Our stock answer of course is: it depends. At our own company, we have completely outsourced our Outlook email needs to a cloud based provider. For a minimal fee we have company wide access on multiple devices with pretty much 100% uptime. It’s saved our IT guy countless hours of updates and patches and futzing that would otherwise be required (and were required before) with a self-hosted Outlook. I can’t think of a single problem related to email cloud hosting that we’ve had. It’s a reasonable application for the cloud, and a mature one. It works. And frankly, even if it didn’t – for awhile – it wouldn’t be the end of the world or the downfall of the firm.
So for email, for backup, and for any number of non-mission-critical applications, it just makes good sense. Besides, as we’ve often noted, cloud will become to this century what the grid was to the last: ubiquitous and permanent. Just use it wisely.
But as the Journal article points out, for a business, there are issues you must think about. Nearly half of all small businesses today reported using the cloud. And about three-fourths of those manage that internally. But owners still need, notes the Journal, “to oversee a host of everyday IT operations around their own offices. And it introduces technical considerations they may never have thought of.”
The big one: speed. You’ll generally need more bandwidth. And not just download speeds, but upload speeds as well, especially if you’re storing lots of data online. There is a risk of significant lost productivity due to poor performance. One expert points out that a business needs “at least 3 MB of synchronous upload/download for every 10 users.” A conservative estimate at that, we’d say.
And you’re still going to be running a lot of in-house computers regardless, each with its own requisite support and hardware requirements. Just keeping up with the required security profiles alone may be enough to cause balding in a business owner.
Also worth noting is what protections the cloud company has in place, whether the data is mined for marketing, and how data is encrypted. And if a cloud provider suddenly folds its business due to economic pressures… well, let’s not even go there. Even if you wish to switch cloud providers, how exactly does your company data go from Point A to Point B?
For these and a host of other reasons, we find very few small business owners, once they’re informed of the perils, willing to risk putting everything in the cloud – like accounting, manufacturing and the like. Most cloud vendors offering such solutions today have proven to be challenged just to break even, though admittedly, it’s still early in the game. Eventually, we think, some of the connectivity and security issues will be surmounted, and one day (just not this one), the world of ERP will be ready to embrace the cloud more fully. It’s coming, to be sure. It’s just not here today, fully formed.