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Keep both feet on the ground when planning a move into the cloud

Jul 30, 2013
Originally published in Tech Bubbles (TechBubbles.co.uk)

The cloud is providing businesses with a way of outsourcing their ICT estate and acquiring new tools and technologies quickly and easily. Most cloud environments make it possible to fund ICT on a monthly basis. However, while the benefits may be clear, deciding when to adopt the cloud computing model is an issue facing many businesses.

Big questions of when and how

Deciding whether the time is right to move to the cloud raises lots of concerns for firms of every size, with questions often around security, scalability and control. As a small business, knowing how the cloud will give a competitive edge and what it means for growth will be key. Reassurance on these issues will help determine how quickly you adopt cloud as the model for your ICT.

How small businesses can 'punch above their weight'

Managing ICT in-house is a major drain on resources and as a result cloud email is now almost a given as far as start-ups are concerned. However, the cloud also provides access to platforms which were previously kept for large companies, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), HR management, and collaboration tools. These cloud-based services give small businesses access to solutions which can provide a vital competitive edge. Signing up for and configuring cloud applications can be done almost immediately, and at a fraction of the cost of acquiring the actual hardware and software itself. The as-a-service model which cloud solutions are based on means you only pay for what you use, leaving the hardware and maintenance costs with the cloud provider. Also, since the actual platform being delivered lives on the web, you can access it from any location or any device with a browser.

50 shades of cloud

The one distinction it's important to make is between 'public' cloud services, accessible to everyone via the web; and 'private' clouds, where services are delivered over private networks, on a bespoke basis. Google Drive and Amazon Web Services are examples of public cloud services, sharing computing resources with others signed up to the service.

Selecting a suitable cloud depends on the sensitivity of the data you need to store, how it's used and how available it needs to be. Mission critical services that are central to business success or systems containing customer data will require a private cloud with high levels of uptime and security. Less crucial applications and data, for example your company intranet, can live in a less regimented, lower-cost environment.

Don't turn back at the junction

The cloud offers huge opportunities for businesses willing to make the move. If you are trying to decide whether it's the right time to move to the cloud, you need to identify the areas where the cloud will support what you want to do. Whether it's allowing you to reach new markets, or completely changing the way you deliver solutions to customers, the cloud has the flexibility to provide this.

There's no simple answer to the question of when you should move to the cloud, but businesses need to consider it now or risk getting left behind. Choosing the right cloud provider means choosing what suits your business. This provider should take a consultative approach, helping you identify the objectives for your move to the cloud, whether cutting costs, improving scalability or increasing ICT flexibility and agility. They should be able to demonstrate the benefits of their cloud solution, and work with you to ensure that it can meet your business objectives. By making the right choices from the start, the sky is literally the limit for what the cloud can deliver.

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