I am one of those business guys who is embracing Cloud Computing. I like it and see a lot of benefits to how it can make a small business more productive away from a physical office. I like how I can run out to meet a client, take my laptop, fire up my browser and have an identical appearance as my large desktop computer in seconds. I like how saving and sharing files is made easy, and I spend less time waiting for things to load and save. Although the Cloud is still in its infantile state, is is here to stay. I believe every business should begin taking babysteps to embrace the Cloud and yet still be cautious at the same time. Let me tell you how I use the Cloud for my business and how I remain cautious.
What I use for my business:
- Macbook Air, iPhone, iPad & iMac
- Tablet PC (when I need a PC)
- Google Chrome and Firefox Browsers with their auto sync functions (Cloud)
- Google Apps for Business (email, contacts, calendar & docs) (Cloud)
- A copy of Microsoft Word and Excel on my harddrive although documents are saved online)
- Photoshop (again, copies saved online & backed up)
- Dropbox for files sharing and online storage. (Cloud)
- Freshbooks (Cloud)
- Google Voice
- Highrise and Basecamp for CRM & Project Management from 37 signals (Cloud)
- External Harddrive*
The last item I mentioned is the key: *an external harddrive. It is pretty safe to say that Cloud storage and usage is safe, especially if it is a well known and trusted company like Dropbox. However, Cloud Computing still requires a physical location somewhere. This means that although our data is being backup “in the clouds” it is being backed up somewhere offsite, to a large server somewhere in the world. The reason this is a good thing is that your physical computers are not being data hogs and will generally run and operate at a higher performance. Also computers that run off a physical server tend to be a little slower. But, to be extra cautious with your data, financial documents, passwords and even pictures, I would recommend still backing up these items to an external harddrive. These harddrives are dirt cheap now. You can buy a 350 GB harddrive for probably $60-70. Do a backup everyday, week or month and you can then rest assured that if there ever was a problem with the Cloud, God forbid, you’d have a backup copy. Also, if you use an online CRM program, I’d recommend doing an export of your data every so often. This is good not only if something ever happens but even if there is a human error. For example, if someone in your office accidentally deletes a contact or a group of contacts, you can then import them back in if you are regularly doing your own backups.
So the bottom line, be a little cautious with Cloud Computing in these early stages and backup your data regularly. How has your business embraced Cloud Computing and what steps have you taken to protect your data?