Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage & Cloud Computing

Peter Niebler
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It can be risky to put your stuff in the hands of someone else. I’m still hoping to get my copy of Journey’s Greatest Hits back from my college roommate. But when it comes to valuable business data, trusting it to a third party can be a really scary proposition.

That’s why, despite some obvious benefits, many companies are reluctant to put their business data in the cloud. One of the biggest concerns is losing access to data because of ransomware or another type of cyber attack. You’ve probably heard the terms cloud storage and cloud computing used interchangeably, but there are distinctions between the two, which we’ll cover here.

Cloud storage is a popular option for backup and business continuity solutions, but it’s important to balance the convenience of online storage with the risks of outsourcing your mission-critical tasks. Before we dive into the pros and cons of cloud storage and cloud computing, it might help to set the record straight with some cloud computing facts as it relates to cyber crime.

Cloud Computing Statistics

85% of breaches involve a human element. Only 3% involve vulnerability exploitation.

Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report

According to IBM’s 2021 “Cost of a Data Breach” report, breaches cost U.S. companies an average of $4.24 million, up from $3.86 million in 2020 — the highest average total cost in the 17-year history of the report.

What’s more, organizations that were further along in their cloud adoption strategy were able to contain the breach 77 days faster on average than those in the early stage of their cloud journey.

According to the latest IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, more than 9 out of 10 (92%) of organizational IT environments operate in the cloud to some degree, with only 8% having their entire IT environment on-premise. And about one-third (32%) of U.S. companies’ total IT budgets will be allocated to cloud computing this year.

Depending on the size of organization and overall needs, the costs of cloud storage space can vary widely.

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The Difference Between Cloud Storage and Cloud Computing

As its name suggests, cloud storage is a system that allows you to store large amounts of data and digital files. This includes almost limitless types of data, documents, media files and much more.

Cloud storage is located at a highly secure remote server and accessible online from multiple devices and most anywhere an internet connection is available. Some examples of popular cloud storage services include Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, DropBox and iCloud.

Cloud computing is an extension of cloud storage and allows you to work on projects, collaborate with others and complete your work online in real time. Various cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, like Microsoft Office 365, provide licensing, email, hosted communications and cloud storage that allows you and others on your team to actually manipulate the data that’s being stored online.

A Downside of Cloud Storage and Cloud Computing

A downside to the cloud is that data storage is out of your physical control. Cloud providers can disappear or change hands, putting your data in the hands of a third party you don’t know or trust. And, unlike an in-house IT person, monitoring your data and restoring it in the event something does go wrong likely won’t be their top priority.

This stresses the importance of using a reputable service and provider. Interestingly, 55% of organizations report using multiple public cloud services, with about one in five (21%) saying they use three or more, according to the IDG survey. Managing multiple cloud resources and controlling costs associated with each can be a challenge.

An Upside of Cloud Storage and Cloud Computing

The upside of the cloud is that, unlike hosting data in-house, cloud computing providers like Microsoft Azure can invest billions of dollars each year in research and development, delivering more robust features, services and security than a single organization can provide for itself. Microsoft invests billions each year for its cloud-based services, and plans to quadruple its cybersecurity spending to $20 billion over the next five years. In theory, cloud service providers have resources that no in-house IT staff could ever hope to match.

So, should you house your business data on physical in-house servers vs. cloud storage and cloud computing? To help you make the best decision for your unique IT needs, let’s outline the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage

No need for capital expenses or to purchase hardware.
Service and user experience is limited by the speed of the internet connection.
Grows to fit your business needs. 
Some third-party cloud services could access your data.
Pay for the options you want. 
If your internet service goes down (or if the cloud provider’s does), you won’t have access to any of your information.
Mobile and remote workers can connect from anywhere, using any computer, tablet or smartphone. 
Even giant cloud services like AWS and Microsoft have suffered service outages and have been the victim of Denial-of-Service attacks.
Companies can implement BYOD (bring your own device) policies.   
Data can be backed up in the cloud, minimizing data losses in disaster situations.  


The Pros and Cons of In-house Servers

Gives you physical control over your server.
Requires a capital investment in hardware and infrastructure.
Keeps critical data in-house; no third party has access to your information.
Requires a server room or closet in your office for rack space, as well as dedicated IT support.
No need to rely on an internet connection for access to data.
Requires off-site or even cloud backup services to ensure you can recover data in the event of a fire or other disaster. Without a properly working backup system, data loss could be permanent.
Can be more cost-effective for companies that are not as concerned about uptime.
If downtime occurs, recovery of data or systems could be lengthy while waiting for replacement equipment or diagnosis and repairs. Many cloud providers offer uptime guarantees.


Additional Considerations: Cloud vs. On-Premise IT

There are more data center vs cloud pros and cons to think about when making a decision; most notably, security. Today’s threat environment is more complex than ever, meaning your in-house IT staff needs to deploy and maintain a host of safeguards, including:

  • Firewall
  • Intrusion prevention system
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) for remote access
  • Anti-virus/anti-malware software
  • Separate appliances for email security
  • Robust disaster recovery plan
  • And more

In addition, many corporate clients insist that partners meet data security or regulatory standards, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), before sharing sensitive data.

Many in-house IT networks are managed from a supply closet or backroom, giving open data center access to anyone who may enter the office. Organizations that rely on local storage solutions and on-premise software often must fall back on unsecured or even archaic mechanisms to move and share data, including mailing data on external drives or disks.

However, a local software installation offers benefits as well. When using third-party file-sharing services, the data is typically taken outside of the company’s IT environment, and that means that the data’s privacy settings are beyond your control. Different cloud service providers offer various options for data storage and handling. Finding a cloud storage service that provides automatic data encryption means that anything you share or store with that provider will be safe.

Additional risks include malicious hacks of cloud providers or compromises of user accounts. The best way to avoid potential risks is to ensure your provider encrypts your files during storage, as well as transit, within a range of 128 to 256 bits. Securing your login credentials might require an investment in a secure password management service. Also, make sure you read the provider’s terms and conditions and scrutinize its data protection policies before using its services.

How to Implement Cloud Solutions

Without guidance from an experienced professional, switching to the cloud can be challenging, time consuming and costly. There will be inevitable customizations that need to be made to the Cloud storage system to fit your business needs, and navigating those tasks on your own can be burdensome. Overall, the greatest challenge is planning out the right balance of Cloud services vs. on-premise technology to meet your business needs.

Another migration challenge is educating employees on how to use the new technology. Enlisting expert consultants to assess your needs, develop a migration plan and train employees helps the transition go more smoothly.

Whichever solution you choose — in-house hosting vs. cloud-based hosting — the IT experts at Elevity can help you determine the right setup to meet your specific business needs. Contact Elevity for a no-cost assessment and to learn more about how our Managed IT services can help secure your local or cloud-based IT infrastructure.

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