Cloud Hosted Computer Services have become a really popular topic of conversation over the last few years and many individual and business users alike have rushed to make use of them in the same way they rush to get the latest smartphone or flat screen television. Is this the right thing to do however?

Firstly lets examine the advantages of Cloud Computing Systems over traditional in house IT systems:

1. Low cost – There is almost zero capital cost (you need a Laptop/Tablet/PC and an Internet connection) in gaining access to industry leading software and systems, they are supplied via a monthly or annual rental and when new versions of applications are released, users tend to get these upgrades free of any additional charges.

2. Instant Setup – When you sign up for a hosted service you can pretty much start using it straight away. Because you are joining a platform that is already created and in use by others set up time is very minimal if at all. There is no waiting for software to be installed and configured and the essentials needed to customise the service for use by your business will be carried out by the vendors quickly if not immediately.

3. Easy Scalability – If your requirements from the cloud or hosted service grows it is usually a very simple process to upgrade to meet your requirements, for example: if you require more users with access to the Hosted Service you simply contact the provider or in some cases provision this yourself via the website. You don’t need to worry about upgrading hardware to cope with the growth as this is handled by the providers of the cloud service.

After reading the above points it would appear that cloud based IT services are the answer we have all been waiting for as small and medium sized business owners but this may not be true…..There are a few drawbacks with cloud/hosted IT services that should make us think twice:

1. Data Security Risks – Information, data and email that you send is not in your building, it is on internet based servers. This means that staff at the 3rd party hosting company could access your information. Also because the servers and services are accessed via the internet they are therefore a target for internet based attackers or hackers. While all companies offering Cloud based services do their best to protect their services for attack none can ever be 100% secure.

2. No Internet = No access – This is a simple point but one often overlooked. If your data/information is stored on a cloud based server then when you have either or slow internet connection or no internet connection at all then you simply wont be able to access it. Some people argue that we live in a world where the internet is always available but the fact is it isn’t. When on a plane, train or when travelling in a car getting a stable internet connection can be difficult if not impossible and given that most business people like to prepare for meetings on the journey to them this can present an obvious and serious problem.

3. Critcal Mass/Cost – As we have already mentioned that one major attraction of Cloud/Hosted Services is low start up costs and no one will argue with that. However a successful one man band will soon require more that a basic Hosted Exchange Email Account, he or she will want to store data and documents securely and may decide to opt for a Hosted Virtual Desktop/PC and this adds to the cost. If things continue to go well they will no doubt add bring staff on board and each will require access to the same suite of Cloud Services and perhaps some collaboration tools. As the data volume and number of users grows so does the cost of renting the Cloud Solutions and pretty soon it gets to the point where it would be cheaper to own the IT infrastructure than rent it. In a simple assumptive yet conservative example we have calculated that over a five year period a 5 employee/user company could pay a staggering 40% more to rent a suite of Hosted Services to run their business on than it would cost to lease/purchase their own server and software.

101 IT offer impartial computer advice to businesses throughout the UK, feel free to contact us if you need help in your business.