In researching the information for this article, it occurred to me that quite a few folks still had a limited understanding of what "The Cloud" or "Cloud Computing" really was.  So we'll start off with a basic definition...

In the simplest terms, "Cloud Computing" means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive. "The Cloud" is just a metaphor for the Internet. Simple, huh?  So, basically, if you have an exorbitant amount of data and spend an equally exorbitant amount of time and money to keep expanding your hard drive's storage capabilities, a look into "Cloud Computing" might be in your future.

Some of the benefits of moving your company to The Cloud...

1. Improved Disaster Recovery

Moving your business data to the cloud can make disaster recovery (DR)—i.e., retrieving data in the event of a hardware compromise—easier and less expensive. You can even set up your system to back up data automatically to ensure you'll be able to recover the most up-to-date information in case of emergency.

According to a study by SpiceWorks, and sponsored by Carbonite, 45 percent of SMBs have experienced data loss and, on average, it cost $9,000 to recover the data. You can minimize this cost by having a good DR plan in place before disaster strikes.

"Most SMBs aren't storing petabytes of data, and they need only a reasonable amount of reliability," says Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software. "The [high] cost really comes in around how quickly your data can be recovered. For most situations, you can setup DR that will recover within a couple of hours for less than $1,000."

No matter how you do the math, $1,000 in disaster preparation is a lot cheaper than $9,000 to recover after an event.

2. Increased Collaboration and Flexibility

For many businesses, moving to the cloud increases opportunities for collaboration between employees. Colleagues can sync and work on documents or shared apps with ease, often simultaneously, receiving updates in real time.

Additionally, cloud computing allows each team member to work from anywhere. The cloud centralizes your data, which means that you, your employees, and even your clients can access your company data from any location with Internet access.

3. Environmentally Friendly

Cloud computing decreases a business' carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by more than 30 percent. For small companies, the decreased energy usage can reach 90 percent—a huge money saver. It can also help a business project an environmentally sound image.

But, some negative factors might be...

1. Internet Connectivity

Running all or some of your business applications in the cloud is great, as long as you can maintain a consistent Internet connection. If any one of your cloud-based service providers loses connectivity, or if your ISP experiences an outage, you're out of business until that Internet connection returns. Even the best servers go down occasionally, so if you decide to use this method, it's important to implement a backup plan.

2. Ongoing Costs

While cloud computing is relatively inexpensive to start up, depending on your needs, an in-house solution may cost less in the long run. Buying an in-house server and installing a network system is definitely a large, up-front capital investment, and you also need to consider ongoing IT maintenance costs.

With cloud computing, you pay the same amount each month to maintain not only your server, but also all your data. The choice you make may depend on whether you have a lot of startup capital to invest in a private network. Be sure to compare all the costs for supporting both an in-house server and cloud-based server to see which option works best for your situation.

3. Security

It boils down to whom do you trust with your business data? Not every business should place its data in The Cloud. Companies with highly sensitive data—or that must meet stringent compliance regulations—may well need their own IT department to keep data secure. When you store data in the cloud, you're trusting a third party to keep it safe.

Does your small business have an IT department that's security savvy enough—with enough resources—to lock down your data? If so, you're set. If not, The Cloud may well offer you more security than you could provide on your own.

One former Scotland Yard detective believes that you are ultimately the only entity that can fully control your data. Additionally, because the purported safety of cloud computing isn't standardized, you may have a difficult time determining how well third-parties protect your data.

These are the most popular "pros and cons" that are usually part of any "Cloud" discussion.  If you are indeed, thinking about moving your company to "The Cloud", our advice would be, as in all decision making...DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Every business, every situation is different.  What "Cloud Computing" may offer as a solution for one may be unnecessary for another.  One thing to take into careful consideration as part of the decision making process is the I.T. Company you choose to provide "Cloud" services to you.  An impeccable reputation is a must - after all, you are trusting your company's most sensitive information to them.  Ask your potential I.T. provider to offer a referral list of other companies who currently have them in their employ. Check their reputation on line.  There are various sources that can be found on the Internet that provide reviews.  Accept nothing but the best...

...which, of course, can be found here at Alcala Consulting.  We welcome a phone call or a live online chat with you to discuss "The Cloud" or any other I.T. query you may have. And remember, free consultations are available as well.