Cloud busting – Seven myths every small business needs to know
By Kevin Hickey, cloud and hosting product manager, Vodafone Business
Have you ever tried to explain what the ‘cloud’ is to your family? I have tried many times, as conversations about work inevitably gravitate towards it.
When these conversations start I usually get blank expressions back, quickly followed by a look from my wife that that tells me that she hopes the kids take after her and not their father (who is obviously a huge nerd.) The problem is that the cloud is very aptly named – cloud means amorphous, nebulous or ephemeral (thank you thesaurus.com).
It comes from different vendors (Amazon, Microsoft. IBM and Google to name but a few) who all say they are the best, the fastest, the cheapest and the most secure at something called cloud. They push and extol many ‘cloudy’ benefits for different company strategies that they facilitate (mobile, the Internet of Things, security (we’ll get back to that one), machine learning and artificial intelligence – think Terminator as the worst case scenario), backup and disaster recovery etc.
It also seems to have different flavours or nuances -- SaaS (Software as a Service such as Gmail, Salesforce, Adobe Online), PaaS (platform as a service, in other words install your applications online and let the likes of Microsoft look after all the underlying stuff) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service: if you buy your own IT hardware and look after all that beautiful technology yourself then IaaS is what you want to have a look at).
I have heard cloud explained as ‘your data and software running on someone else’s hardware, somewhere else and connected to over the Internet’ and in a sense this is true, as all the hardware is owned and maintained by the cloud provider and all you really need is an internet connection, a browser and a credit card to get going.
You may be reading this thinking that I have confirmed in a short paragraph why the cloud is not for you – it’s too technical, too hard to grasp and understand and therefore, too risky and too much effort when everyone is flat out busy keeping the business in business. Don’t be too disheartened it might not be as bad as you think.
But to make an informed decision you do need to understand the facts behind certain myths.
1 – The cloud is not secure -- be afraid, be very afraid.
This is just not true, the large cloud providers have taken this myth to heart and nowadays the likes of Amazon have more security and industry best practices certificates than you can shake a stick at. Add to this the high levels of physical security within the cloud datacentres and your data is far more protected then it would be sitting in your office or computer room.
2 - You have no idea where your data will end up.
If you move your data to the cloud, it could end up anywhere, probably in the US where it will be looked at by the CIA and seized. Again not true and again as a reaction to this myth the main providers can guarantee data residency per region. In the case of Irish businesses, you can be confident that your data will not move outside the island of Ireland unless you want it to.
3 - All businesses will be in the cloud by 20XX.
It is true that most if not all businesses will use cloud in some way (like using Gmail) eventually but this does not mean that everything that a company does from a software or hardware perspective will or should be in the cloud. The ideal level of cloud adoption by a company is a complex equation involving such factors as industry, personnel skills, budget, return on investment, risk and sunk costs in hardware.
4 - To be good you need to be in the cloud.
There are businesses all over Ireland that have decades of experience and expertise in their field that don’t need cloud to be good. That is not to say that the cloud couldn’t make them better or more profitable or allow them to expand if they so wish.
5 - Cloud is fine for websites and non-mission critical stuff but that’s it.
It is true that one of the early and predominant use cases for cloud was the company website but it has gone mainstream with even large corporate enterprises putting mission critical systems into clouds.
6 - Everything is cheaper in the cloud
That is the main or only reason to go there. Yes, there are a lot of instances where Cloud is significantly cheaper than more traditional alternatives like buying servers, storage, getting an internet connection or two, having to deal with software licensing and onsite security etc. However, it is not always cheaper and it really depends on what you are doing and for how long.
7 - We are just going to move all our stuff to the cloud and sure it will all be grand.
Someday I am sure this will be the case but in the meantime moving systems to the cloud can range from easy to calculating Pi to a 100 decimal places in your head.
To summarise, the cloud is a prime enabler to turn business ideas and imagination into reality. It may not always be easy but neither is it beyond the realms of possibility, even for the smallest business.
Gone are the days when you need a million euros to set up a computer environment and a team of people to get an idea off the ground -- a one man or woman band can rival multinational organisations and create new markets that never existed before if they have a great idea, a lot of determination and the right amount of luck.
Smarter technology, smarter business with Vodafone Cloud