Many manufacturers and distributors have already jumped aboard the cloud computing bandwagon — but is it right for your business? Some haven’t yet moved to the cloud, possibly because their staff resources and IT expertise are limited. Others have transitioned to the cloud, but they’re dissatisfied with the cost, service offerings and security features of their current provider.
Evaluating the benefits
Cloud computing uses a network of remote third-party servers made available online. Rather than relying on your own computers or server, you remotely share software and storage to process, manage and share information. Potential benefits include:
Lower costs. Cloud customers typically pay a monthly subscription fee or are billed based on actual usage. Reputable cloud service providers update their offerings and provide security patches on an ongoing basis.
Scalability. You can scale up (or down) as your storage or data capacity needs change. For instance, you might use more cloud storage during seasonal peaks.
Convenience. Cloud services aren’t limited to a physical location. Rather, the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, anytime, on any device. This helps employees collaborate on projects and access reports and ledgers in real time.
The cloud also allows manufacturers to share data with supply chain partners to facilitate just-in-time production and streamline workflow — as well as providing access to financial data for auditors, tax advisors and lenders. If you invite outside users to view data, the cloud allows you to control the level of access.
Vetting cloud service providers
Uncertainty about data security has caused some manufacturers to put off moving to the cloud. So, when shopping for a cloud service, ask about basic security features, such as firewalls, authorization restrictions and data encryption. You’ll also want to know:
- How frequently the cloud is updated,
- Whether data is backed up in multiple locations around the country,
- Whether the service has experienced any previous data breaches,
- How quickly the provider has responded to past security threats, and
- Whether you can retrieve all of your data in a nonproprietary format should the service go out of business.
Reputable cloud services offer continuous data backup and disaster recovery capabilities, so you don’t have to worry about losing important records due to a physical server failure or a lost or broken hard drive. But, beware, you might ultimately be responsible for any data breach, even if the information was stored by a third-party cloud service provider. So, consider negotiating restitution clauses into your contracts for cloud applications.
Ask for referrals
Contact us if you have questions or need recommendations. Once you’ve selected a cloud provider, periodically review your decision and consider alternatives.
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