policy - the possibility of an office-cleaner gaining access to business-sensitive data via passwords noted on monitor-mounted Post-it notes is very real.
Moving to a cloud computing model can bring huge benefits but needs to be considered carefully and complement a business’s strategy. Choosing a known service operator with a proven record in providing robust and secure solutions is paramount alongside making sure service levels are clear and fit your businesses requirements.
Dave Clarke, managing director, Love IT
This week we will be putting your questions to tax specialist Ian Smethurst of CLB Coopers. If you have a query for Ian, or a general question on any topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org