For many years the owners of Brandshake Creative, an online graphic and web design company in Atlanta, believed that a dedicated business server was a necessity. "Until the late 2000s," Rama Roy says, "There was no question we had to have our own server. Our server was one of our company's biggest depreciable assets, and our IT guy was probably one of our bigger expenses. We practically had him on speed dial for things like upgrading the operating system, setting up new users and dealing with inevitable glitches."
Several years ago, however, Brandshake — along with many other like-minded small businesses — replaced its server with a cloud-based storage solution. Cloud solutions have advantages for many small business owners. They're cost-effective. Data is retrievable instantly from anywhere. Backups are regular and reliable. The service provider generally employs a team of skilled professionals who are available 24/7 to deal with any issues that might arise. Furthermore, if a company chooses to host its software applications (QuickBooks or the Microsoft Office Suite, for instance) in the cloud, it can save money on hardware costs by purchasing less robust computers for local workstations that don't require a lot of storage or processing power.
In spite of all the advantages, however, cloud-based solutions aren't the right choice for all small businesses. Firms that need to keep client credit-card information or other sensitive data on file should think carefully about security. Larger businesses may reach a tipping point where it makes more fiscal and practical sense to purchase servers and hire in-house IT staffers. And businesses that must remain connected to the Internet at all times will want to consider the consequences in the event that a cloud-based service provider loses connectivity.
If you're still not sure if you should invest in your own servers for your small business, explore the links on the next page for information that will help you make a decision that's right for you.