For a small-business owner, there's perhaps nothing worse than the shock of losing all the data on your computer. It happened to me years ago, even though I thought I had been following proper backup procedures.
If you've ever had a similar experience, you might have some healthy fears about relying on online systems, especially for your business. But having a better understanding of today's cloud technology — and its ability to keep your stored information safe — could put your mind at ease.
Not sure exactly what "the cloud" is? You're not alone. But chances are, you're already using it — e.g. if you use an online payroll services company.
In simple terms, using the cloud means your data is stored offsite, at a series of servers (and backup servers) in different locations. It's not stored on your laptop, phone or tablet (or on an expensive onsite server).
There are many advantages to this arrangement, including:
- The cloud is like a safe deposit box for your data. With the cloud, you can access your data using whichever device you choose, at any time from anyplace that has an internet connection. But losing a device (or having it stolen) doesn't mean losing your data. It's still at a secure location, similar to keeping your valuables in a safe-deposit box.
- It makes your business mobile. If you or your employees travel frequently, you no longer have to lug your laptops everywhere to access important files. With cloud storage, you can retrieve your data anytime using just your smartphone. Even if you don't travel frequently, cloud storage makes it easy to access your data if you want to work from home. And it can save your business if you're hit by a hurricane or other natural disaster, or even if you were forced to relocate because of something as simple as a burst pipe.
- It makes your business more transparent. More and more companies are finding that software applications synced through the cloud give them real-time insights into how they're performing — insights they'd never had before. As the owner of a technology services firm recently put it, "I can see everything all in one interface."
Of course, no system is entirely foolproof, so we encourage all businesses to practice common-sense data security tips. And with a little knowledge, your insecurity regarding the cloud can give way to unprecedented security for your business.