A study last year by TheInfoPro found that most (52 percent) midsized to large businesses are fearful of moving to cloud-based solutions. An expert from Avanade was quoted as saying, “You can’t ignore the fact that change creates fear in people’s minds. The truth of the matter is that cloud computing is frightening to people because of the changes in integration, security, and access.”

All that may be true, but—as I state in my more consumer-minded article, "Why Are We Afraid of the Cloud?"—I think a large part of the wariness comes from an inability to really grasp what the cloud actually is. A lot of people are troubled by the cloud, which—thanks in large part to the mysterious connotations of its name—comes across as ephemeral, fleeting, and baffling. I can’t help but think that had the name evolved into something like "offsite vault computing," then perhaps it would have more supporters today.

Because the fact is cloud storage—which is largely what we're talking about it when we think of “the cloud”—is extremely safe and is a relatively simple concept. You might also call it "Storage as a Service (STaaS)"; essentially, for a certain cost or subscription fee, an offsite company hosts the storage of your data over the Internet. It probably goes without saying, but these hosting companies—at least, the reputable companies—use the latest and most potent security techniques to ensure the safety of the data that they store on their server networks. They’re constantly updating their high-end security software to be absolutely sure that your data is protected from malicious users and infections.

Can you say the same thing about the data-protection measures you take in your computing environment? Do you go to the same lengths to protect your important files?

You might have heard of three other hosted-services models in the business world: Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Those are all examples of cloud computing, and they’re becoming more and more common in the workplace. You might already be in the cloud. But, you might say, it’s one thing to host email or non-essential files offsite; it’s quite another to go ahead and back up your most essential files, or even your entire computing environment, in the cloud. So, it’s STaaS (aka cloud storage) that most people are nervous about, even as companies see it as an unavoidable part of their computing future.

Perhaps it’s not only questions of security that make you cautious but also the inherent loss of control involved with handing over your most essential files to "someone else." I would just ask you to think about another essential thing that you already entrust to the "cloud."

Money! Rather than stuffing our corporate cash in private safes or hiding it in false panels in our offices, we store that money in offsite institutions. And it’s not even in the form of cash—something tangible that we can hold in our hands. Rather, we know it’s there simply thanks to a series of numerals on our balance sheets and on our monthly statements. We can’t even see it! And what’s more important to us than money?

So what’s really got people in a lather about the cloud? Perhaps it’s the difference between trusting banks that have decades of trustworthiness behind them versus hosting companies that, in many cases, have been around for just a few years. And that’s a legitimate concern, given the economic realities of the past decade. But the more time goes by, the more it becomes clear that some truly reputable companies are ready for your business—and ready to treat your data with far more care than, frankly, you probably treat it at home (if you’re anything like me!).

We’re in the process of putting together a buyer’s guide that covers online-storage companies. We’ll be asking various vendors about their capabilities, including data encryption, data deduplication, and continuous data protection (CDP). We’ll also be asking whether their offerings provide file-versioning support, support for bare metal restores of image backup to dissimilar hardware, and 24 x 7 x 365 live backup/restore support. So stay tuned for a valuable resource that will help you determine the most feature-rich and secure solutions available.

The cloud is in your future, and the means with which it’s provided gains stature and reputation every day. Once you understand it, you find that cloud storage is far more secure and flexible and reliable than any method you have in place in your environment.