One of the questions now facing businesses and organizations of all sizes is, “what should our cloud strategy be”. That is something of a broad question. After all, if you have a smart phone or a Gmail account or a JASE Marketing Manager account, you are already using at least one cloud-based solution.
The term cloud computing actually encompasses a number of different fields – it refers generally to software that is delivered as a service over the internet instead of as a disc or download to be locally installed.
There are at least three common kinds of cloud services that may be of interest to a business:
- Email and other office documents. Google Apps and Office 365 are the two most well-known services. Google Apps offers users Gmail, the Google Calendar, Google documents, and Google’s entire host of other services. Office 365 offers a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint.
- Storage space. A hosting company provides file space that can be accessed through its API. Some services, such as Microsoft’s Azure, provide a database platform or a platform for executing custom applications.
- Hosted applications. For example, a CRM solution such as JASE Marketing Manager or Salesforce.com runs the service provider’s own software, which fills a business need.
If you are skeptical about trusting a third party to store your important data, you are not alone. Both Google and Amazon have experienced high-profile outages. Government agencies, despite a White House policy favoring cloud usage, are balking at the thought of placing secure data in cyberspace with a target on it.
In fairness, your data may not be any less secure in a cloud-based environment. In fact, if your primary business is not data security, having it hosted by someone whose primary business is data security may very well be a good thing.
So when considering your cloud strategy, we suggest the following:
- Look beyond the marketing buzzword – just because a solution markets itself as “cloud-based” doesn’t mean it is a panacea for all of life’s woes. You want to know what services you are actually receiving, not just how something is branded.
- Ask what is your plan for if an outage occurs. If you are using your own internal Exchange instance, even if you lose your internet connection, you can still get to old emails. If your Exchange server crashes, you restore last night’s backup. But what is your plan if your hosted service goes down? What is your plan if someone accidentally deletes the customer database? Do you have to submit a restore request that will take a week to load?
- Develop internal password and other security standards for your organization. Even if Gmail is safe and secure, if your employees use “password123” as their password, it can be compromised.
Photo credit: John Nyberg