Does a Small Business Need Cloud Computing?
For growing businesses, keeping their IT infrastructure growing at the same rate as the rest of the business is a huge challenge. Leveraging the cloud can offer a competitive edge to small companies. Here are some of the benefits of cloud computing:
The cloud helps minimize physical storage, space considerations, power requirements, software updates, etc. providing significant savings. But, it isn’t always about cost savings. At times, the cloud can be more expensive but it delivers other benefits that are more valuable for your business such as the speed of deployment, and scalability. The cloud also offers companies the opportunity to experiment and iterate before committing to huge capital expenditure.
A Word Of Caution About Cloud Computing Services
Jumping headlong without a proper strategy can lead to failure instead of grand success. You can easily find yourself gunning down the wrong track or, worse, getting locked in unwanted services and contracts. There are quite a few things to assess and plan for before you can go about migrating your business to the cloud. Here is a list of the critical questions you must answer before implementing a could strategy for your business.
Cloud computing has become a mainstream part of IT. It has far-reaching impacts, especially for businesses. By enabling smaller business owners to compete with the IT infrastructure of large enterprises, the cloud levels the playing field to a large extent.
A robust cloud strategy will help you anticipate the benefits and risks of the cloud for your business. It will also help you create a plan, which best aligns with your business objectives, and come up with actionable steps for rapid execution.
1. How does the cloud fit your business strategy?
Identify the teams or departments within your business that you want to migrate to the cloud. Next, break down their function into services. For each of these, you will have a business objective or goal. For example:
HR- attract, retain and motivate my employees?
Marketing & Sales- Acquire, retain and foster customer loyalty?
For each of the above objectives, answer the following questions:
Can we become more operationally agile by delivering the service via the cloud?
Can we cut down costs by delivering the service via the cloud?
How will the adoption of the cloud impact staff resourcing?
Will the adoption of the cloud improve our operating efficiencies?
Does migrating the services to the cloud bring any other benefits?
Answering these questions will help you decide whether migrating to the cloud is worth the investment. It will also help you prioritize the services and functions for cloud migration.
2. What are the advantages of cloud computing for your business?
Cloud computing services offer you a number of benefits from reducing the total cost of technology ownership to improving your organization’s ability to respond faster to market opportunities. Understanding these benefits will help you plan your implementation better. Here are the benefits that the cloud will bring you today:
Migrating to the cloud can help your IT team transition from firefighting to fire prevention, i.e. they dedicate less time to break-fix and more time reducing IT security risks, improving productivity, and streamlining work processes.
For ages, businesses had to work around the limitations of their IT systems. IT resources have been rigid and inflexible and the employees have had to work around this limitation. But with the cloud, your IT will work around you. You can virtually expand at will and your team will benefit from faster rollouts of applications. Cloud applications will give you more options on how, where, and on what devices you want to work.
As a result of the economies of scale, the cost of computing per user, per computer, and per server is lower. This is because the maintenance costs are better managed by the service providers. In addition, since you have the option to expand at will, you pay for only what you use. Therefore, you don’t have to make any large purchases, tie up precious capital, and have machines sit idle.
Financial planning will be easier as you will know exactly how much you will pay monthly. This can be either be a flat monthly fee or. Either way, you can easily plan your monthly bills easier. You won’t have to deal with separate utility bills, large capital expenditures, software/hardware updates, or maintenance expenses. Better cost planning will allow you to allocate your resources where they are most needed.
The cloud facilitates automation in user and infrastructure management. This brings along improvements in cybersecurity making your IT infrastructure safer, and more reliable. Your IT team will have more options for data duplication, backup, and data recovery.
3. Is your business ready to migrate to the cloud?
What we are trying to figure out here is how much preparation will be required for migrating to the cloud. Although every organization can benefit from the cloud, your company may not be ready for it. Your business may be governed by external legislation such as data privacy and compliance, which mandates keeping the data in-house. In this case, you will need to decide which apps to keep in-house and which to migrate to the cloud.
A large number of new clients we onboard suffer from significant “technical debt” amassed over time. It is a side effect of making rash decisions and taking shortcuts. The resulting infrastructure causes huge maintenance costs and more importantly, team productivity takes a hit. Therefore, for most organizations, migrating to the cloud offers an opportunity to reconfigure and consolidate their IT infrastructure.
You also need to check that your internal SLAs (service level agreements) are aligned with the Uptime and Restore Time targets for the applications and services. What would happen in case of a disaster? If you lose connection to the internet and consequently the cloud, how will you get your business back to the current working level? It is always useful to discover what your foundations are before starting to build any more systems into your infrastructure. This way you will know how much work will be required to make your organization cloud-ready.
4. What is the right type of cloud service for your business?
Moving to the cloud isn’t an all or nothing deal. You don’t need to rip out your existing servers, think of hybrid clouds. The decision is usually governed by your internal SLAs, security, and cost considerations. There are three main types of cloud to choose from - public, private, and hybrid. Each one comes with its own pros and cons.
Public cloud is an off-premise multi-tenant solution. It is easy to use and access from internet-connected devices. Users don’t have to jump many hurdles to access the services. Public clouds are highly flexible allowing you to easily add or drop capacity. This elasticity also contributes to its cost-effectiveness as they usually operate a pay-as-you-go model. Public clouds can suffer from outages, are less secure, and may be more susceptible to hacks.
Private cloud services aren’t shared and are developed specifically for your company. These can be maintained onsite or in a privately hosted data center. This gives you greater control over your cloud infrastructure and stored data. In addition, private clouds have stronger SLAs, hence increased reliability. While the cost of private clouds is higher, it is much more secure than public clouds.
Hybrid cloud means two or more clouds connected to support load balancing between private in-house resources and virtualized resources in the public cloud. It allows you to create an ideal configuration, balancing cost and security. You get the advantage of the cost-effectiveness of the public cloud and enjoy the security of the private cloud.
5. What are the potential risks of the cloud?
Data is the most critical resource for your business. In addition, security and compliance regulations govern how you store and who has access to the data. Therefore, it is important to clearly understand the terms of your cloud service provider. Although, in most cases, YOU should always own your data stored in the cloud. It is best to check the terms and conditions of your contract to ensure your ownership of the data. Your service provider must not be able to access, use, or share your data. Additionally, you also need to have a secure way to recover the data on-demand.
Implementing the cloud strategy
Whether you are a Tech Startup, Non-profit, Healthcare provider, Professional Services, or any other business, you will definitely want to adopt cloud computing- at least in part if not completely. The goal of using the cloud is to help you focus on your core business by minimizing the IT obstacles associated with growing IT infrastructure. With the adoption of the cloud, your company will become more agile as you will be able to re-provision, add, remove, or expand IT infrastructure resources with ease.
The implementation time and complexity of your cloud strategy will depend on factors that are intrinsic to your business. The most important being:
The number of services to be migrated to the cloud, and
The level of compliance required.
Your first step should be building a clear roadmap with a defined timeline and milestones. Like any other service, you will also need ongoing support for cloud services. With the right plan in place, your existing IT team or a Managed IT Services provider can help you manage, customize, and scale your set of cloud services at a fraction of the cost of physical IT infrastructure.
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