Journey to the Cloud — What (Actually) Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

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You’ve probably heard this term floating around (forgive us for the pun) Singaporean offices for a few years now. It’s one of those words that sounds both corporate and futuristic, so it’s thrown around to make people sound smart and important.  

Naturally, those people generally don’t know what they’re talking about, so it just confuses matters further. We think it’s time to change that, so we’re going to give you the layman’s run down on what the cloud actually is, and how it can help your business. 

So What Is the Cloud?

 

Okay, let’s clear something up straight away. Nothing is in the sky here, nothing is floating, and there is definitely nothing fluffy going on. If anything, the cloud is in fact very box-like. 

When referring to the cloud, all we’re talking about is a physical site (or sites), outside of your own building, that holds a lot of computer servers. Those computer servers have hard drives, which are backups of your important data. 

So instead of having just one copy of your company’s data held on your own computers, you can have a second copy held elsewhere on secure computers. That means if you lose your highly important company data for any reason, you have a full backup waiting for you. 

It’s such a transformational strategy for every single business, that 67% of all enterprise infrastructure will be in the cloud by the end of 2020.

There are other uses for the cloud, like online applications, computer power, and software as a service (SaaS). However for the purposes of this article, we’ll just talk about data storage, as that is what will be most relevant to you and your business.

What Are the Different Types of Cloud?

There are several different types of cloud services, each with their own purpose and benefits. Let’s have a look at the main ones that you may consider for backing up your sensitive company information.

Personal Cloud Storage

Personal cloud storage are cloud services for individuals. Big examples of this would be Apple’s iCloud or Google Drive. They can allow you to sync your data across multiple devices. So for example, you could work on a spreadsheet on your office computer, and then access that same spreadsheet on your mobile device at home. 

Personal cloud storage is just that though — personal — it’s only really designed for consumers, not companies, so we wouldn’t really recommend you rely on it for corporate purposes. 

Key Benefits of Personal Cloud Storage:

  • Inexpensive or even free
  • Access to live, shared data

Public Cloud Storage

Public cloud storage is a cloud service that is offered by an IT company to any and every organisation that would like to use it. Names of public cloud storage services you might have heard of are IBM Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. 

There are usually multiple sites that hold the cloud servers, and you share the storage space on those servers with other companies. This doesn’t mean other companies share data though, it just means they share the storage space.

This brings costs down, and each company using the public cloud storage service doesn’t have to take care of the physical servers themselves, because the provider (e.g. Amazon) does that for them.

Key Benefits of Public Cloud Storage:

  • Cost-effective
  • Access to live, shared data
  • Expert monitoring
  • Reliable
  • You are not responsible for maintenance

Private Cloud Storage

Private cloud storage is like public cloud storage, except for, well, it’s private. What we mean by that, is that even though you would use a cloud storage provider to hold your data, you don’t have to share their servers with other organisations.

Private cloud storage can either be located in your own building, or externally hosted offsite. Your cloud storage strategy can be tailored to your business’s needs too, because the servers are being used by you, and you alone. 

For this reason, private cloud storage is also more secure, so it’s often used by government agencies and financial institutions. 

Key Benefits of Public Cloud Storage:

  • Highly efficient
  • Better security
  • Reliable
  • Customised to your needs
  • You are not responsible for maintenance

Hybrid Cloud Storage

More fancy wording here, but this really just means a mix of public and private cloud storage. Hybrid cloud storage services bring the strengths of public and private cloud storage together. 

For example, you might want the flexibility of a public cloud for things like email, but you also want the security of a private cloud for your financial records, intellectual property, etc.

Key Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Storage:

  • Best of both worlds
  • Customised to your needs
  • Cost-efficient 

Are There Options Other Than Cloud Storage?

There are absolutely other storage options other than cloud storage for your business. While they may have some intrinsic benefits, they are generally considered older technology. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at some of the other alternatives to cloud storage to see if they fit your business’s needs. 

