It’s no secret that having an effective back-up and recovery scheme in place is critical for all businesses – accidental data loss can be devastating financially, reputationally and operationally. But with so many different measures out there designed to protect your SME’s most vital files, the choice can be overwhelming.
As technology continues to evolve at a hair-raising speed, data back-ups have gone from being stored in clunky plug-in devices to existing in an invisible ‘cloud’. It’s anyone’s guess what form they will take next!
For the time being, the cloud not only offers SMEs instant access to a range of technological capabilities previously only available to larger companies, but – without the need for investment in costly hardware – it can also save them money.
So, why are so many small businesses still slow to invest in such technology?
Demystifying the cloud
A cloud, in computing terms, refers to the delivery of internet-based, hosted services. By bundling together maintenance and support services, application development and infrastructure – and allowing companies to only pay for the services that they use – the cloud can really minimise the cost of these capabilities. Among other things, it can liberate your business from the need to build and maintain all computing infrastructures in-house as well.
As somewhere safe to file everything, the cloud’s back-up capacity can help to avert potential disasters caused by factors including limited internal IT systems, failing hardware or threats such as ransomware. Plus, the technology can also assist businesses in becoming more agile in their response to customers, the maintenance and analysis of data, and the project management of new products and services.
But admittedly, choosing the right solution can be bewildering.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been instances of companies moving data back in-house after realising that their chosen cloud couldn’t cater for their every need. And with so many different factors to consider, it can be difficult to pin down the provider that is right for your business.
So, how do you choose a cloud and what features and service levels should you be looking for?
Weighing up your options
Thinking about what you’ll want to do with your documents before taking the leap into the cloud is an essential first step. The chances are it’s not just about storage – your planned activity is likely to involve analysis, audit trailing, forecasting and potentially much more. Information will therefore need to be transportable as well as access-controlled, and your chosen cloud service should be able to facilitate this.
When it comes to providers there are, of course, the big names – Amazon, Microsoft, Google. But smaller companies often have more specific expertise in niche areas of working, awareness of industry-specific laws and – importantly for SMEs – can better appreciate your limited budget. If you do choose a smaller provider, however, it’s important to ensure they have the capability to meet your business needs.
Factoring in flexibility
The key when cloud shopping is – as always – to ask lots of questions to make sure you’re getting what you require. Reputable companies don’t usually ask for money upfront and often offer flexible pricing plans. As with any new supplier, you should never sign a contract with a cloud provider until you’ve defined your specific business needs and both sides have a clear understanding of the agreement.
If you have an in-house back-up server, a hybrid plan can be a great solution – whether to enable a gradual transition to the cloud or simply to provide secondary storage while primary operations and data remain on-premise.
However, many firms are starting afresh with the cloud as a blank slate. Rather than adding to or modifying an existing infrastructure, they are turning their attention to an all-new, fully-virtualised and hyper-converged solution. This approach allows the latest technological perks to shine, enabling management to move beyond older methods of intensive data-processing, and instead take a lighter-touch steering of the portals, processes and workflows.
Prioritising your SME’s security
Data protection should be a key consideration when it comes to picking a provider. What do they have to say about anti-virus defences, data encryption or security auditing? Do they do background checks on their employees to guard against identity theft and cyber-crime? It may sound like paranoia, but these measures and precautions are only increasing in importance.
Understanding your privacy obligations when it comes to protecting back-ups is similarly crucial . Every business needs to defend its confidential information from the exploits of hackers. Plus, when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) kicks in on 25 May 2018, you must also be able to prove that your company has taken appropriate efforts to do so.
To discover more about data back-up or our managed cloud services, just get in touch!