Hard Disk vs Cloud Data Storage: What is best for your Business?
More businesses than ever are making the move to centralised cloud storage. Cisco reports an estimated 35 percent compound annual growth rate in cloud data centre traffic between 2014 and 2017.
The cloud’s massive growth can be partly attributed to the fact that it has made businesses some fantastic promises. It claims to reduce IT maintenance and power costs, better protect businesses from problems with data loss and make the whole company network accessible off site, enabling staff to work from home and on the move.
However, there are other factors to be considered around a potential transition to the cloud. A major concern for businesses considering a move is data security. A recent report by the Ponemon Institute shows 51 percent of blue chip IT professionals believe the cloud increases a company’s risk of a major data breach.
One of the key enduring benefits of physical storage systems is that it lets companies retain full on-site control of their data. Once sensitive information has been deleted from their server, it cannot be recovered by unauthorised parties.
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Businesses using physical storage also don’t have to worry about supplier stability. Cloud services can change, or suppliers can withdraw the service altogether, leaving businesses with the inconvenient task of moving all their data to another provider. Additionally, while an internet connection going down is disruptive at the best of times, for those using cloud storage it’s potentially catastrophic, preventing employees from being able to access any of their data.
Businesses need to ask themselves exactly what they need from their storage system. For many small companies, particularly micro businesses, start-ups, virtual businesses and small businesses with employees based all around the world, cloud storage provides greater flexibility, massive savings on IT costs and a reliable infrastructure.
However, that question of costs doesn’t always add up, particularly for slightly larger businesses. Businesses need to look at exactly what they’re buying from cloud providers, as there are often additional charges for such services as 'put and get' (sending data to the cloud and getting it back). There can also be charges for disaster recovery testing, in which the cloud provider stress tests the system to ensure against failure.
Disk space and bandwidth are relatively inexpensive. This can mean local storage works out cheaper, depending on the business’s requirements. Some examples of good systems with varying memory requirements include the Seagate Enterprise Performance 10K HDD, the Buffalo TeraStation III NAS server or the HP ProLiant ML350p Gen 8.
If an SME does decide to make the move to cloud-based storage, the transition should be as painless and cost-efficient as possible. Some services are easier to set up than others. Small businesses and start-ups should opt for a system that can be implemented without the aid of IT personnel, and onto which new users can be added quickly and effortlessly as the business grows.
Dropbox is popular among some companies, because typically employees are familiar with the format and may already have personal accounts set up. Box is an established provider priced more competitively than Dropbox, but lacks unlimited file storage limits.
Livedrive, Carbonite and PC World Business’s own Knowhow Cloud service are highly popular, and their features may be a better fit for businesses than either Dropbox or Box. However, businesses must remain aware of extra service costs with certain suppliers, such as larger data limits or additional encryption to make sensitive data more secure.
Businesses thinking about making the transition to cloud storage should take a close look at their current and future requirements. If they need the flexibility to scale up quickly, to support a network of remote workers or cut costs on IT infrastructure, the cloud could suit them very well.
If however, they’d prefer the peace of mind of restricting access to their business data and currently have cost-effective IT support, they might be better off sticking with hard-disk based storage.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”