To Cloud or not to cloud? Here are some disadvantages…

The title of this article may have taken you by surprise. Afterall most business articles will play up the good of a product, service or idea. You will have read articles that give you top 5 reasons for, for example, but I also think understanding the disadvantages will help you make a more informed decision when choosing a product or service…

I will concur that for many small businesses, cloud computing is arguably the best thing since slice bread (can I use that analogy for business?). For one it levels the playing field. Small businesses can compete with bigger business as they can now use tools that previously were the preserve of the big and mighty. A good example of this is remote working which is de rigueur due to Covid-19. We have helped many of our customers work effectively at home at little to no cost. When I first started in this industry 15yrs ago, it would have cost an arm and a leg to make this possible. Virtual meetings, financial applications, ERP solutions, can all be accessed online.

But all that glitters is not gold. There are a few disadvantages of the cloud — I have listed a few for you below. Let me know your thoughts.

1. Not all apps love the cloud

Performance-intensive applications such as video editing are not suited to the cloud, nor are other types of software that require high-performance desktop computers (such as those used for graphic design or architectural software like Archicad).

2. Downtime? Yup!

To take advantage of the Cloud fully you must have good internet connectivity. If your internet is down, then there is no connecting to your cloud apps. If your business is in an area of bad internet connectivity or your internet service suffers from frequent outages or slow speeds, cloud computing may not be the way to go.

Even the most reliable cloud provider may suffer server outages now and again. Apple for example had a seven-hour outage in 2015 that affected email and various other cloud services such as iCloud Drive, Documents, etc. Can your business function without it’s cloud apps for that long?

3. How secure is the Cloud?

Big question this one. When choosing a cloud service provider, you must make sure you do your due diligence to ensure that any data you entrust with them is safe. Good cloud providers will go to great lengths to ensure their applications are as secure as possible but that does not stop them from falling prey to hacks. This year alone, over 1.5million records were stolen from Boots, Virgin and Tesco

4. Will one size fit all?

Many vendors will offer on-premise (i.e. installed and run inhouse) as well as cloud versions of their applications. Whilst the cloud version may seem a lot cheaper, at times the cloud version will not have all the features that the on-premise version may have. Take Quickbooks for example (we are massive fans, so this is not a critique) — the desktop version has some features that the cloud version does not. At the time of writing, the cloud version will not let you set tailored reminders for invoices and you can also not apply credit limits. Annoying yes, but the upfront cost outlay for a desktop version does not justify the switch to on-prem.

One advantage for moving to the cloud is that you always get the latest version of the software but be honest, do you really need the latest and greatest version of that application? For many small businesses, the most recent version will do thank you very much! Remember most do not go end of life for a few good years. You can use the desktop version of Microsoft Office for instance, for several years. You pay a one-time fee and own the software forever versus having to pay a perpetual annual fee if you choose to use the cloud-based version (Office 365).

5. The cloud may prove costly.

Many cloud providers will charge you for downloading large amounts of data. You may get a fixed allowance but anything above that will be charged extra. This may not be too much of a cost for small teams, but larger teams who may need to transfer data regularly may face a big monthly bill. For example, we subscribe to a well-known receipt logging application. We have steadily paid between £30 and £40 per month to subscribe to the service. Last month we paid nearly £400 because following an audit we discovered there were quite a few invoices we had not logged so used the app to expediate the process. Yes, it reduced our work by half, but we were not expecting the £400 bill.

6. Changing to other systems

The cloud application you are using now may not be fit for purpose a few years down the line so be mindful that when choosing an application, you choose one that can easily be migrated to other apps. Our migration from Sage to Quickbooks was (almost) seamless so when choosing an application investigate how easy it will be to transfer to other similar apps. Here’s a tip: you may have selected to use APP A because of costs but ideally you would have preferred APP B. Check that it would be an easy transfer from APP A to B before committing to using APP A (get my drift?) — you don’t want to find yourself a “disgruntled forever customer” because you cannot transfer to a more suitable cloud app at a later date.

7. Support

In the early days of cloud computing, poor customer service was the norm — thank the god of GatesBezosJobsPageandBrin (see what I did there?) that things have improved massively.

But good support still comes at a price mind. Google’s support package for its cloud platform currently costs $100/month and has a four-hour response time (during business hours only) plus it does not include phone support (what?!). Other cloud vendors such as Microsoft have similar support plan options. If your business needs are such that you need a rapid response to customer support issues, make sure that your cloud services provider has plenty of options available for technical support, including email, phone, live chat, knowledge bases, and user forums. Be prepared to pay for higher levels of support, particularly on evenings or weekends.

So, there you have it. I hope our critique helps you make a more informed decision when looking at adopting cloud technologies. Our advice? Start slowly. We are huge advocates of the cloud, 80% of our core infrastructure is cloud based, but it has taken us 10 years to get this point. 10 years of trial, failure and finally success.

Want more advice? If you would like advice on IT for your small business or start-up, get in touch.

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