Whenever one of the really big consumer-facing names in the technology sector does something even remotely interesting, people tend to sit up and take notice. Whether it’s Apple, Facebook, Microsoft or Google, they are the brands that everyone’s watching… what are they doing, should I be doing what they’re doing..?

A couple of years ago, Microsoft ran a TV advertising campaign which alluded to the benefits of cloud computing. But many pundits argued that most home users didn’t know what the cloud was, and weren’t being brilliantly educated by the TV ads.

However, it’s becoming obvious, with the announcement from Samsung of their new Chromebox PCs – which are based on Google’s ChromeOS – that the cloud is fast becoming an accepted part of everyday life. Apple’s iCloud announcements can be seen in the same light.

The technical spec of the Chromebox is unlikely to set many pulses racing. But this is a PC that will automatically store all your files and data in the cloud. Because of this, businesses and consumers need to bear a few important considerations in mind.

For businesses, a move to the cloud offers significant potential economies of scale that can be passed on to the consumer. In addition, cloud transfers what is typically CapEx (large upfront expenditures) into OpEx (ongoing operational costs) and typically comes with pricing that is commensurate with usage.

If pricing variability and budgeting is a concern, consider a pricing plan that offers a predictable price. Also, don’t just look at raw cost. Generally, best value solutions are superior to lowest cost. Consider all the factors including support, customer service, reputation, reliability, etc. when measuring value.

Whenever there is any talk of cloud, the subjects of data security, privacy and intellectual property protection come to the fore. In the cloud computing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, these things should be approached with exactly the same levels of exhaustive defences as traditional IT security provisioning.

Be sure to ask your potential cloud providers about security from technical, operational, and control perspectives, as well as what experience they have being stewards of customer systems and data. If the public cloud is fundamentally not secure enough for your needs, consider an on-premise cloud, virtual private cloud, or some sort of hybrid cloud solution.

For some businesses, the Chromebox could find its way on to some employees’ BYOD wish lists. Clearly this throws up additional questions around policy controls, access rights and protecting your organisation’s IP, as it is a device hardwired to send data to the cloud.

There are four key pieces of advice I would offer any business developing their use of the cloud:

  1. Your first steps should be to undertake application and data audit procedures to determine an accurate point from which to start.
  2. Policy controls are needed to manage what users do in the cloud — almost 3 in 10 (29 per cent) of users who have something stored online never or rarely delete anything. Typically, these users will also be sloppy when it comes no naming files and folders.
  3. Be sure that your chosen cloud provider is big enough to have a reputation to lose so that when problems arise, they will make a genuine effort to fix things. Equally, check that they’re doing well financially, so that you can rely on them for some years to come.
  4. And finally, after you’ve gone through the above and selected your cloud provider, be sure they offer you SLAs that meet your needs. If your business cannot swallow any amount of downtime, for example, make sure they are aware and can guarantee you’ll always be open for business.