Many vendors are now pushing the move to, or only offering cloud-based services but is this the right move for your business?
Cloud services or hosted services are services that, instead of your business purchasing the hardware and software to run onsite, are offered as a perpetual reoccurring payment instead of a more significant upfront investment.
Are cloud services more affordable?
Most cloud or hosted solution providers claim that their product is more reliable and easier to manage than onsite self-managed solutions, but that may not always hold true. Cloud Services may offer what appears to be an affordable monthly amount, but the payment never ends, and cost increases for hosted solutions are a normal part of life. When compared side by side with purchasing software and hardware, the company’s size often determines whether or not cloud-based services are a cost-effective route for businesses to go. Companies with only a few users may find the pricing attractive compared to a business with hundreds of users.
Cloud Services are easier to deploy, sometimes.
Many cloud services are easier to deploy by eliminating the initial setup time as the product is ready to go except for personalization to meet your business needs better. In-house solutions can require software, physical equipment, or additional server resources if your company is already leveraging server virtualization to be installed and configured before the migration can occur. Most cloud providers offer an automated or scripted process to migrate email accounts or file shares to the cloud quickly. Microsoft Office 365 has a synchronization tool that allows your local user accounts, passwords, groups, and permissions to their hosted services. These tools and processes significantly reduce the migration time to cloud-based services and make the switch attractive to many IT managers and executives facing updating aging systems and software who see this as an easier path to upgrade. Most IT managers dream of having one less thing to manage, and the cloud offers them hope that they can offload something from their plate altogether.
The migration process can be short and sweet, but most often, it takes longer than initially planned as you are moving hundreds of gigabytes of data or, more commonly, terabytes of data over the internet to the cloud vendor. The data moving process is often interrupted or times out due to the very long transfer process. The secondary drawback is that while you are doing these large data transfers, your users are also trying to use the internet, which can easily become hair pulling slow for days or even weeks as the migration occurs.
Are cloud services more dependable? Maybe.
The most glaring issue with cloud-based services is that they are all dependent on the speed and reliability of your internet connection. Additionally, the entire internet comes into play as a liability with cloud-based services. You don’t know how or where your connection to the cloud-based vendor is routed or will be affected by the day-to-day issues the internet experiences. System upgrades have gone wrong, severed fiber cables and Denial of Service Attacks occur all the time and are entirely out of control of the cloud vendor and your IT department. System issues and problems are now out of your IT department’s hands, which means you rely on the cloud provider to resolve any issue or outages. While your IT manager may have thirty years of experience and can fix problems faster than a Nascar pit crew can change tires and fuel up a car, you are at the mercy of the knowledge of whoever the cloud service provider has hired.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had businesses reach out to me as a cloud vendor was attacked or had a failure of some sort and wanted to know if we could get their data back. I ask if they have a backup, and often a long silence comes from them as they realize that they don’t have a backup, and neither did the vendor holding their data or email. Years ago, we received a panicked call from a local web host and ISP asking for our assistance. When we arrived on site, we discovered that a direct lightning strike to the building had gone through several layers of electrical protection and destroyed their servers and routers. The outage took over a week to recover from as the router configurations did not have backups, and even then, they had to contact their customers and ask if the customer had backups of their websites and email.
Salesforce appears to have integration issues that last for weeks or months constantly. I have clients that have to wait for weeks or months as customizations in Salesforce are broken, and they have to wait for a developer to troubleshoot and resolve the issue. Developers constantly have to learn changes to the Salesforce system and work with Salesforce support to correct the customizations. What used to be a straightforward workflow now requires switching back and forth between classic and lighting mode to do simple processes such as cloning a quote. This introduces unplanned additional costs that make many businesses wince every time they receive news of a Salesforce update.
Cloud-hosted Email and File Services still require Hands-on Management.
Most businesses don’t realize that the data or services they move to the cloud are often not backed up by the cloud vendor. Hosted email solutions usually offer a base level of SPAM control. Still, they very realistically require a third-party SPAM and Anti-Virus solution to adequately protect and control the end-users from SPAM and infections. Both hosted, or cloud-based email and file services declare that they are not responsible for backing up your critical business data. The day-to-day management does not go away either. It can be more complicated as cloud vendors continually update their management portals, leaving your IT department to figure out where management tools are at now.
Additionally, cloud-based services often cannot offer the same level of granular management and customization that your IT department is used to having with in-house solutions. This means you may have to change an engrained business process when the cloud-based service cannot be customized. There is also no guarantee that a feature or function your business relies on will always be available as a constant change to the management portal cause features to come and go. Companies are often bought and merged with other vendors regularly. This is especially true if your cloud vendor is merged with another vendor, another common occurrence in the tech business sector.
Is the cloud a safer place for your data and services?
This question depends on the current configuration of your network as well as some other factors. The biggest consideration I think we need to take into account is that you are most likely a small business which means that most, if not all, hackers do not know about your business and obscurity, is security in the connected business world we live in today. The larger the business, the more likely you are to be attacked. This means that large cloud service providers like Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, etc., are more likely to attack see this Forbes article. Increased visibility guarantees an increased risk of attack, so moving your data or services to the cloud does not increase the security one bit. Many of our customers have multiple redundancies in place, which significantly reduce the chances of downtime or outages, so there is no foreseeable benefit from switching to a cloud-based service. We have customers with multiple locations with distributed servers and phone systems with planned failover scenarios that ensure business continuity when a site loses power for a significant amount of time. Cloud-based phone services are not immune either. Major VOIP providers have recently come under DDOS ransomware attacks, causing their customers to go days or longer without phone service. These attacks force their customers to scramble to port their numbers to another provider or set up a phone system in the office see, https://www.rtcsec.com/post/2021/09/massive-ddos-attacks-on-voip-providers-and-simulated-ddos-testing/ for more information. Your IT department can easily change the ports used for VOIP as well as block IP addresses that attacks originate from. Many on-premise VOIP systems are tiny solid-state systems that offer hardware redundancy that significantly reduce the chances of a service interruption in the event of phone system failure. Many security analysts agree that these attacks will become more frequent as the cloud services market continues to grow and vendors shift once purchased software and hardware solutions to cloud-based services and solutions seeking to normalize and even increase revenues from their current customer base.
What should you do?
The decision to move to the cloud certainly has its risks which should deter most businesses. However, if you are a startup company or small business, you cannot ignore that cloud-based solutions require a much smaller investment to get access to much-needed services. With that, you should know at which point your user count makes an in-house solution financially equal to the cloud-based services you are using. Once you reach that point, I certainly recommend that you then move your data or service in-house once you have done the proper planning to prevent downtime and data loss. Also, in-house solutions do not change with little notice, like cloud-based services, so you control the learning curve for your IT department and end-users. Unlike when using cloud-based services and solutions, this also means you will not be struggling to fix broken customizations due to cloud-provider changes either.
I hope you found this informative, and I look forward to your questions or comments below. Did you find an error or incorrect information? Let me know as we strive to make sure we post accurate information for our customers and readers as always you can contact us to talk directly with us about what is write for your business.