Cloud computing certainly isn't magic or a fix-all solution for your IT problems. Yet for all the misplaced hype on this front, the truth is that where applied correctly, cloud computing can help propel SMBs beyond their traditional limitations of lacking in-house expertise or of a limited budget.
The Case for Cloud Computing
One of the main advantages of cloud computing is that it gives SMBs the ability to dynamically scale their computing capabilities without having to invest in costly infrastructure. This works especially well for SMBs, as their limited footprint means they are unlikely to enjoy the economics of scale that enterprises take for granted.
Some examples where cloud services work especially well: remote archival, online storage, spam filtering, e-mail and web hosting, and software-as-a-service platforms involving areas such as billing. The use of content delivery networks such as Akamai and EdgeCast also comes to mind. In fact, I wrote a comprehensive blog with a list of reasons to move your SMB to cloud computing earlier this year if you want to explore this topic further.
The Security Paradox
SMBs that decline to participate in cloud computing could probably be categorized as those which already have a robust infrastructure in place that works well. "If it works, why fix it?" they reason. The other group would be companies that have security-related concerns about using the cloud for business activities. They might-and rightly so-question the sanctity of their proprietary or confidential data, or have doubts about whether cloud providers implement adequate measures to thwart hackers from their nefarious agendas.
On the latter point, I want to say that using a reputable and reliable cloud provider is likely to be more secure than if smaller businesses were to do everything by themselves. This paradox takes place because many small businesses simply do not possess the experience to properly set up and manage self-deployed servers against the constantly evolving security "threat-scape" that we are seeing today. After all, how many SMBs have employed properly trained IT personnel specializing in security?
Tips to Reduce Your Exposure
So is there anything that small and mid-sized businesses can do to mitigate some of the risks inherent to cloud computing? The key here is to understand that one of the implicit attractions to cloud computing is the ability to swap providers with relative ease. This being the case, it only makes sense for SMBs to ensure that they are not tied to any one provider, either contractually, or due to choice of technology.
Another consideration that SMBs will want to bear in mind is the fact that no vendors are perfect, and all will fail-eventually. Forget about the eloquent promises of five-nines of uptime reliability or guarantees of triplicate backups at remote locations. The cloud does not exempt SMBs from having to develop a viable business-continuity and disaster-recovery plan. And yes, the disaster-recovery plans should include scenarios in which your cloud providers fail your company completely.
Do you have additional suggestions on what SMBs can do to mitigate the risks of cloud computing? Feel free to write to me or add a comment below. I would love to hear about it