When small businesses begin cloud adoption, they often experiment with functions like email and storage. For instance, most individuals are familiar with cloud services such as Google's G Suite or Microsoft's Office 365. File storage apps such as Dropbox and Google Drive are similarly ubiquitous.
The advantages of these cloud services have become expectations: constant access from any device, improved security features like two-factor authentication, and redundancy that prevents information from being lost in case of disasters or downtime. People use email and storage options in the cloud because adoption is as easy as signing up for an account. Migrating business systems is a little more involved.
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Why keep IT in the cloud?
There are myriad advantages associated with cloud adoption, and the most compelling perks depend on your business. Many organizations that use sensitive data appreciate the security of cloud storage, and it's common for cloud providers to offer solutions designed to comply with specific regulations.
For businesses that demand bandwidth, the scalability and flexibility of the cloud are tremendous advantages. Organizations can accurately budget with cloud services and still remain poised for explosive user growth without any of the restrictions imposed by onsite resources.
Finally, there's constant access – the advantage that most of us already enjoy in our personal lives. By bringing your business to the cloud, your workforce can use your infrastructure remotely. With access to the latest data from any place at any time, your employees can remain productive whether they're relaxing on the couch at home or traveling around the world.
Many small businesses have taken the first step to the cloud, as this approach to computing is experiencing continued growth. Once you recognize the numerous benefits of keeping email and data storage in the cloud, it's time to help the rest of your operation make the change.
The great migration
When moving business components – whether data or software – to the cloud, leaders must account for a number of different criteria. Security, performance and regulatory requirements all merit attention, and I've spoken with plenty of small business owners who wanted instructions on how to prioritize each consideration. The reality, of course, is that you must weigh them carefully based on your own business requirements.
In many cases, it might make sense to move some apps to the cloud while keeping others on-premises, but you won't know until you work through the details. Get started on your own journey to the cloud by following these four steps:
1. Audit IT expenses.
Owning equipment means capital outlay and maintenance costs. Some machines will allow you to recoup your initial investment, but others can be a serious drain on resources. Conduct an audit of IT spending and find out where each dollar is going. If you're paying a full-time IT technician to manage on-premise equipment, migrating resources to the cloud could provide significant savings.
2. Take stock of potential cloud components.
Your cloud management solution should be based on a single view of the inventory that you must manage, both virtual and physical. Say you run a production company: Your business requires storage of a large number of audio and video assets as well as powerful software to turn these raw materials into movies. Make a list of every component you access on a regular basis, and then determine which ones can gain the most by migrating to the cloud.
3. Create cloud-based policies.
When your data is only accessible on-premises, a simple lock and key can control who has access. Once it's in the cloud, it's accessible from anywhere – one of the key benefits of cloud computing. Consider the policies you will need to enforce within your cloud environment, including items pertaining to access, files, sessions, or anything else that will improve security and user experience. Once implemented, these policies will help you detect risky behaviors, suspicious activities and user violations.
4. Expect an adjustment.
Compared to accessing your data on-premises, it's likely that performance could be slower after your transition to the cloud. To ease this adjustment, choose a data migration architect or experienced cloud provider with a proven history. Discuss your migration plans ahead of time, and set realistic expectations with your team members. It's important to determine what data should and should not be moved depending on performance concerns, and an experienced professional can help you weigh potential trade-offs.
With most businesses operating in the cloud to some extent, off-premises computing will only gain more steam. Companies have seen the benefits of cloud systems via email or storage – often the first step of a full migration – but there is a lot more for businesses to gain. Follow the above steps, and you'll see the benefits of cloud computing in a whole new light.