Every day, more and more small businesses face the question of turning to cloud solutions for their data. In fact, Intuit predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of small businesses will be fully adapted to cloud computing. And as more businesses move to the cloud to handle data storage, computing, and IT security, the shift has a potential to be disruptive to the way small businesses conduct business. While you want to stay ahead of the curve, the question remains: Which solution is right for your business?
What is the public cloud?
A public cloud is “based on shared physical hardware which is owned and operated by a third-party provider,” where the infrastructure is shared by many clients. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are examples of public clouds. Some of the most common real-world examples of public cloud services include services like cloud-based server hosting, storage services, webmail, and online office applications.
What is a private cloud?
On the other hand, a private cloud is “infrastructure dedicated entirely to your business that’s hosted either on-site or in a service provider’s data center.” Private clouds offer a lot of benefits, which can come at a cost.
Small businesses should consider the cloud computing pros and cons of both solutions to be sure they understand which will work best for them.
Benefits of the public cloud
One of the main benefits that come with using public cloud services is the ease of scalability—to a point. For small and medium-sized businesses in general, scalability is pay-as-you-go. The resources are pretty much offered ‘on demand’ so any changes in activity level can be handled very easily. This, in turn, brings with it cost-effectiveness. Thanks to the pooling of a large number of resources, users are benefiting from the savings of large-scale operations. There are many services, like Google Drive, which are offered for free.
Finally, the vast network of servers involved in public cloud services means that it can benefit from greater reliability. Even if one data center was to fail entirely, the network simply redistributes the load among the remaining centers—making it highly unlikely that the public cloud would ever fail. In summary, the benefits of the public cloud are:
- Pay-as-you-go scalability
- Cost effectiveness
- Increased reliability
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing Explained
Downtime is often cited as one of the biggest disadvantages of cloud computing. Since cloud computing systems are internet-based, service outages are always an unfortunate possibility and can occur for any reason.
Can your business afford the impacts of an outage or slowdown? An outage on Amazon Web Services in 2017 cost publicly traded companies up to $150 million dollars and no organization is immune, especially when critical business processes cannot afford to be interrupted.
2) Security and Privacy
Any discussion involving data must address security and privacy, especially when it comes to managing sensitive data. We must not forget what happened at Code Space and the hacking of their AWS EC2 console, which led to data deletion and the eventual shutdown of the company. Their dependence on remote cloud-based infrastructure meant taking on the risks of outsourcing everything.
Of course, any cloud service provider is expected to manage and safeguard the underlying hardware infrastructure of a deployment. However, your responsibilities lie in the realm of user access management, and it’s up to you to carefully weigh all the risk scenarios.
Though recent breaches of credit card data and user login credentials are still fresh in the minds of the public, steps have been taken to ensure the safety of data. One such example is the General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), recently enacted in the European Union to provide users more control over their data. Nonetheless, you still need to be aware of your responsibilities and follow best practices.
3) Vulnerability to Attack
In cloud computing, every component is online, which exposes potential vulnerabilities. Even the best teams suffer severe attacks and security breaches from time to time. Since cloud computing is built as a public service, it’s easy to run before you learn to walk. After all, no one at a cloud vendor checks your administration skills before granting you an account: all it takes to get started is generally a valid credit card.
4) Limited control and flexibility
To varying degrees (depending on the particular service), cloud users may find they have less control over the function and execution of services within cloud-hosted infrastructure. A cloud provider’s end-user license agreement (EULA) and management policies might impose limits on what customers can do with their deployments. Customers retain control of their applications, data, and services, but may not have the same level of control over their backend infrastructure.
5) Vendor Lock-In
Vendor lock-in is another perceived disadvantage of cloud computing. Differences between vendor platforms may create difficulties in migrating from one cloud platform to another, which could equate to additional costs and configuration complexities. Gaps or compromises made during a migration could also expose your data to additional security and privacy vulnerabilities.
Adopting cloud solutions on a small scale and for short-term projects can be perceived as being expensive. Pay-as-you-go cloud services can provide more flexibility and lower hardware costs, however, the overall price tag could end up being higher than you expected. Until you are sure of what will work best for you, it’s a good idea to experiment with a variety of offerings. You might also make use of the cost calculators made available by providers like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform.