More and more businesses, large and small, are choosing to store their data on the Cloud. But even though plenty of people are excited about the Cloud and its many advantages, it also poses some distinct disadvantages for businesses -- like landlords and real estate management companies -- that are looking for the best way to manage their data. What are the pros and cons, and how can a savvy landlord take these into account?
What is the Cloud?
"The Cloud" isn't one system -- it's a metaphor used to describe computer data or processing that's done remotely, rather than on-site. If you were to save data via a Cloud-based service, it would be saved onto a computer elsewhere, rather than onto your own computer. For most Cloud services, files sync automatically: you'd be able to edit the document while offline, and it would upload the most recent version of the document -- or you would download the most recent version, if it had been edited by another party -- when you connected your computer to the Internet again.
Pros of the Cloud
First, it's worth pointing out that for some IT setups, you may not have a choice when it comes to using the Cloud. If you're working for a larger company that uses Chrome OS on its computers, you're almost certainly storing all your data on the Cloud already, and if your business runs Windows 8, the Cloud is a prominent option. Many other private companies offer Cloud solutions as well.
The Cloud does, in fact, pose several distinct advantages over traditional data storage. One of the most commonly cited one is the fact that the Cloud, effectively, backs up one's data. If there's a hardware failure on-site, the data is stored remotely and can be retrieved easily.
Another advantage is security. Most Cloud services (again, double-check as you shop around) have more sophisticated data encryption and more regular virus-scanning than most small businesses do. Especially if you're storing a tenant's sensitive personal data, storing data via the Cloud may be a good idea.
If your business involves several people collaborating on documents, especially at a distance, Cloud storage can be an attractive solution. As documents sync on the Cloud, employees can be sure that they're viewing and editing the most recent version of a document, speeding collaborations and reducing headaches. This also means it's easy for one user to access documents across computers.
The Cloud's Drawbacks
The Cloud, however, isn't a perfect solution. For example, while stored data is often more secure once it's on a remote server, the process of transferring data over the Internet is no more secure than usual. If you're on an insecure connection -- whether because your company's IT specialists haven't properly secured your business' Internet connection, or because you're working in a coffeehouse or other insecure setup -- you risk the information being intercepted. If it contains a tenant's bank information or social security number, that could pose a huge problem.
Different Cloud services can function in dramatic ways, and may offer different services from one another. When choosing Cloud-based storage, be sure to research that individual service. What are its privacy policies? Do its agreements make it clear that all your data remains yours, and doesn't belong to the company performing the storage? Does it back up data for companies, so that if there's a hardware failure at the Cloud company's storage site, your data is safe? How much does it cost, and how much storage does it offer? Have other businesses reported problems with data loss, security breaches, or other headaches?
The Cloud is a powerful means of storage, and with so many options available it's likely that businesses can find one that fits their needs. However, it's not perfect, and it's important to research extensively before deciding on a company, so that your data -- and your tenants' -- remains safe.
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