What works best for your business — working on the cloud or offline? Most companies need to store or process employee and customer records. Virtually every company relies on technology to some extent, depending on the type of business they are operating.

Cloud-based services are growing in popularity. "Companies with 100 or fewer employees are expected to spend $2.4 billion on cloud computing services in 2010, up from $1.7 billion in 2009, according to Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB research for IDC," PCWorld reports.

There are some great advantages of working on the cloud. First, there is less involvement for IT — a great advantage for small businesses that don't employ a large IT staff. Software as a service (SaaS) and cloud platforms remove the need to purchase software licenses and hardware, or to implement and maintain software. They are paid for on a monthly subscription basis, and you can scale your usage up or down as required, which may help your business deal with seasonal peaks more easily. Cloud storage space is generally inexpensive and sufficient for most needs.

There are some risks to consider, however.

Data Protection and Backups

Cloud service providers take strong security precautions, such as encrypting data and ensuring staff cannot access it without prior authorization. That may not be sufficient for every business, especially for those which handle sensitive information. If data protection is a concern for your organization, it may be wise to consider holding the encryption keys locally, rather than with the cloud service provider, to help ensure that sensitive information is adequately safeguarded. The debate is not purely about whether to go cloud or offline, because sometimes both are necessary.


The ability to access resources and services when required from any device, mobile or desktop, is a definite draw for offsite services in the cloud or offline debate. For many, mobile devices are the technology of choice for accessing information. Millennials in particular tend to prefer when their employers allow them to work on a variety of devices from a number of locations. But is this right for your organization? Is this just a perk or is it critical for your employees? Do you have the bandwidth and continuous Internet connection to allow this? If your employees are unknowingly using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, does that pose too great a risk?

For most, the cloud will be the best option to address some business needs. But both cloud and offline options have their risks, and small businesses that carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks can choose the best solution for their unique needs.

Tags: cloud services Technology mobile devices Risk Management Security