It is easier to grasp the issues of hard copy document storage. We can all grasp what a document is or a box of documents. It gets more difficult when dealing with electronic documents. The last post we talked about electronic document management systems. These can be housed internally or they can be kept on external servers.
If you are not familiar with cloud computing it is simply hosting your data or applications on external servers. This can come in a multitude of service levels and costs. What you choose is often based on the size of the application. The main benefit is no longer having to manage hardware internally. It can be done by a third party who specializes in server management. The trade off is a monthly fee instead of purchasing hardware internally.
For small businesses the cloud has a lot of advantages. It is expensive to create a room that is power and internet redundant. When dealing with just one or two servers that is cost prohibitive. Additionally there is the concern of support. A full time IT person to manage hardware and software is beyond smaller organizations. That is where outsourcing comes in.
There a varying degrees of support based on your needs. Some people consider online backup to be cloud computing and we won’t disagree. The data is stored on redundant servers in multiple places. Another way to go is to have a dedicated or virtual server. A dedicated server is one that only your data is stored while virtual simply means you have a partition on a server with other companies sharing the same hardware. Normally dedicated servers are for more sensitive needs or if you have special software requirements for the operating systems. In these the hardware and operating system are managed by the collocation facility.
There are also options of having even more managed by the cloud. Many applications can now be managed by an outsource team. These fall into a range of managed hosting solutions. The benefit is there is no longer a need to worry about availability of application. The cloud provider handles upgrades and security. As long as you have access to the internet then your application is ready.
Cloud solutions have a range of options and service levels. As with any business decision it is important to do a bit of homework. One thing that consider is the security of your application. This is even more important when dealing with credit information or personal health information. These have strict requirements covering privacy. So before you buy that new hardware consider your options.