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Cloud adoption is no longer an “if” question for small-business owners — it’s more of a “when.” According to the RightScale 2015 State of the Cloud Report, over 90% of survey respondents noted that they use the Cloud in one form or another. If you’re not sure how your business falls into that majority — or if you’re thinking of making a move to the Cloud — read on to learn what the Cloud is, what it can do for you, and the three top questions you should ask before making a full Cloud commitment.
Understanding the Cloud
Simply put, the Cloud is a network of servers that allow you to store, access, transmit, and receive data over the Internet. The most familiar examples might be Google Drive Applications and Apple’s iCloud. The rise of Cloud computing means the data and services used to operate your business no longer need to be stored on an individual computer hard drive or in an expensive and space-squandering server room. It also means business can get done anytime, anywhere — as long as there’s an Internet connection.
Cloud computing solutions fall into a few different categories:
Potential Benefits of Cloud Computing
Sharing is the name of the game when it comes to Cloud computing. The ability to share resources via the Internet gives businesses more flexibility, efficiency, and immediacy than the old method of needing to access a specific hard drive to get to work.
Three Questions to Ask Before Making the Move
It may seem like the move to the Cloud is a foregone conclusion, but it’s a serious step that requires serious consideration. Whether you’re using some Cloud-based applications already or are just dipping your toes in the Cloud pool, here are three questions to ask yourself before moving further into the Cloud.
Despite recent industry surveys indicating that security is no longer the top Cloud challenge, many small-business owners take pause at how seemingly easy it is to access the Cloud. Make use of that pause to examine any potential security vulnerabilities presented by the Cloud environment. You need to determine how both your company and your customers will react to the move given the perceived risks — and how you’ll respond to those concerns.
Issues surrounding Cloud security include a variety of potential risks, including data breaches, information loss, confidentiality concerns, and account hijacking. Uneducated staff members who don’t understand what threats and potential attacks to watch out for in a Cloud environment can also become a major vulnerability.
As you consider your hosting security, it’s important to remember that risks exist whether information is physically housed onsite or stored in the Cloud. What will make your move successful is thoughtfully examining these risks in advance so you can clearly communicate with your Cloud service provider about how they address security issues. It will also help you to prepare and implement your own backup systems in addition to what is provided in your contract.
Plenty of small businesses save money by moving to Cloud computing, but the actual amount of savings depends a lot on how well an owner can match investments to needs. If you’ve already made a heavy capital investment to build an on-site infrastructure or purchase software, for instance, simply kicking those solutions to the curb in the name of a full-on Cloud conversion may not make the most sense.
Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, take a look at the age of your existing infrastructure. How soon will critical components need to be replaced, and how much will those replacements cost? In addition, examine how much your current infrastructure costs to maintain — including things like electricity expenses and downtime for updates. Compare that information with the cost to make the switch.
If equipment or software is fairly new, it may make more sense to gradually migrate to the Cloud. However, if you’re getting close to a complete refurbishment, taking some of your main operations to the Cloud is almost certainly going to make more financial sense. The most important thing is to understand what your infrastructure costs currently are, what they are projected to be in the future, and the impact a move to the Cloud will have on your company’s financial health.
It may seem like a move to the Cloud will take place behind the scenes, but it can actually have a significant operational impact. Companies with IT teams — or even a CIO — may feel the change sooner than others; those associates who used to focus on maintaining the IT infrastructure and managing its use will need to refocus some of their efforts to new areas.
Other, non-IT staff will also need to be re-educated on how to perform daily functions like saving documents or sharing files. All employees who use the Cloud for any reason will need to undergo training on best security practices to keep them from inadvertently contributing to a breach.
Once you’ve established some general security protocols around Cloud computing, you may be able to let your staff work remotely, which can be a huge benefit, especially for millennial workers. Cloud services may also allow you interface more often — and more productively — with customers and clients.
As you consider whether it’s time to make the move, think about how the Cloud will change existing operations and how it can improve your efficiency, productivity, and employee morale. Make a game plan for the inevitable hiccups and strategize how to best take advantage of the new possibilities.
The Next Step
No small-business owner wants to be left behind because they waited too long to embrace new technology. Whether you need to expand your existing Cloud services or make a full migration, Frontier Business knows how to help your company make the move to the cloud. If you’re still weighing your options, send us a tweet at @FrontierBiz, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.