“To Cloud or Not to Cloud?”

August 22, 2011

You’re a small to mid-sized business. You’ve got an IT guy or gal, employee workstations, and maybe even a few servers in a back room somewhere. On the servers you might be storing important business data, a few applications that help you run your business, and maybe even your website.

Then, disaster strikes.

Not necessarily an earthquake or tornado, but something simple: a hard drive fails. This takes down your server; your data is lost. You spend several thousand dollars in parts and labor getting your system fixed. During the downtime — which could be hours or days — you’ve lost productivity and even sales revenue. Three months later, a powerful storm cuts power to your servers and a water leak damages your network equipment. Again, you spend several thousand dollars getting your system fixed.

 While this all might sound like an extreme example of bad luck, think again. If you house your IT infrastructure completely in-house, disaster will eventually strike. Whether that’s something as simple as a piece of hardware going out, or an act of mother nature, there’s no way around it. The only thing you can do is be prepared. This means having the staff on hand, having the equipment and the ability to fix that equipment. This, of course, is just the tip of it. If you’re a small to mid-sized business, are you prepared to take a hit like this?

 If the answer is no, cloud hosting might be a simple solution to this very important problem. 

The advantage that a reputable cloud hosting provider has over your small, in-house set up basically comes down to money and resources. If you’re a small business, you probably don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars needed to safely host your own critical data.

Let’s look at some of the investments you’ll need to make to host properly in-house.

  • Hardware firewall
  • Software firewall
  • Network Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
  • Network Intrusion Protection System (IPS)
  • Servers
  • Server Rack
  • Server Chassis
  • Server Room with adequate cooling and air conditioning
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply
  • Fire Suppression System
  • Operating System Licensing

 With a cloud provider, you won’t need to spend a dime of capital on any of the above.

If you’re hosting in-house, ask yourself these questions, and then ask your hosting provider:

  • How reliable is your server or network hardware? If you were to experience any type of hardware failure, how long can your business survive without your data or servers?  Is it a day or a week? This is the question you need to ask.  Have you tested your backup and restore?  Feel confident all will be good in a disaster?
  • What security do you have in place? Are your systems protected by a firewall? Do you have an intrusion detection or protection system? Can anyone walk into your server room? Do you monitor your server room around the clock?
  • How equipped are you for growth? If needed to expand your computing infrastructure, how difficult would it be?

If any of your answers for the above questions makes you uncomfortable, consider these points:

  • Not all clouds are built the same, but a reputable hosting provider will provide you with over 99.99% uptime.Cloud computing infrastructures leverage virtualization and pool resources from a large set of servers. In those cases, the inevitable failure of some hardware will not mean certain downtime of services. In fact, a solid cloud infrastructure should be built to handle just that without missing a beat.

For more info, please visit: www.forbes.com