In general, most of us have a pretty good idea of what is best for us in all aspects of our lives. We tend to know what is good for us to eat, although we may deviate from that now and then (or in my case most weekends) but then everything in moderation is good for us isn’t it? We also know that we should get some exercise. We know what works for us in terms of companies we trust to work with for our personal finances, our favourite shops and restaurants. In terms of entertainment, things are changing but we still make our own choices on this. More and more of us are moving towards streaming services for film, TV and music and we have made our own choices in terms of what works best for us for that as well and have made choices on what services to subscribe to that provide what we want.
Basically, we have a good idea of what works for us in all areas of our lives. How does that transfer to your working life?
In terms of your business life – what’s best for your organisation when it comes to accessing and managing your critical business information? Do you embrace advances in technology and move to cloud solutions or is it best for you to stick with the traditional on premise solutions? There are various reasons and arguments for each option and which solution you choose will ultimately be what is best for you. However, like all good debates there are arguments for and against both options. So which option is best for you – cloud or on premise?
With a cloud solution you reduce overhead costs of IT maintenance and support as your infrastructure is hosted externally to your premises. You are also able to easily take advantage of any system upgrades. Technology moves at such a fast pace that it is almost impossible to keep up so one major advantage of the cloud is the knowledge that someone else is taking care of the upgrades and maintenance and that these are likely to be included in your subscription costs.
For me, one of the most important advantages of cloud solutions is that your employees are able to access systems from anywhere, at any time and on any device. Giving your staff the tools to work from anywhere, making it less prohibitive to have staff working remotely is becoming an expected way of working and I firmly believe that this is a more efficient way of working. I don’t mean here that you should get rid of the office and have everyone work remotely. The two advantages I see are flexibility for your staff and the ability to keep your business operations functioning while staff are out on the road. Offering flexibility to staff is now an important factor in attracting and retaining employees so that is a huge advantage for companies. The ability to keep your operations on track if you have staff who travel regularly on business is a major advantage for the continuity of your operations. For example, if you have sales teams travelling and taking orders – what would it mean for your business if they were able to enter those orders at the point of sale and not have to come back to the office to process these? The resultant time saved means a smoother, more streamlined approach to sales and ultimately means you get the cash for the sale into your business quicker. Who wouldn’t want that?
Another advantage is scalability, as cloud solutions can easily grow with your business.
For every argument in favour of the cloud for your business, there will be an argument against. The biggest argument anyone will put forward against moving your business information onto the cloud is potential security risks and how large you perceive that risk to be. Many people are still wary of security issues and don’t like the loss of control if something goes wrong. However, with such large scale business operations now cloud based, security is at its highest and any upgrades in security will occur much quicker than if you were handling that yourself.
With an on premise solution, you get the traditional, comfortable and secure feeling of being in control of all aspects of your business information. I think control is a good word to sum up the biggest benefit of an on premise solution. For many that will still be the best solution and if that is the case, there is nothing wrong with that. Some organisations will be working with clients who insist that their data is stored locally and owned by the company they are working with. Therefore, one strong argument for an on premise solution is customer driven – what do your customers want from you in terms of handling their data and since keeping your customers satisfied is your number 1 priority, you will ultimately choose a solution that ensures you meet their requirements and standards.
Another argument offered in favour of on premise is overall cost of ownership. Cloud solutions have a recurring monthly cost which in the longer term, you may feel would be better invested up front in an on premise solution that could potentially pay for itself over time. Also, you may have already invested in IT infrastructure meets your requirements in terms of functionality and security, so why would you then pay a monthly cost for something additional that you don’t believe you really need?
For me, the biggest argument against on premise is accessibility when not in the office. People are becoming more and more expectant of being able to work remotely and access any of their business information from any device, from anywhere at any time, ensuring continuity of work when not in the office. An on premise solution can’t offer that flexibility.
The advantage of on premise can be summed up with the word control, the disadvantage can be summed up with the phrase lack of flexibility. The reverse can be used to describe cloud, the advantage is flexibility and the disadvantage is lack of control.
To conclude, there are strong arguments for and against both options. Ultimately, you will weigh these up and choose the best solution for your business. This will take into account a number of requirements, the needs of your staff and your customers.