As an IT professional, it may be shocking to hear this claim come from my mouth. But I can firmly say that the cloud happens to be the safest place you can keep business data and you’d likely never know it. The cloud in general gets an unwarranted bad rap anytime the topic of security comes up, mainly due to overblown fears fed by scary news media reports.
The fact of the matter is that the cloud does a better job at setting high levels of security for data with safeguards in place that most small businesses would only dream of having. Where does this perception disparity truly come from? The biggest issue, in my opinion, stems from simply not knowing the truth. For every high profile attack on corporate America discussed in the news, there are dozens and dozens of uncounted attacks on small and midsize businesses that never get reported, or worse, even realized.
The sad truth is that small businesses place too much trust in their internal IT security and fail to realize that they are prime targets for data theft. Broadband internet connections, an increasing reliance on digital information, and a lack of proper IT support at many of the smallest offices make them juicy victims to the most hardened criminals. On the contrary, cloud storage offers a very safe outlet to keep our digital troves.
Here are 5 reasons why the Cloud should be on your hotlist for data storage.
5) Hard drives and flash drives are highly unreliable, studies show
Many small businesses that call in my company FireLogic for needed IT support are very heavily reliant on physical onsite storage. Most of them don’t believe that physical media fails or they play into the reasoning that because they have access to it, they can secure it better than anyone else can. Both falsehoods that I quickly discredit, but the wives tales still exist nonetheless. Compared to cloud storage, physical media is dangerous for long term storage because it’s a question of WHEN, not IF, a failure will occur.
Carbonite released an interesting study earlier this year about the perceptions gaps that exist with small businesses and their reliance on physical storage. 42% of American small businesses claim to use flash drives as backup devices, but ironically, only 6% of those surveyed consider flash drives reliable. Even worse, more than a third of small businesses admit to using CD/DVDs for backup yet 62% believe this method to be very risky or inconvenient. Cloud storage, on the other hand, is much safer because it utilizes the concept of data center storage to house data in multiple locations geographically with multiple backups being created and stored in real time. I have yet to consult a small business with this kind of backup plan.
4) Small businesses are under heavier threat from online attacks than ever
The mentality of “I’m too small to matter” is all too common in my line of work. A good portion of small business owners I work with have an initial mindset that their internal systems and in turn, data safety, is in good hands because in the ocean of information, they’re blips on the map. This thinking couldn’t be further from the truth because the criminals are well aware that small business is unprepared to deal with advanced online attacks which are becoming increasingly common.
Symantec released some interesting numbers at the beginning of this year to give 2011 some perspective on how bad online threats were last year. While corporate America was the victim of 50% of all target online attacks, small and midsize business took the other 50%. And of that half, a whopping 18% target small businesses solely. This translates into 18 small businesses getting hit for every 100 attacks that occur. Cloud storage providers have numerous levels of safeguards in place to keep attackers at bay and have their defense up 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.
3) On-premise servers present a fake sense of security
Another falsity that I encounter often enough is the notion that someone’s small business is safe because the data they house is on a server running a server operating system and is fairly well managed. Verizon came out with its own rundown of the online attack spectrum for 2011 under the pseudonym of a 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report. One of the first numbers that jumped out at me was that 94% of all studied data breaches last year involved servers. There is a broad sense of security that business owners get just because they can toss “server” into a sentence regarding their internal infrastructure but Verizon’s report clearly shows that they are merely juicier targets for the bad guys. To top it off, the same report says that 96% of all attacks were “not highly difficult” to accomplish.
Servers do a better job at centralizing data for easier access by on-premise workers, but they also provide a single point of attack for the criminals looking to expose data or extort information. Small businesses just don’t have the resources to protect their networks and servers like the Cloud providers do. From corporate firewalls to well trained 24/7 IT staff dedicated to protecting information, small businesses just can’t compete in this regard by a longshot.
2) Small businesses don’t money for dedicated onsite IT staff
My company FireLogic supports a large number of small businesses that just don’t have the funds to keep multiple IT professionals on staff for dedicated support and upkeep. We tend to recommend cloud services whenever possible because similar-function onsite hardware and software packages are expensive to maintain, require a good deal of maintenance, and cloud storage providers offer the kind of support that can’t be had internally.
Cloud providers have filled this need gap very well over the past five years or so because they bring expertise and specialization to the products they offer, which doesn’t require businesses to invest massively in IT staff to keep the gears running, so to say. My own small business relies on cloud storage for this same reason. We don’t have the manpower or time to lose on keeping internal systems running since we are out working with customers. It doesn’t make money to have to sit around and maintain stagnant internal technology. I’d prefer to leave that to experts – and the businesses customers I support are slowly agreeing with this methodology as well.
1) Cloud storage provides the best bang for the buck hands down
Every time I have pitted cloud services against their on-premise counterparts, the cloud wins time and time again. The hot topic today on the minds of many small business owners I work with is email hosting – of which I wrote a very pointed article about last year in regards to Google Apps. Cloud providers can pass on such massive savings to customers because of one very simple fact: economies of scale! They are great at what they do; they can offer it to massive numbers of customers at once; and they specialize in one thing generally which limits their liability reach. All of this compounds to create savings for customers that just can’t be achieved by utilizing on-premise systems.
In my comparisons, I stack up cloud services to their on-premise counterparts very simply by tacking on all of the auxiliary items that go into an in-house solution. A cloud service charges a flat fee generally depending on subscription level chosen, and internal solutions have numerous layers of numbers to be mindful of. How much is the initial product cost? How much is it to upgrade to a new version? How much time will it take maintain and/or service down the road? What kind of utility usage is associated with implementation? Does the solution need extra protection or security like an upgraded firewall or anti-malware software? The list goes on, and in the end, the numbers almost always favor the cloud providers.
It’s important to take many things into consideration when choosing which direction to take your small business. From my years of experience with small business IT needs, cloud providers are filling the gaps that in-house solutions just can’t match on dependability, price, and security as a whole. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions as I addressed above and see if you can offload your in-house infrastructure needs to relevant cloud systems. After being a skeptic myself for many years, I’ve come to embrace these technologies and the benefits they provide, and hope you can have an open mind to doing your own business a favor in this regard.