It’s not uncommon for business owners who aren’t particularly tech savvy to hear about running their business on the Cloud and go full-steam ahead heedless of the costs – both the financial costs and the risks involving security and company resources. The Cloud isn’t new; it’s just a new term that describes storage and application hosting that’s web-based, rather than based from your business’ computer systems. There are two things to remember before beginning your adventure in the Cloud – first, it’s not free. There are expenses associated with moving to web-based storage and apps. Secondly, there are some risks that you’ll assume. Here’s a look at the things you must consider before converting to the Cloud.
1. Maintenance times. Since the Cloud spans the globe, there’s no guarantee that site maintenance will be done at a time that’s convenient for your business. Unexpected downtime because of inconvenient maintenance can cause problems for you and your staff. Your best bet to head off these worries is to get to know your providers and pay attention to notices of scheduled site maintenance to maximize your productivity. You want to avoid bringing your staff in for a special project, only to discover that you’re unable to access the data you need due to site maintenance.
2. Upgrade schedule. Sometimes it feels like the second I get everyone on my staff trained on a new app, the cloud provider updates it and we’re all floundering again. Being forced into a new version of an application can require retraining your employees (and yourself!) One of my favorite tactics is to assign a few key folks to get up to speed on the new application and share knowledge with other employees, serving as resources for my team.
3. Terminating Employees. It used to be that when you let a member of the staff go, simply removing their access to their desktop computer meant that they were out of your system. Those days are over. Cloud based storage and apps mean that access can be gained from virtually anywhere, and your company is vulnerable to attack from a disgruntled former employee. You must be prepared with a protocol for changing passwords and completely preventing access for unauthorized users.
4. Inadvertent change. “Butt dialing” used to just be an annoyance, but now accidental manipulation of documents can cause problems if you don’t have a means of controlling potential damage from live editing of documents or financial accounts. It’s not just spreadsheets or company emails that are vulnerable, though. It’s smart to ensure that your social media guru employs security steps to ensure that he doesn’t accidentally post on your company’s Facebook page, rather than his personal Facebook page. Make sure there are steps to prevent accidents from becoming permanent problems.
5. Legal Problems. Particularly for businesses in which there’s a legal obligation for data security – attorneys, physicians, accountants – you must ensure that your cloud provider is as picky about security as you are. You don’t want to open yourself up to legal problems as a result of a security breach.
6. Becoming a Bigger Target. Let’s face it – the relatively small amount of data stored on your PC isn’t that great a target for thieves, but when you move your data to the Cloud and your information is combined with thousands of other companies, you’re at a much greater risk. Think about the magnitude of the problem Target faced with the theft of credit and debit card data. The more data, the bigger the payoff for unscrupulous folks willing to steal that information.
7. The Cloud is Unavoidable. It’s practically impossible to opt out of everything that’s Cloud-based, but that doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind. Just because you’re conducting business via the internet doesn’t mean that you’re sure to be hacked. Your best bet is to analyze your risk and take action to mitigate the risks. Measures like verifying that sites you shop with use secure servers that protect your credit card information are a good start.
Entrepreneurs are inevitably familiar with assessing and managing risk, and your foray into the Cloud should be handled just as any other major business decision. Evaluate your risks and take action to mitigate or avoid those risks altogether.