Cloud, Server or NAS: The Right Choice for Small Businesses
Whatever the activity of the professional , even if he is independent and working alone, he manipulates data that he must keep and protect. Depending on his work habits, his digital information may be more or less extensive: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, invoices, accounting data, inventory, images, audio or video recordings, emails, databases, prospect files / clients , mail arrived, etc.
It is now accepted that the digitization of all the data of a company contributes to a better performance if it is accompanied by the adequate training and the implementation of good practices.
How to store the data of a small company?
How to store the data of a small company? What are the different solutions and possible organizations? How to reconcile ease of access with security ? Is it necessary to have a server for an activity with a few employees? How to reduce the cost of the information system?
Of course, there is not one universal solution that fits all needs. There is the weight of habits with the server in a local corporate network and there is the trend of the future with a totally cloud-based approach .
A server connected to the local network of the company
The server is a computer that is connected to the local network of the enterprise, which must be running continuously and is usually built around redundant and reliable hardware to provide a 24 x 7 service. A server allows you to share files or databases data, manage corporate email, share resources such as printers, and host externally accessible websites.
Some servers whose only function is file sharing are called NAS (Network Attached Storage) or networked storage servers. In addition to local sharing, it is also possible to access files over the Internet. These devices are a cost-effective alternative and easier to manage in the limited cases of file sharing.
The local network of the company
The building of a local network is relatively simple. Each device you want to connect (computer, printer, server, etc.) must have a network card and an Ethernet jack into which a cable is plugged. The connection of different devices is done with a switch (switch) that receives various cables. Boxes of Internet service providers can play this role when there is very little equipment to connect. It is also possible to create a local network over Wi-Fi without the hassle of wiring.
Cloud is a term that refers to the use of the Internet for storing data and applications. They are actually stored on server hard drives that are in data centers ( data centers ) around the world. The largest companies in the sector (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc.) offer these hosting services and provide a high level of service with a strong redundancy of equipment that ensures data backup.
The key points determining the choice of good architecture
The main key points that are decisive for the choice of a solution are:
1 ° / Quality of the Internet connection: the use of Internet applications and the storage of data in the Cloud (for example with the Google G Suite office suite) requires a good Internet connection. It is unnecessary to consider this approach if the link has average rates or if it can be unstable .
2 ° / Specifications of the business software solution used: in some professions or for certain types of companies, the choice of a business software solution may be rather limited and the specifications may be restrictive. In these cases, the architecture is often imposed by the chosen solution.
3 ° / Financial aspects: the installation of a server is a hardware investment as opposed to a Cloud solution that corresponds to a lease . Depending on the applications used and volumes involved, the economic equation that would be unfavorable to the server within the company could be more or less pronounced.
4 ° / Feeling of security: provided that the security procedures are well established, the use of a server within the company may seem more reassuring . This is a sense of security in relation to the limited trust that some may still have in hosting providers and the cloud more generally.
5 ° / Technical skills: the administration of a server requires the sharp skills of a system engineer . It can intervene punctually remotely but its presence in the device must be planned and can become expensive.
6 ° / Work habits: the arbitration between the immediate performance through the maintenance of work habits and the culture of change with the introduction of new tools naturally impacts decision-making in a rather strategic way.
The uses of a server within a small business
The storage of data , whether files organized into directories or databases, is one of the uses of a computer server installed within a company. A server can meet many other needs. It can act as a printer server by allowing multiple workstations to share one or more.
The server can also centralize a list of users and devices and allow the management of rights and permissions. In Windows environments this feature is provided by Active Directory which lists what is on the local network and which allows its administration.
It can also process the company’s e-mail by receiving incoming e-mails and dispatching them to the different users. Likewise, he can send outgoing emails.
The server can also act as a web server by allowing external users to access Internet applications that it hosts.
The cost of a server is in thousands of euros depending on its power and capacity. The cost of a storage server type NAS , limited to file storage, is in hundreds of euros.
In some professions, the choice of a server in the local network of the company is required for regulatory issues. The professional who must commit to the data storage location and the backup methods can do so because he has control over the entire system infrastructure .
How the company has migrated its applications and data into the cloud
A company may decide not to create complicated infrastructures with one or more servers and to host its applications and data in the cloud (or online) . A user can access it by using an Internet browser from any workstation or from a tablet or smartphone.
It identifies itself with a user name and a password and then accesses the various applications and contents.
The best-known online office solution is Google’s G Suite . It includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, a calendar, a presentation tool, and many other small applications. It is compatible with Office data but does not have all the features and sophistication of the equivalent suite at Microsoft . All data is stored in the cloud but can, if necessary, be downloaded. The subscription for the Google suite varies between 4 and 8 euros per month per user.
In the same way that there was a plethora of software in the Windows environment, the evolution towards online solutions allows to have an equivalent choice that works more on all platforms (PC, Mac, iOS, Android, etc.).
Whether it’s a CRM , an ERP , a database access or a business application , the costs usually have the same structure with a subscription per month and per person. This approach is one of the great strengths of the Cloud that allows a company to be very flexible and align its costs with its usage . No need to make disproportionate investments in infrastructure acquisition and software licenses.
Administration is also simplified because there is no longer any need to deploy software on workstations. Some companies do not hesitate to reduce the content of the computer to the bare minimum using essentially a browser to access applications and online content.