Since the 2000s, cloud computing technologies have become increasingly prominent in people’s personal and professional lives. But even with their pervasiveness, many South African companies are still hesitant to embrace them, and often for unsupported reasons.
This article aims to demystify some of the common misperceptions and to clarify how cloud services can be a powerful tool for bolstering business efficiencies and saving costs.
What is the cloud anyway?
Cloud-based storage is a service where data is stored on remote servers and accessed through the Internet. The infrastructure is maintained, operated and managed by specialist service providers, like Microsoft One Drive, Dropbox, and Google Drive. But the cloud doesn’t stop at storage. Other available services include e-mail solutions (Google Mail), computing (Microsoft Azure), video conferencing (Skype), and even security (Mimecast).
Safeguarding business data
As most companies work with critical data, like customer info and banking details, it’s no surprise that security and privacy concerns might put them off outsourcing their data support. But, with the advanced security provided by these services, this needn’t be the case.
Louis Jardim, Commercial Director at Turrito Networks, a MICROmega Group company, explains: “The security systems provided by reputable cloud-based services are extremely robust, as they utilise best-of-breed software and employ the world’s most knowledgeable security experts. If businesses did this themselves, the costs would be astronomical. Also, with often outdated software, in-house IT is more susceptible to malicious attacks when running solo.”
Other common concerns
Another common misperception regards the effort required to implement a cloud-based solution. With a host of reputable vendors specialising in cloud migration, the process is usually simple – even for businesses with large storage requirements. They usually opt for a hybrid solution, where business-critical data is located onsite and non-critical data is hosted in the cloud. This enables them to leverage economies of scale and flexible storage capacity when necessary.
The one major concern businesses have regards performance and the cost of access… but this isn’t actually for reasons relating to the cloud. With limited bandwidth and only a few big Internet pipes available in SA, adequate performance for cloud-based solutions can get costly without the right Internet solution. Add to that the fact that most of these services are hosted in Europe and the US, and the slow-connection latency to these platforms can be tricky.
Benefits of using the cloud
Implementing a cloud-based solution isn’t just safer for your data; it offers powerful benefits, like:
1. Cost savings
Costing models provided by Google, Microsoft, and others show that, though varied, storing your data on cloud-based platforms offers massive financial savings compared to in-house systems. These include the savings accrued through ease of access, low maintenance, and the fact that cloud solutions are priced on consumption.
Cloud-based service providers are the most proficient professionals in the field; expertise that likely supersedes most businesses’ local IT resources.
Most cloud-based storage providers allow multiple users to access the same document, making changes everyone can see. This streamlines processes and saves time.
By being accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, cloud solutions allow users to collaborate from wherever they are… not just when they’re in the office.
If an organisation experiences unexpected growth in a short time, a cloud-based infrastructure upgrade is available within minutes at a substantially lower cost.
Cloud providers to avoid
While there are many reliable, trustworthy cloud-based service providers available, there are also some risky ones. To stay on the safe side, stick to reputable, experienced vendors. And that doesn’t mean discounting the smaller vendors, either. If you’re considering a lesser-known provider, Jardim advises that you do your research first; they should have a proven record, trusted references and sound security systems, like firewalling and good backup strategies.
Is your head in the cloud yet?
There are thousands of organisations in South Africa that have successfully migrated some or all of their systems to the cloud. As an expert in the field, Jardim believes these 24-hour services are best suited for small to medium enterprises, as they free them to focus on their core businesses, while the cloud functions in the background. With a strong Internet connection and all these benefits, we can’t see why you shouldn’t keep your head in the cloud too.