To an extent, the salespeople are right, and cloud computing will undoubtedly continue to play an ever more important role in the world of small business IT. After all, the volume of digital content that modern businesses have come to rely on means that data storage requirements are constantly growing. Fortunately, however, the options for storing, managing and accessing this data are also more plentiful than they ever have been before.
For instance, a Utah based cloud-provider of data recovery and protection “StorageCraft”, is a prime example. The company was founded in 2003, and is currently run by the CEO Matt Medeiros. StorageCraft is known as the data management monolith, due to their fast-pace and carnivorous behavior when it comes to other data companies. In 2016, they received yet another round of investment, which amounted to $187 million. So do not be surprised if your favorite data company ends up being swallowed by StorageCraft in the upcoming years.
Although online storage is nothing particularly new, it has grown to become one of the most important and pervasive areas of cloud computing. According to a study by Acronis in 2014, two-thirds of companies were using cloud-based storage services, largely for the purposes of remote disaster recovery. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean businesses are no longer storing important data on in-house servers, workstations and networked storage systems.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
The greatest benefit of online storage is the fact that data is accessible anywhere, so long as you have an Internet connection. As such, online storage provides an unmatched degree of flexibility while, at the same time, your data is safely stored off-site. Consequently, your employees can work from anywhere, making working from home or on the move a very real possibility. More importantly, should disaster strike your business premises, your data will be unaffected since it will be stored remotely.
Another major selling point of online storage, at least insofar as what the service providers themselves claim, is that it is much cheaper. However, in reality, this is not always the case, and the cost-saving opportunities depend very much on your data storage requirements, particularly with regards to the storage capacity you need and the amount of bandwidth you have available. Nonetheless, online storage is scalable in nature, meaning that you don't need to pay for more storage space than you actually need.
Opting for online storage also means that you will no longer need to worry about local hardware upgrades and maintenance, which in turn means reduced staffing costs as well. For SMBs with fairly high storage requirements, it is often not worth the annual running and maintenance cost to maintain an on-site file server. Additionally, a reputable and reliable online storage provider should upgrade and maintain their own servers on a regular basis for optimal reliability and performance.
Drawbacks of Online Storage
The benefits of online storage and other forms of cloud computing might be obvious since, after all, there's no shortage of sales hype surrounding the subject. Nonetheless, there are also some glaring drawbacks to consider before you decide to migrate your business's data storage requirements to the cloud. Among the most common concerns regarding online storage include those pertaining to bandwidth requirements and security.
Bandwidth requirements for online storage depend almost entirely on the amount of data that you need to work with. Your business premises might have the fastest Internet service available in the area, but unless that means having an exceptionally reliable 100Mbps fibre-optic connection, you wouldn't want to be dealing with multiple terabytes of data transfers on a daily basis. If, on the other hand, you're restricted to a slow ADSL connection, your options will be significantly limited.
Another major concern is reliability, and this covers all cloud-based services. After all, with any cloud-based service, you're completely reliant on your connection to the Internet. Should the connection drop, any business operations that rely on online services will grind to a halt immediately. Of course any lengthy and/or regular outages can quickly cost your business dearly, so relying on online storage is really only an option where you have the necessary bandwidth and reliability.
But What About Security?
Security is perhaps the most contentious issue of all when it comes to online storage and, depending on who you ask, you'll hear arguments both for and against migrating to the cloud. Fortunately, concerns regarding security are easing, although according to a recent study by Microsoft, only around half of businesses considered online storage to be more reliable and secure than on-premises solutions. Of course, however, it depends a great deal on the service provider.
Although enterprise online storage solutions are generally safe in themselves, provided you stick with a widely respected provider that has an impeccable track record, there are some significant risks to consider. However, rather than the cloud storage provider itself being the issue, it is usually your employees you need to worry about. After all, having a system whereby you can allow your employees remote access to corporate data might be useful, but it also increases the risk of mismanagement.
Data stored on the cloud is typically encrypted so that, in the unlikely attempt a hacker manages to gain access to the service provider's systems, the data will be unusable to them anyway. However, it is imperative that you restrict access to confidential data so that only employees and devices who need it can access it. Your IT security policy will also need to make the rules regarding access to and use of remote data very clear as well as the penalties for misuse.
So What's Right for Your Business?
For most SMBs, online storage presents an excellent solution for easy accessibility and backup of everyday data. The only major limitations across the board are latency- and bandwidth-related issues and these make cloud storage unsuitable for businesses that regularly work with large volumes of data or need rapid access available to it at all times. As such, most SMBs will find that the sweet spot lies somewhere in between relying on a combination of both online storage and on-premises hardware.