Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Google Apps Security for Small Business

I wish I had a dollar for each time I've heard a small business owner object to cloud computing on the basis of "security concerns". I always listen carefully because I want to be certain to understand their security requirements so that I can guide them appropriately if those concerns are valid.

Valid -that's the key word.

So my job, as a trusted IT advisor to small business owners, is to try to determine if their objections are based on valid security concerns or are derived from some unfounded fear. Quite frankly, I have identified a whole slew of "unfounded fears" and very, very few "valid security concerns".
It seems that most of my small business customers believe that if they can walk into the server room (and I use the term server room very, very loosely) and hear a hum and see a flashing light or two, their data is secure.

Ok, so for argument's sake let's say for that moment, the data is "secure", but is the environment in which those servers reside more secure than a distributed series of Google Data Centers? Are the people maintaining those on-site servers following security practices even approaching that of Google's? Has that small business passed a SAS70 Type II security audit? Are world class environmental, physical access, and data backup controls in place? Of course there aren't! So, why do these small business owners think their on-site servers provide a more secure environment for their data? (Oh...and let me just go on record right here as saying I am using the term server very loosely, as well.)

I think the answer is primarily one of a) perceived control and b) inexperience with cloud hosted services. In my role as an IT service provider to small business, my job is to convince the IT decision maker (frequently the business owner) that cloud based services will meet or exceed their needs. And, that the ability to walk up to a server and reboot it does not qualify as control, perceived or otherwise.

It is a constant struggle to convince small business owners that their data is many, many times more secure in a Google Data Center than it is on their own servers. Just take a look at the picture accompanying this article (and these servers are maintained very well on a relative scale). Where would you want your data?

SC-Geeks.Com recommends Google Apps as the most cost effective and simple to use cloud solution for small business. For additional information about Google Apps visit our web site at http://www.sc-geeks.com/gsuite or go to http://www.google.com/a

Monday, January 10, 2011

How will cloud computing change the IT pro's job in 2011 and beyond?

Colin Smith posted a blog of the same title as this one on Tech Republic today. You can view the post HERE. As it relates to small business, Mr. Smith got one thing absolutely right - cloud computing provides a small business affordable access to IT resources on a scale unimaginable in the past. From the aspect of a small business managed service provider, I would like to point out a couple of cloud computing truths that he missed.

First of all, the small business managed service provider's value-add does not necessarily become eroded. The managed service provider must, however, transform him or herself into a "performance improvement" strategist as well as an IT guru. The managed service provider must provide value-add by assessing the IT needs of the small business and implementing cloud services to meet those needs. And, this process should be ongoing. Most of us who have spent any time supporting the IT needs of small business know they can benefit greatly from the new scale of IT services at their disposal. In addition (and I know my fellow small business managed service providers can relate to this), small business owners and decision makers must be gently led, by the hand, into the new "cloud paradigm" and the new paradigm must be simple.

Second - Simplicity is key! Mr. Smith cites the Microsoft BPOS/Office365 example in his post, but when it comes to simple Google Apps for Business is king. Google Apps provides all of the large scale IT resources the vast majority of small businesses need. Granted there are some small businesses whose processes might require the complexity of Sharepoint but, from my experience, those are few and far between. Google Sites and Docs usually meet collaboration and work flow requirements with a much greater degree of simplicity.

My Geeks On Call franchise in Charleston SC is both a Google Apps and Microsoft Online services reseller. When we assess the IT/performance needs of a small business, we find Google Apps is very hard to beat when it comes to features and the simplicity it provides.