On-Premise Data Centre — Have Your Own Servers Located in Your own Building

Owning your own servers and physically keeping them in your office building has been the go-to for business data storage for decades. I allows you to have full control over the data and its security, as you can choose exactly what stays inside, or leaves your local network.

The downsides are that buying your own servers are expensive, and you need considerable IT expertise to keep them secure and operational. The electricity costs are also a major expenditure. 

You will need space to store them, as the servers would generally be located in a closet, or maybe even have their own office. 

It should also be noted that if you start to need more storage, you will need to pay for more servers, as well as have the physical space to keep said servers. 

If you already have (or have inherited) on-premise servers, it may be a viable option to keep them if you have the staff and facilities to maintain them, however most Singapore SMEs find them prohibitive both in terms of cost and physical office storage space.

Colocation Data Centre — Have Your Own Servers Located at Third Party Building

A colocation data centre is where you own the physical servers, but they are stored in a facility owned by a third party.

The advantages are that you gain that third party’s expertise in networking and technical support, and they also handle all of the electricity and cooling facilities as well as their associated costs. 

This is a good option if you want to continue to own your physical servers, but you need more space in your office, or want to delegate some of the day to day IT requirements. 

Compared to cloud storage however, it is not as scalable as you would generally need to buy more servers etc. if you wanted to expand your network and storage capabilities. 

Why Does Your Small Business Need Cloud Storage?

Okay, so you are now fully read up on what cloud storage is, the different types there are available to you, as well as alternatives. But why do you need it in the first place?

There are quite a few reasons, but we’ll stick to the ones that we think will be relevant to you and your business. You might be surprised by how relevant they are to your needs as a business. 

1. You Save Money

By storing your data with a cloud service, you reduce your spending on the purchase of your own expensive servers, not to mention the maintenance of them. This means you have to hire less IT staff, and generally reduce IT related spending overall.

Your energy bill will also go down, as you’re not directly paying for the electricity needed for your own power-hungry servers. Instead, you will most likely share the cost of the energy with other companies thanks to the economies of scale at play. 

2. Secure Your Data

Your data is worth a lot of money to you, and criminals know it. In 2019, the traditional safety of Singapore means nothing on world wide web, and there is a thriving industry of corporate data theft. 

In fact, it’s just been reported that globally, a breach of a company’s data costs on average, US$3,200,000. It’s not just the data itself that is the issue, as 36% of that cost stems from customers leaving due to a loss of trust. 

And if you think that data breaches only happen to large companies with lots of important data, you might be surprised to learn that 58% of data breach victims are small businesses.

By using secure cloud storage, you dramatically reduce your risk of having anyone get access to your sensitive data.

Even if someone is able to hack one copy of your data, there will be another copy backed up. 

3. Disaster Recovery

Here the term ‘disaster’ is a broad one. It can cover things like hacking which we covered above, but it also might mean flooding, fire, or even just if a staff member accidentally smashes their phone, losing its data.

When disaster happens, it is absolutely critical that you have your data backed up. Just imagine if your business lost sensitive information like financial records, customer databases, or intellectual property. 

It’s an incredibly serious issue, and the numbers don’t lie —  90% of companies without a disaster recovery plan will fail after a disaster. 

Having an excellent cloud storage solution will mitigate nearly all of the risks when disaster strikes, so you can carry on, business as usual. 

What’s Next on Your Journey to the Cloud?

We hope that you’re now completely up to date on cloud storage (no more blank faces when it’s mentioned at the watercooler), and how it can help your business.

Beyond what we’ve mentioned here, there are of course even more options to consider depending on the specific needs of your operation. Whatever cloud storage provider you talk too, make sure that what they offer is affordable, dependable, and secure.

We’ve been doing cloud storage services for a long time, and we pride ourselves on tailoring affordable, dependable, and secure solutions that meet your needs right now, as well as in the future.

If you have any questions about what a cloud storage solution could look like for your business, please do contact us, we’d love to help. 

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