With each passing day, more and more businesses in the UK are signing up to cloud computing, the revolutionary concept which allows clients to store data and run software remotely, rather than from an in-house server or computer harddrive. The potential and possibilities of cloud computing seem considerable. But so do the risks and snags.
Here we’ve outlined the top 10 risks of cloud computing today. If you can explore all these issues before deciding on a particular cloud provider, in all likelihood you will enjoy a smooth, productive spell in the cloud and your business will see dramatic benefits as a result.
1. Business continuity
If you outsource an essential function such as email, payroll or data management to an external provider, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll come to depend on the internet. If the net goes down, your provider will be unable to provide your function, and your business will, in all likelihood, have to shut down. Check the speed and reliability of your internet connection before you move into the cloud; if your connection isn’t sufficient, don’t make the move.
2. Responsibility gaps
A lot of companies mix up what software they have on site and what they have in the cloud; in such an environment, lines of responsibility can become blurred. For example, if your email goes down, it’s easy to get confused about whether the responsibility lies with your email provider, or the cloud-based hosting company.
Before committing to the cloud, you need to make sure your service level agreement (SLA) leaves no gaps, and no room for ambiguity – with every possible scenario accounted for.
3. Level of support
Different businesses need different levels of support from their cloud provider. If your cloud services are absolutely crucial to your business, they need to be back up and running within minutes in the event of a crash; you may even require 24-7 support for your firm.
You need to make sure your cloud package provides the level of support you require before you sign the contract; if it doesn’t, go somewhere else, even if that means a more expensive provider.
4. Dodgy providers
With hundreds of cloud computing providers shooting up all over the place, some of them are bound to be built on shaky foundations. If you outsource a function to a dodgy company, and that company goes bust, you’re going to have a problem retrieving the time and data you’ve lost. So it’s crucial that you select a vendor which is sound, stable and experienced.
5. Data security
Once you’ve sent your essential company data to the cloud, how do you know it’s secure? How do you know it’s not being passed around the cloud provider, or the third parties it uses? Your vendor needs to have essential features such as encryption in place, and any hosting company it uses needs to offer the highest levels of security.
6. Regulatory complications
Even when your data is in the cloud, you’re still responsible for it. Does it comply with privacy laws in your provider’s home country? Does it breach any other rules and regulations?
Before you commit, check with your cloud provider that your data won’t breach any regulations when it leaves your office, and make sure you get definite answers.
The idea of moving to the cloud may not sound too complicated on paper, but in reality it could get very hard to follow, with loads of different support providers, or ‘sub-clouds,’ handling the data you send into the cloud.
When you’re dealing with your cloud company at the initial stage, make sure you quiz them on how their system operates, and feel free to ask any questions, no matter how trivial they may seem.
8. Hidden costs
Although it may seem cost-effective to go into the cloud, it could end up becoming really pricey if your provider tacks on a load of additional charges for things like downloads and overtime.
You need to find out all the extra costs and charges at the outset, and work out which of these are relevant to your business, before committing.
Hiring a cloud provider is useless if it can’t support you as your business grows. If, for example, you use a cloud-based video conferencing service, and the number of people taking part in your conferences increases, the cloud provider needs to have the bandwidth and the codec to handle the increased activity. If they don’t, choose someone else.
10. Going overseas
If, in the near future, you plan to branch out overseas, it’s important that your cloud provider can support your expansion.
If your offices are in the UK, and you plan to open a new office overseas, can one cloud provider continue to serve you? Can they work across different time zones and different languages? If you establish a joint venture or distributor agreement, will they be covered by a different cloud provider? Or will you have to hire another cloud provider, which can lead to overlap? All these questions need to be answered before you decide which company to go for.