Whether inside or outside the technology sector, entrepreneurs find themselves constantly wrestling with tech decisions that affect their business. Many owners find it a challenge to take advantage of technological innovations while also managing expectations surrounding the hype. Cloud computing is one such area that holds a lot of promise for entrepreneurs -- so long as they understand how to maximize their investment.
While an article like Entrepreneur.com's "10 Questions for Choosing a Cloud Provider" gives a good introductory primer, most discussions of cloud computing involve several harmful myths, notably that the cloud is inherently redundant, scalable, vulnerable or cheap. If entrepreneurs buy into any of the following misconceptions, they may be rushing to the cloud before they're ready:
Myth 1: The cloud is inherently redundant. Indeed, redundancy -- or the ability to have the company's data available and backed up in an outage -- is not automatically included when a firm purchases cloud services.
Amazon Web Services' outage earlier this year that took down popular apps like Instagram and Vine drew a massive amount of criticism. Nontechnologists must realize that outages are inevitable in any computing environment and that even massive cloud-service providers like Amazon are not immune. All data centers experience cooling issues and equipment failures, so it’s important for every company to take the precautions necessary to avoid data loss.
The cloud is not a fail-safe solution out of the box. Any company using a cloud-service provider is responsible for designing and building a computer infrastructure that can be easily and quickly duplicated. That way when one facility of its cloud-service provider fails, say, because of a power outage in Washington state, the company's data is still accessible via the cloud service provider's alternate facility in Texas.
Related: The Downsides to Cloud Storage
Myth 2: The cloud scales automatically. The ability to scale up operations is a key selling point when it comes to entrepreneurs' interest in cloud computing. All business owners want to know that their IT infrastructure can be added to, thereby meeting demand when everyone starts buying their products.
While it may be easy to scale up the pure computing power, the applications a company uses (for example, a relationship management system) are not easily scalable.
Entrepreneurs need to make sure that a given application was developed to allow scalability in the cloud. Specifically (and technically speaking), applications should be modular, which means that functionality is broken into independent commands. Separating functions will allow the company to configure, manage and maintain additional servers for whichever application needs it.
Myth 3: The cloud is not secure. This is repeated a lot: A company can’t have critical information on the public internet, sitting on shared hardware where Amazon or some other company or even the National Security Agency can access it. A 2013 CDW Report on Cloud Computing suggested that 46 percent of IT leaders ranked concern about security as the top impediment to adopting a cloud environment.
But most cloud providers’ certifications, especially Amazon’s, make clear that they have more security protocols than any company would have using a private, non-cloud data center.
In addition, adding security layers is the responsibility of the user and business owner. As one can see from many cyber attacks -- and even the Edward Snowden leaks -- employees represent the main point of vulnerability. Keeping strong password and access controls and designing applications with security in mind will help mitigate these risks
Myth 4: The cloud is cheap. At the outset, the cloud seemed like an incredibly inexpensive and easy alternative to independent data centers. Companies can bring on separate servers and begin replicating their data for only $200 a month. Amazon, for example, offers an incredibly sophisticated and massive infrastructure at a low price because it spreads the fixed costs among all its business customers.
Yet because Amazon makes it so easy to add on more capacity and more services, the costs can quickly pile up. Business owners can get carried away by spending if they’re not careful, and suddenly the $200-a-month charge might become something completely unaffordable.
Company owners can manage their costs by knowing exactly which services are in use, what they access them for and the price. Corporate managers will find that while not necessarily “cheap,” cloud services can be an inexpensive alternative to independent data centers and self-hosted environments.
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