Pros and cons of cloud for your business

Despite the hype around cloud computing, there are some downsides that need to be considered.  Most smaller businesses will use either Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based solutions. 

This checklist focuses on the pros and cons of SaaS and should be read in conjunction with two other resources – the  ThinkBusiness.ie explanatory guide to the cloud for more information and the ThinkBusiness.ie guide to choosing a cloud package.

Pros

Start-up costs to a business are lower.

When implementing a software as a service (SaaS) application, customers often get a free trial period to assess the software and see if it fits their business. Companies can also ramp up the number of seats or paid-for users who have access to the application.

Traditional on-premises implementations require a large capital expenditure upfront to buy the application. The business may then need to install the software and maybe buy extra hardware to support the implementation.

No maintenance and support fees.

With traditional software applications, there’s a perpetual licence model. Companies enter a contract with the software supplier to keep the software up to date, and free from bugs and security problems.

These contracts are expensive, ranging from between 10-25% of the original purchase price. With SaaS, maintenance and support are included in the access fee.

Upgrades are no longer costly, prolonged procedures.

Upgrading traditional, on-premises software may need months of testing, and involve large budgets and teams of consultants to ensure everything goes smoothly.

With SaaS, upgrades are performed behind the scenes.  All customers get the new updated version of the software at the same time without the frustrating upgrade process and at no extra expense as this is included in the access fee.

Cons

Poor internet connectivity can disrupt business.

As many cloud services are delivered via the internet to your premises, these may not be an option if you are located in an area that does not have high-speed, robust connectivity to the internet.  A slow or frequently failing internet connection may cause serious business interruption or delays if you are running your software remotely.  Always ensure that you have a ‘failover’ or backup connection to the internet if your primary connection fails.

There may be legal, customer or industry rules about where your data can be stored.

You need to make sure you comply with these rules and implement an SaaS model that meets these requirements.

Understand that security threats are a concern.

When an application is in the cloud, it is exposed to every kind of security threat from the internet in a way that software running on an in-house server is not. You need to give consideration to:

  • How you will handle a security incident where you may not have access to all the relevant information from the service provider.
  • Encrypting data moving to and from the service and while it is at rest. How will this affect speed and performance?
  • Identity and access management. How does the service allow you to control access to a cloud service that may be accessed from an in-house PC or a smartphone over a mobile network? Cloud services often require more than one form of access control to ensure that access is secure.

On balance, though, most businesses, as well as IT consultants and independent experts, believe that the pros of SaaS cloud services far outweigh the cons.