‘Cloud computing’ is a relatively new expression and the subject of much discussion in business computing circles. In fact, many businesses that have started in the last twenty years did so in the cloud... as soon as they adopted the internet and email. Common use of the expression, however, refers to two relatively new developments:
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is cloud computing where the software you would normally install on office computers is instead delivered via the Internet. It is also commonly known as ‘hosted software’ or ‘hosted applications’. Currently, customer relationship management (CRM) software is the most common type that is hosted in the cloud.
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud computing is where you rent space in a datacentre and use their servers rather than buying new hardware to run your business. A common example of IaaS is website hosting.
Analyst firm Gartner has identified seven perceived risks of cloud computing:
Keeping sensitive information with a third party has inherent risks because you are bypassing your company’s own IT infrastructure and support team.
Customers are responsible for their own security and data integrity.
You do not know where the information is physically being stored; it could be anywhere in the world.
Your data is stored alongside other people’s data and an encryption failure could make your data completely unusable.
What happens in a disaster? Is the data being replicated?
Inappropriate or illegal activity might be hard or impossible to investigate.
What happens if your provider is bought out or bankrupted?
You can either choose to host applications and infrastructure selectively in the cloud, or opt for a provider who provides a total cloud offering.
Choosing a Cloud Provider
Ask colleagues, suppliers, trade organisations and other companies who they use.
Carry out an online search for ‘cloud services’.
Evidence of relevant experience.
Someone who can help you as you grow or your needs change.
People who understand your requirements and your business.
People who can talk your language, who explain problems in a way you understand.
Companies with sufficient resources to meet your needs.
You need a contract in writing that clearly defines:
What exactly they will do for you (and what they expect you to do for yourself).
A schedule for any project work that will be undertaken (such as how long will it take to install a new server).
A service level agreement – how quickly will they respond to and fix problems.
A clear fee structure.
Data Loss Prevention
Your data is one of your most important assets. Keep it safe.
Backing up files is easy to do and is essential for protecting data.
Wireless Networks and Hotspots
Simple rules on setting up and using wireless networks and hotspots.
Stay safe and legal when choosing and using software for your business.