The cloud is here to stay. It is accessible. It is manageable. It is changing the way that we work. Many companies have already implemented cloud storage into their business models, and those that have not are quickly learning that the cloud is the future of storage and functionality for their needs.
A large amount of videoconferencing service providers are already utilizing cloud systems in order to provide sufficient service to their customers. Most content management solutions require cloud storage to allow several users in different locations to work on the same project simultaneously. Even if it’s not for collaboration, clouds are being used to store company files, freeing up space in the network and allowing accessibility from different locations.
“In terms of sharing and processing data with our customers, everybody is moving over to the cloud,” says Marc LaVecchia, Owner of BMA Software Solutions, Inc. “[Our customers] are all moving in this direction right now, and pretty fearlessly I might add. It’s become the norm for us at this point.”
When it comes to your company, the question is not whether or not you need the cloud. If you work with outside vendors or customers, if you have files to be stored or shared, and if you want to streamline your processes, then you should be implementing a cloud system. The question is what sort of system you need for your purposes.
The Public Cloud
In a public cloud system, a third party service provider holds the hardware and infrastructure. You subscribe to their services and pay a monthly fee in order to utilize their system. You keep your information and documents within their network, freeing up hardware space, physically and digitally, within your own office.
Let’s say your company is project based, whatever those projects might be. You have presentation files, and architecture files, and progress files, and scheduling files, and each of these is being accessed and distributed to managers, laborers, customers, etc. Sending these files around is using so much bandwidth that your network can barely run a website. Not to mention, laptops and desktops are filling up with these files.
Public cloud systems allow for all of these processes to take place. Content is stored on the third party’s servers, and accessed across their bandwidth. Not only that, but you can monitor files; who accesses them, when things are added, reviewed, received, and responded to, updates of uploads, downloads, and alterations, etc.
“The big change is the public server, where other companies are managing the hardware and managing the servers. You’re just purchasing server space and processing power,” says Ken Danner, Senior Software Engineer at Control Concepts. “They essentially have an infinite supply of space and processing power and you just buy what you need when you need and scale back when you don’t need it.”
There are concerns that you need to take into consideration when choosing a cloud service provider, mainly around keeping your data secured and making sure they have systems in place to do that. This is where private clouds come into play.
The Private Cloud
The private cloud works the same way as the public cloud, in that it allows for content to be stored and shared wirelessly throughout the system. The difference here is that, in a sense, your company becomes the service provider. You would need to hire a company to provide the hardware and infrastructure, but once the system is put into place your company holds the keys.
“The benefit on the private side is that you’re handling everything yourself,” says Mike Maniscalco, Co-Founder of Ihiji. “That can add in security. You have control over every configuration throughout the entire system. So you can bring more security to the picture by doing that.”
Once you buy the equipment and set things up, you are able to control all aspects of your cloud’s security. So, if you have a database with secure information that is protected behind a firewall, only people internal to your system can access that information. The information is protected within your organization, so only people within your organization that you deem so can have access to the information. The same can be said for a public system, however the information still sits out on the public network, and you still have to access it across the network. This creates more of a risk.
The problem with private networks is price. The up-front cost is going to be much larger than a public system. Now, you might say that over a lifetime, the monthly cost of a public system would reach the same numbers if not more than private. Which could be true, if you happen to have the right personnel already on staff. The private system needs an administrator to set up configurations and maintain the system. This requires specialized knowledge that many desktop IT personnel won’t have. Hiring a salary worker is going to cost you more than the monthly cost would have.
The Hybrid Solution
There is an issue with private cloud systems that we have yet to address, and that is the need for capacity to handle extra traffic coming into your network.
“That’s the benefit of a public system. If you’ve got the right provider there is, in theory, infinite scalability. Services like Amazon run for that reason, because there’s always space available to be leased from those providers,” says Maniscalco. “If you’ve got a private system you’re physically limited to the hardware you have on premise. If you outgrow that hardware capacity then you’re stuck without adding more hardware, which takes physical installation and time. In the public cloud, that’s just sitting there waiting to be utilized by whoever needs it.”
So, your company has a need for extra security, but also manages significant traffic and must be able to plan for an influx of usage from time to time. This is when you would utilize a hybrid cloud. A hybrid solution allows for you to pick and choose the pieces of a system, allocating certain information to private or public areas.
You could, for example, keep customer records within the private cloud while project documents are stored publicly. This means the customer information is as safe as you need it, while less secure or more visible information is held in a public cloud that can be expanded upon and reached by whoever need it with a phone call to the service provider. Even if you don’t expect to expand on your bandwidth, you are saving cost by housing a smaller, private system and still carrying all of your information on the cloud.
Only you will be able to decide what kind of system to utilize.
Keep in mind that major providers are at risk of losing their reputation, which means losing their customers, if their system is compromised. Without significant funds it is unlikely you will create a system more secure than their own. However, if you have information that must be secured, go private. Just know that you will pay for that security. In many cases you will be paying for little more than peace of mind, but if you have the capital peace of mind can be worth it.
If you are simply looking for a way to access information remotely, and a way to allow customers to do the same, go public. It allows for easy collaboration and safe (enough) storage for your company’s information.
If both of those options sound good then work with a service provider to create a hybrid solution. It is not often you can have the best of both worlds.
In any case, consider hybrid solutions and, if you haven’t yet, begin making the switch. You can’t fight the future, and in this case, you’ll wonder why you ever tried.