The Cloud. These two words have been thrown about so much in the last couple of years that it is very hard to get away them. From a distance the advantages of the cloud look great – access your data from anywhere, offsite backups, reduced hardware costs, no upfront software costs etc however there are some drawbacks which I shall outline below.
1. No internet no files
Without a working broadband connection the cloud doesn’t work. You have no emails and no access to your files. If you use an online productivity suite (eg Google Docs) you can’t work on your files either. You may be thinking “everywhere has broadband these days” but I can assure you the speed varies significantly. For instance I know of a company up in Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland who are trying to run their office off 1 Meg!! Online file storage would not be an option for them as they don’t have the bandwidth to accomodate it.
2. Where exactly are your files stored?
I know they are online but where? For instance some cloud providers (eg Dropbox) store their clients data across multiple servers in multiple locations (in their case across the US). If you work for the military would you want your data stored in a different country? Don’t think so!!! For the small business it may not be such a big deal but it is definitely something to consider.
3. Who actually owns your data and how is it used?
I am guessing that at this point you are thinking “the files are mine so it must be me” however as it turns out it depends who you store your data with. Taking Dropbox as an example all the files you store with them are yours – final. They don’t look at them they just store them. Now lets take Google. Any files you store with them are still yours however they can use the data you store with them to improve their services. This is detailed in their terms and conditions. I bet you didn’t know that did you?
4. Subscription Charges.
Instead of laying out a large sum of money right at the start for software like Microsoft Office the cloud allows you to use online productivity suites for a monthly subscription. This is designed to help you spread out the costs. Sounds good but lets dig a little deeper. For example say you have 5 employees using 5 PC’s each requiring a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 business at a price of £120 and you expect to use it for 5 years. The total outlay would be £600. Now if you considered switching to online productivity suites you would probably use either Office 365 or Google Apps (please feel free to correct me if I am wrong).
Lets take Google Apps first. Google Apps for Business is straightforward in its pricing. It costs £5/user/month so in our example it would cost 5 * 5*12*5 = £1500 (5 users at £5/month for 5 years) which is considerably higher than the £600 it would have cost to buy 5 copies of Office 2010 in the first place.
Now lets have a look at Office 365. Microsoft is somewhat more confusing in its pricing but for our example the best package would be Small Business P1 which costs £3.90/user/month. So for our small business with 5 employees it would cost 3.90*5*12*5 = £1170. Again significantly higher than purchasing the software. So why would you pay the higher charges? The answer is mobility. You can access your files and edit them from anywhere with a broadband connection. Only you and your business can decide if this is worth paying the extra for.
So to round up the cloud has a hell of a lot of advantages but just be warned it can have some major disadvantages too.
About the Author
Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.
For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.