Why Are Small Businesses Afraid of the Cloud?
Only 37% of small businesses have adopted cloud computing as of 2015. That percentage is expected to double by 2020. The rapid growth expected for “the cloud” is not the surprise here. Cloud computing offers small businesses many competitive advantages. Yet many analysts wonder why the cloud hasn’t been adopted more quickly. The concerns business leaders have about this relatively new technology is understandable. The key to understanding this “fear of the cloud” likely lies in common misperceptions about the cloud. Even the term itself may be to blame.
What is the Cloud and Where Did It Get Its Name?
Cloud computing means storing or accessing data, programs, and other services hosted on remote servers via the internet. Some like to say that the cloud is just “other people’s computers”. This is technically true, and highlights the importance of choosing a reputable provider. The term “cloud” originates from network diagrams in the early days of the internet and prior. Computer engineers would draw up their own network components in detail, but drew unknown networks as a shapeless blob. This shapeless “cloud” shape became a common way of referring to the Internet.
Because of this, the picture of the cloud brought with it some unwanted baggage. Consider what comes to mind when we think of clouds. They are nebulous, ever-changing, disorganized and shapeless, floating out of our control with no definite direction. It is time that “the cloud” is deciphered.
Legitimate Fears about the Public Cloud
Cloud computing gained momentum with the public about 15 years ago before most of us even knew what it was. Salesforce hit the business market in 1999, then Amazon Web Services in 2002, while cloud-based email offerings from Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft became available to individual users. Even though IT experts praised the benefits of this growing technology, they couldn’t help but point out the potential risks. It is crucial for decision makers to both appreciate these concerns about the cloud, and understand how to mitigate them. The issues to consider before your business adopts cloud services can be grouped under one major category: security.
Understanding How the Cloud Works
Cloud service providers host their services on many machines. This includes servers and data storage devices that are networked together. These physical machines are typically located in a data center, or many data centers. To get even more power from these machines, cloud providers use a technique called “virtualization”. This uses special software to run multiple instances of an operating system on a single machine, thus creating many “virtual machines” (VMs). Maximizing the potential of each physical server with virtualization is what makes cloud computing cost-effective for the provider and consumer alike.
Don’t Miss Out On What the Cloud Has To Offer
The cloud has been described time and again as the best way for small businesses to stay competitive with the big guys. The benefits to your company’s performance and bottom line are huge. Overcoming the “fear of the cloud” might be a first step in taking the success of your business to new heights.
When shopping for a cloud provider, the security of your data should be a primary concern.
Below are questions to ask your potential providers about data security and other practical concerns:
A “Hypervisor” is the technology that allows servers to host virtualized systems. Some providers use industry standards which simplify the transfer of virtual servers from one vendor to another. Other companies, such as Amazon, use their own proprietary hypervisors that make moving established systems more difficult. Find out what type of hypervisor the vendor employs.
Multitenancy, or the ability to serve multiple users, is one of the cloud’s strengths. You should also inquire about how your business’s data is kept separate from that of other clients.
Does the provider perform “server hardening” on their client’s VMs?
Many of our own clients are bound to regulatory standards, such as HIPAA and PCI. Ask the provider if they are compliant with these and other relevant security standards.
Ask about the physical security measures that are in place at the provider’s data center(s) and other hosting facilities.
How does the provider protect your resources from malware and viruses? Do they actively monitor and log access requests?
How frequently are data backups performed? What is the estimated recovery time for your particular cloud setup?
Now that your systems and information are in the cloud, how does your provider handle support? What is their SLA, and how important are you as a client to their company?
Knowledge Conquers Fear
It is important to address the issue of cloud security head on when looking for a provider. It is generally true that cloud service providers put a lot of effort into maintaining premier levels of security. Our own organization devotes significant resources into testing, monitoring, and maintaining the physical and virtual security of our cloud network facilities. We also know that protecting your sensitive data is of top importance. The ability to discuss your concerns about the cloud with a friendly face can do wonders for your own sense of security.
Author: Aaron White, Date: 15th April 2016
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