10 big problems with running your business on the cloud – and how to avoid them

Cloud computing is convenient and cuts costs, but it also comes with risks. Here’s what you need to check with your cloud provider before moving over…

The benefits of cloud computing are undeniable. No longer restricted to in-house servers and computer hard drives, company staff are now able to store data and run software remotely from any device, enabling flexibility and minimising IT costs to the business.

But if the advantages of cloud computing are considerable, so are the risks that come with it.

Here, we’ve outlined the top 10 problems associated with cloud computing today so that you can ensure that you – or your cloud provider – has strategies in place to negate them:

1. Poor internet connection

It may seem obvious, but if you outsource an essential function such as email, payroll or data management through the cloud, that function will need an internet connection to work at whatever location it’s being accessed.

Consequently, if the internet goes down at that location, the function won’t work.

So, check the speed and reliability of your internet connection before you move into the cloud. If your connection isn’t sufficient, investigate an alternative internet provider – or, as a potential back up, make sure your devices have enough data allowance (if any) to take over should your wi-fi drop.

If your business has home-based employees who’ll be accessing company functions through the cloud, ask them whether or not they have stable internet connections. If they experience problems, suggest they move to a nearby hotspot such as a café or library to work.

2. The blame game

When your company moves to the cloud, you may well get mixed up between which software you have on it and what you have on site – and lines defining which firm or provider is responsible for what can become blurred.

For example, if your email goes down, you might find yourself unsure as to whether you should get in touch with your email provider or the cloud-based hosting company.

Before committing to the cloud, you need to make sure your service level agreement (SLA) leaves no gaps, and no room for ambiguity as to who or what is at fault for a particular problem – with every possible scenario accounted for.

You should also be wary of the fact that many cloud providers store things across multiple servers, so if one goes down, you could lose a chunk of your data, files and functions. Make sure your provider can guarantee service availability even when servers are suffering issues.

3. Lack of support

Depending on what they use the cloud for, different businesses will require differing support.

If the functions you run through the cloud are absolutely crucial to your business, for example, you need a cloud provider that can get them back up and running within minutes in the event of a crash. You may even require 24/7 support for your firm.

Make sure your cloud package provides the level of support you require before you sign the contract; if it doesn’t, go somewhere else – even if that means a more expensive provider.

4. Dodgy providers

There is an array of cloud computing providers available, but unfortunately some of them are may be built on shaky foundations.

If you outsource a function to a dodgy cloud company and that company goes bust, you’re going to have a problem retrieving the time and data you’ve lost – so it’s crucial that you select a vendor which is sound, stable and experienced.

As it stands, cloud computing comes with a lack of standardisation, meaning it’s difficult to measure the quality of a provider’s services – be sure your potential provider uses standardised technology to get around this.

To avoid falling victim to a dodgy provider, try looking online for recommendations, or ask fellow business owners who they use and how reliable they are. Entrepreneurial communities such as the Startups.co.uk forum are a fantastic place to share and hear personal insights from other small business owners.

5. Unsecured data

Arguably the biggest concern associated with the cloud is the fact that it operates on the internet and is, therefore, hackable – we all remember when, in August 2014, almost 500 personal photographs from a range of celebrities’ cloud accounts were stolen and distributed across the internet in a horrendous invasion of privacy.

Once you’ve sent your essential company data to the cloud, how do you know it’s secure and safe from cyberattacks? And how do you know it’s not being passed around by the cloud provider, or the third parties it uses?

Before signing up to a cloud provider, ensure that the vendor has essential features such as encryption in place, and that any hosting company it uses offers the highest levels of security.

A data breach could result in ample legal problems for your business, so be sure to check your provider’s security policies thoroughly, and consult the opinion of an IT security expert if necessary. If your gut says something’s missing, don’t take the chance – find another provider.

6. Accidental privacy breaches

Even when your data is in the cloud, you’re still responsible for it. Does it comply with privacy laws in your provider’s home country? Does it breach any other rules and regulations?

Before you commit, check with your cloud provider that your data won’t breach any regulations when it leaves your office, and make sure that you receive definite answers.

7. Mind-boggling systems

The idea of moving to the cloud may not sound too complicated on paper, but in reality it could become rather convoluted, with a lot of different support providers – or ‘sub-clouds’ – handling the data you send into the cloud.

When you’re dealing with your cloud company at the initial stage, make sure you quiz them on how their system operates. Feel free to ask any questions, no matter how trivial they may seem.

8. Hidden costs

Although the cloud is, initially, a cost-effective solution to IT, communications and file and information storage, it will start to get pretty pricey if your provider decides to tack on additional charges for things like downloads and overtime.

At the outset, make sure you find out all of the extra costs and charges that the provider could potentially charge, and work out which of these are relevant to your business and whether they are worth paying for or negotiating on.

9. Restrictions on team growth

Considering the opportunities for growth that the cloud enables, signing up to a provider that can’t support your business as it scales would be pointless.

If, for example, you use a cloud-based video conferencing service and the number of people taking part in your conferences increases, the cloud provider needs to have the bandwidth and the codec to handle the increased activity.

If it doesn’t, look to find another provider that is better equipped to deal with ever-increasing users and activity without slowing down or crashing.

10. International roadblocks

If you plan to branch out overseas in the near future, it’s important that your cloud provider can support this expansion. There are a few questions you’ll need to answer here.

Can one cloud provider support your entire business across the UK and overseas? Can your cloud provider work across different time zones and different languages? If you establish a joint venture or distributor agreement, can they still be covered by a different cloud provider?

Hiring a second cloud provider for one business can lead to overlap, so if a provider answers ‘no’ to all of the above, it’s worth searching for one that can say ‘yes’.

Oracle NetSuite’s cloud business software suite is trusted by more than 40,000 organisations. Find out more about NetSuite here

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