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I want to embrace the cloud, but I’m worried about security. What should I do?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011 | By Fred Schebesta
I’ve got loads of files stuffed in a cabinet. I’ve been told I really need to get my records and documents in the cloud, but I’m worried about security. Should I be putting all of my business’ confidential information online?

 

Putting your business in the cloud is great when you want to move around and not be physically stuck in one spot.

 

The software and systems you use for a cloud based business are a little more agile and don’t have all the rich features of the full desktop versions.

 

Benefits:

 

  • Geographical liberation: You can access your email, systems and documents anywhere you want. Why not be in a cafe in Vietnam?
  • Collaboration: Version control be gone! Hate sending files back and forth to each other on email? Just work on the same document at the same time with documents in the cloud. This is probably the biggest benefit of working in the cloud for me. Everyone can see and edit the same files and everyone can work together.
  • Backup: Your documents are now sitting on someone else’s infrastructure so you don’t have to worry as much about backup and all that disaster recovery stuff. That is taken care of because the other company is providing the service to do that.
  • Less costs: You don’t have to go ahead and buy all the expensive software as there is a lot of free software available online. You also don’t need to buy and maintain all the hardware to support the software. 

Downsides:

 

  • Lag time: The documents can be a bit slow to use online. There is a big user experience between using Excel on your desktop and using it online.
  • Less control: You are at the mercy of the vendors that you work with. If you want to do fancy out of the box stuff you are probably going to struggle with cloud based.
  • Old-school backups don’t work: If Skype goes down, you can’t just turn to the person you are working with next to you and say, “Can you send me the Pink Panther file?”. You are going to have to wait until Skype gets back online.
  • Hacker prone: When everything is online, your passwords become a lot more important. If you get your passwords hacked or stolen, serious damage and espionage can be done to your business. Put some special characters into your passwords like:
    • Numbers
    • Capital letters
    • Spaces
    • Special characters
  • Too many passwords: When you move everything online you have a password for everything. It’s a good idea to consider a password saving tool like roboform or 1password to deal with all of them. 

Here’s some cloud computing software you should consider using:

 

Email, Documents (Word docs, Excel, Powerpoint) and Calendar - Free 

  • Google Apps
  • Evernote: A great tool for capturing and remembering thoughts and ideas.

Online Fax

  • www.efax.com: Get your faxes emailed to you and send faxes via email. 

Invoicing and Accounting - Free for small usage but more serious usage costs monthly 

  • Freshbooks.com: online accounting and invoicing software.
  • www.saasu.com: Slightly larger business online accounting. 
  •  lessaccounting.com: Accounting and invoicing. 
  •  Shoeboxed: Get your shoebox of receipts scanned, filed and sent to you in Excel.

 

Sales/CRM

  • Salesforce: Online sales CRM tool. Integrates really well with a website. More suited to a very sales orientated business.
  • ZohoCRM (and Zoho Suite).
  • Highrise: Online contact management system. Plugs in really nicely to Basecamp, see below.

Website

  • Wordpress.com - Free and easy to use website publishing software
  • Wufoo - Quick and easy form development
  • Amazon web services - Hardcore hosting when you win the internet lottery and millions of visitors hit your website
  • Hootsuite - Great for managing your Twitter account online

Project and Task Management

  • RememberTheMilk
  • Basecamp

File Management

  • Dropbox

Telecommuting

  • Skype: Free voice voip calls, has business upgrades to do more online meetings and other fancy stuff.
  • LogMeIn: Allows you to login to your desktop machine anywhere in the world.
  • GoToMeeting: Online meetings and presentations.
  • Webex: Online meetings and presentations.