A recent conversation with a colleague had to do with the benefits of the cloud. The question at hand was whether it’s better for companies to move their IT assets to the cloud, or to handle their own network infrastructure and data storage? And like everything in IT (and life life for that matter) the answer is, well, it depends.

When considering how to implement IT solutions for your business onsite versus in the cloud, there are any number of factors to consider. But two of the primary factors I would consider are the type and size of the business in question.

But before we get into those factors, let’s first explain what the cloud actually is. When people refer to the cloud, as in “I store all my data in the cloud”, what they are referring to is the process of using the internet to store and retrieve data on remote servers. There are a couple of benefits to storing and retrieving data this way. First, the cloud allows you to be mobile. You can access your data anywhere that has an internet connection. And second, it reduces your risk of data loss. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the cloud won’t lose your data. But the chances are far, far less. Look at this way – data centers, which hold the servers that make up “the cloud”, only have one purpose. And that purpose is to be up and running all the time, and to never lose data. And they employ a lot of smart people to make sure those goals are met. And they actually do their one job very, very well.

So now that we know what the cloud is, how do you know if your business can benefit from it?

First let’s consider the type of business. Some businesses are subject to regulatory oversight, and such oversight more often than not extends into the realm of a given company’s IT infrastructure. For example if your company stores sensitive customer data, you are subject to regulations that will influence how you implement your IT infrastructure.

Size is also a factor. Cloud services are often priced according to the number of users, which drastically changes the break even point when you’re considering the cost of each scenario. For example, let’s say a small business with two operators pays $50 per month for each operator to utilize a comprehensive suite of enterprise cloud services. That comes to $1200 per year for their IT infrastructure, not counting the cost of internet, workstations, and maintenance. Compare that to a company of 10 operators, which would cost $6000 for the same service, not counting the increased networking needs of having 10 simultaneous operators on the same network. In this situation in may be cheaper in the long run to colocate the same resources with the company.

Maintenance and security are also important factors to consider. Colocating your resources introduces the cost of securing and maintaining those resources. Therefore another benefit of the cloud is that you get to transfer much of that cost, and risk, to whatever service you are using.

In a lot of scenarios I’m a big fan of the cloud. But let’s not fool ourselves. It’s not all blue skies up in the cloud. There are some serious legal implications to consider before relying on a cloud service. For example what happens if some of your data does get lost? How do your get you data back if you decide to go with a different company or decide to colocate in the future as your company grows? And who has access to your data beside you?

In the end, choices in IT (as in life) are usually never simple or straight forward. There are many factors to consider including security, maintenance, regulatory oversight, and cost. If your business or organization needs help weighing these factors, get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help figure out the solution that’s best for you.