But what kind of cloud system is right for your business? What kinds of risks are connected to Cloud Computing?
These are the questions we seek to answer today in this edition of ECOVIS Tech-Tips.
Always Online with Your Own Cloud
To get things right, we first of all have to grasp, what a “cloud” actually is. Basically, a “cloud” is nothing more than a computer system, or a cluster of systems, that is accessible over the Internet. This system then provides services to other remote systems, such as your office PC or your smart phone. A cloud essentially centralizes all files and digital services in one or more data centers, instead of running each piece of software on the individual devices used by your employees.
This has a number of advantages. Centralization drastically reduces maintenance costs and makes it much easier to add new features to the existing system. Furthermore, as many cloud services can be accessed by a standard web browser (such as Firefox or Chrome), you will not have to deal with compatibility issues on different operating systems. Web browsers are supported by all major operating systems, therefore you can be sure that your cloud services will run on a plethora of different devices.
SaaS, PaaS, IaaS
Depending on your needs, different service models for cloud computing are available.
The most widely used ones are “Software as a Service” (SaaS), “Platform as a Service” (PaaS), and “Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)”. SaaS offers you a range of complete software solutions (e.g. an office suite like MS Office, an email server, a file storage solution and so on). This way, you can easily choose the functionalities you want from a ready-to-go selection, making the setup and usage easy and convenient.
If you choose PaaS, you will receive an always-online platform that you can use to develop your own software and digital products. You can choose the operating system for the platform and have the service provider set you up with everything you need to develop your own software.
With IaaS, you will get access to a whole virtualized network that you can set up yourself. This network comes complete with components such as virtual routers, switches, servers and so on. This way, you will not have to deal with the hassle and costs of purchasing physical devices and cabling to set up an actual network.
Internal vs. External Cloud
Before making a choice, the first thing you should consider is, what kind of functionality you actually want to achieve with your cloud. File storage? System backups? Customer relations management? Enterprise resource management? Team collaboration and messaging?
After deciding on what you wish to achieve, another key aspect is security. Choosing a cloud solution hosted on the servers of a third party means that you effectively give all the data in “your cloud” to said third party. This means, you no longer control the server and you will not be able to control who accesses it.
While this does offer a great deal of convenience, especially for smaller business who do not want to invest into their own data centers, it is not advisable to use this type of could for sensitive information that only you and your business should be in control of. A prominent example for such information would be the R&D files of a manufacturing company.
Encryption is one way to improve security. You need to choose a solution that offers internal encryption of your files on the cloud-server. Because the files are still on the server, the risk remains that hard drives might be secretly copied and decrypted.
Hence, for highly confidential files, it is better to get your own physical server and install cloud computing software on it. There is a range of such programs available, both proprietary software and open-source projects.
To sum things up, cloud computing offers great potential for you and your business. However, you need a clear strategy in mind. Self-hosting or outsourcing? Closed-source or open-source? SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS? What operating system, what software? Which files should you keep in house and which should you upload to the cloud? These are some of the issues you need to consider before stepping into the cloud.
We can help you ensure that you have the right cloud strategy for your individual needs. Especially if you want your cloud to work both in Europe and in Asia, ECOVIS Beijing is at your service. Feel free to contact us and we will help you find the right system for your needs. For further reading on cloud computing, you can also catch up on our previous article “Why Should You Take Your Accounting to the Cloud?”
About the Author
Associate Business Development and IT-Security Analyst
Andre Baum is our IT security expert at the Heidelberg office. Mr Baum studied in Cologne, Wuhan and Taipei. As a graduate in Chinese studies and international studies, he gained a deep understanding of the East Asian economy. Before joining Ecovis Beijing, Mr Baum worked in Tokyo and Washington, DC, with relation to FDI and international diplomacy. In addition to his native German, he speaks English, Chinese and Japanese.
Following his interests, Mr Baum gained a substantial knowledge in IT and network security. Together with our Beijing based legal team, he supervises cyber security projects related to sales and IoT solutions for for connecting multinational corporations in and without China. He teaches cyber security and Chinese law at SRH University Heidelberg.
Mr Baum is one of our main representatives for German investors looking to expand their business to China.
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