Us, humans, we simply can’t resist the hype, can we? The new millennium, the Internet, the digital currency… They all seem so promising, so mythical—right until they don’t, leaving us feeling silly, pointing fingers at each other.
Somewhere among those big buzzwords lies another, a slightly quieter term, usually used in more particular circles: cloud computing. With the grand entrance of Dropbox, cloud computing started a wave of obsession among users and business owners. “It works!” was the average reaction, followed by an instinctive “why use hard drives at all, then?”
The mania is still very much alive today, as sci-fi shows are working hard at trying to imagine the most extreme ways of ‘outsourcing’ our lives to the cloud, and the startup scene seems to be working hard at helping those visions manifest into reality.
Before you get suspicious about our skepticism, full disclosure: yes, we do provide cloud computing services at Jmark Business Solutions. Let us be clear on this part: we’re not against the technology itself, we’re against the emotional mythology surrounding it. This article will serve to shed some light onto what cloud computing is, and how real businesses can get real benefits out of it. Most importantly, we’ll discuss which businesses should consider cloud computing, and which ones shouldn’t.
Cloud Computing Extremely Lucrative for Growing Businesses
At its core, the in-house vs. cloud computing dilemma is an ownership vs. rent issue. Running the entire network and data infrastructure allows for full control, customizability and responsiveness, but requires large up-front and maintenance costs. Cloud computing gives access to pre-built data storage and operation infrastructures for a monthly retainer, but the network itself is managed externally, and used by multiple companies.
By default, a sophisticated and secure in-house network is what every business owner should seek to have for their company. However, it’s the numbers that frequently don’t add up: on the balance sheets, outsourced cloud services often win by a landslide.
As with any rent vs. ownership decision, scalability plays a major role. A $30,000 up-front investment for one of Apple’s department stores is not the same as a $30,000 up-front investment for a small mom-and-pop insurance shop in Fayetteville. This makes cloud computing a lucrative option for smaller businesses.
Purchasing hardware and software constitutes most of the initial investment into an in-house data network. Without the wires and the servers, your business will simply be offline. Installation and monthly maintenance costs take their cut, too.
But it’s the opportunity cost—not the actual fees—that makes an in-house computing solution so unappealing for smaller businesses. Big, established companies can’t easily invest an X amount of money to increase their market share by Y—that’s why they’re looking for every opportunity to make their processes more efficient and reliable on the inside. Ambitious, growing companies, on the other hand, will find at least 10 higher-ROI investments into their business, besides building an in-house computer network.
However, financial costs don’t tell the whole story. In-house computer networks are fairly complicated, and add layers of managerial duties onto your company’s executives. You’re responsible for the network’s stability and security, which means that when something goes wrong, it’s you—the decision maker—who needs to postpone your schedule and take on the matter at hand. In comparison, a cloud computing account can be set up in a few hours, freeing up your calendar for things that actually matter for your company’s growth.
Even though Fayetteville, along with the rest of Northern Arkansas, is known as one of Walmart’s hometowns, most companies here are small-medium-sized, privately owned businesses, which, for reasons stated above, are primary candidates for cloud-based solutions.
Most of Fayetteville’s residents are also employed in Healthcare, Management, Administrative, Sales and Hospitality industries: industries that are heavily reliant on large databases. Cloud solutions enable for new companies in these industries to overcome financial entry barriers, created by large infrastructure up-front costs.
Cloud-Based Solutions Are Not the Silver Bullet
It would be a mistake to consider cloud-based solutions a universal solution for all companies. While size and scalability is one of the key factors to solving the equation, trust is extremely important, too.
Businesses in smaller communities—like Fayetteville—are highly based on reputation, familiarity and trust. Customers get used to visiting the same barber shops, healthcare clinics and restaurants. Trust is an intangible that big corporate brands seldom manage to replicate in local markets.
Cloud computing services, while great on paper, are not always the most reliable choice. From big corporate scandals (Amazon Web Services, one of the world’s largest cloud computing provider, was responsible for several big outages, one of which resulted in voter data loss) to small-scale cloud computing errors (like Google restricting your Drive account access for no apparent reason), the technology likes to remind from time to time that with cloud computing, you’re just a passenger.
If you’re running a small, data-sensitive local business, perhaps a motel, or an optic care facility, even a temporary access loss can result in lasting distrust among your loyal residents and patients. In the age where customer experience is everything, a data loss is not something you can take chances with.
Since cloud networks are used by multiple users, you might run into what’s called a ‘loud neighbor’ effect, where other users of the service use up so much of the bandwidth you’re left with a slow connection, unable to access your data quickly. This can lead to uncomfortable situations with your customers, leading to dissatisfaction.
So, what do you do when the balance sheets spell cloud computing, but reason says it’s too risky? For smaller businesses in Fayetteville who rely on their public name recognition and trust, one of the most popular solutions is getting the best of both worlds: a hybrid option where part of the company’s information is stored in a secure in-house network, and the rest is uploaded to the cloud.
Building small internal infrastructures can be inexpensive and simple, and yet can act as a reliable safety net, storing your company’s most vital data to keep it operational at all times. All of the less important information can be, subsequently, uploaded to a cloud based solution.
If you still feel like you need an expert’s opinion on how to go about your company’s data security and maintenance, please, reach out to us. You can do so by calling us at 844-44-JMARK, sending an email to [email protected], or just getting in touch through the Contact Us page of this website. Don’t be shy—we want to hear your challenges and help you out.