Cloud computing solutions may help your organisation work more efficiently, but you should be aware of potential security issues.

As your organisation grows, with more people working on more tasks, you may find that storing data online can increase work efficiency.

When people talk about storing data online, they often use the term ‘cloud computing’. This term typically refers to the practice of keeping your resources (like files and software) in one central location that you can access anywhere via the internet.

An example of a cloud computing system is the one used by free email services like Gmailor Hotmail. When you receive email, it is not stored locally on your computer; instead, it is stored online on servers owned by your email service. This allows you to access your email wherever you have an internet connection.

Pros and cons of cloud computing solutions

The following table may help give you an idea of some of the pros and cons of cloud computing solutions.

 

 

  • Your files and software can be available everywhere. You just need a web-enabled computer or mobile device to access them.
  • There are typically no up-front fees.Instead, you may be able to pay for software on a monthly basis.
  • You don’t have to worry about software updates. Cloud providers typically update their software systems for free.
  • You do not have to handle your own data security. Keeping your data safe is often a part of a cloud computing company’s service to you.

Cons can include :

 

  • Your access is only as good as your internet connection. You may lose access to your cloud-based files and software when you are not online.
  • Over time, it can become expensive. Paying for software on a monthly basis could begin to cost you more than buying software outright would have.
  • You do not get to handle your own data security. You need to review the security measures that your cloud computing service uses and be confident you can trust them to keep your data safe.

‘What can cloud computing do for me?’

Cloud computing may or may not be a solution that your organisation needs right now. The following scenarios may give you an idea of the ways that online data storage could help you work more efficiently.

‘We need to keep all of our organisation’s data in one secure location’

If you have a number of people involved with your organisation, keeping all your resources organised, safe and up-to-date can be a challenge. You may need to keep the people you are working with up to date with the creation and modification of resources like the latest draft of a press release or a spreadsheet with the details of important contacts.

There are cloud-based file hosting services that allow you to store and organise your resources in one central location. These include:

external linkBasecamp 
external linkDropbox

‘We need to work on the same document at the same time’

Cloud-based collaborative tools allow people in your organisation (along with other relevant parties) to simultaneously edit files like documents, spreadsheets and presentations. This may be much more efficient than having people individually working on files and then transferring them by email or on a USB stick.

These cloud-based collaborative tools include:

external linkGoogle Drive (formerly known as Google Docs), free tools designed to help you collaborate on documents, spreadsheet and presentations
external linkGoogle Apps a commercial cloud-based software suite that incorporates Google Drive functionality with some additional business tools.
external linkZoho commercial cloud-based collaborative tools.

For more information on collaborative tools, see ‘Online communication tools’.

‘We really need a piece of software, but we only need it occasionally’

Sometimes you may find that you need a piece of software that is crucial to getting one specific job done, but, after that, you may not need to use it for some time. In cases like this, you may find that you cannot justify buying that software package outright, but renting it would suit you well.

You may want to investigate cloud-based software subscription services that allow you to pay for software for only as long as you need it. Many of these services allow you to subscribe to use software on a month-to-month basis.

These temporary software subscription services include:

 

 

DigitalIQ tips

New software for old computers

If you have older computers, it may be difficult to install new or advanced software. Software subscription services may instead allow you to run advanced software remotely from their computers.

‘Our server needs to do some heavy lifting, but only sometimes’

Consider this scenario: you have a website that, on a typical day, does not receive a large amount of web traffic. However, once every few months, you hold a one-day sale offering significant discounts for your newsletter subscribers. On these days, your website receives a much larger volume of web traffic than normal, which unfortunately crashes the  server that keeps your website online.

A possible cloud-based solution to this problem is to use web hosting that scales according to demand. This means that you can pay more to immediately accommodate high site traffic for a temporary period, and continue paying a more modest amount for your normal visitor levels.

It may be worth bearing scenarios like this in mind when you choose your web hosting service.