Top 5 Questions for SMBs Moving to the CloudPosted March 24, 2015 by Bobby Kneisel
The “cloud” is one of the single most thrown around terms today. Every business and every vendor is talking about moving more and more services and functions to “the cloud”, but what is it? The cloud can be a lot of things, but it generally means using computer resources that are hosted somewhere else and serve a lot of different clients and businesses. This can be just cloud applications like Quickbooks Online or whole servers in Amazon’s Elastic Cloud. They both are in the “cloud” but serve a very different purpose. Small businesses can also take advantage of the cloud’s capabilities and flexibility to help grow their capabilities and reduce costs. However, moving to the cloud isn’t something to be done lightly. There are lots of things to consider and a small business should take time to evaluate the decision first. With that in mind, here are the Top 5 things any small business should be considering before any move to the cloud:
1. How much cloud do you want?
As I mentioned before the cloud can be a lot of things, and before deciding to move to the cloud, an SMB should think about what needs moved to the cloud. Are you going to move just email functions, back up, or spam filtering to cloud? What about things like your CRM or accounting application. Or, do you need to think about moving everything to the cloud?
2. What are your most critical systems and can they run in the cloud?
Any move to the cloud needs to have the most critical business systems planned for. As an example, an insurance agency’s agency management system, can it be run on a cloud server, are their functions that may be too slow to run over the Internet? Or a Vet hospital’s practice management software that doesn’t run properly over a VPN connection. Every technology decision needs to start by asking the question, “What are the most critical systems and data?”
3. Be mindful of your data: how is it stored, where is it stored, how is it secured, and is it backed up?
A big consideration of moving to the cloud needs to be data, the lifeblood of any organization. Ask the provider where your data is going, how is it stored, does it get backed up, how is it secured, and how do I get my data back out.
4. What SLA is your provider giving you?
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a guarantee the provided service will be available in a specific period of time. Typically anything less than 99.99% up-time in a given month should be looked at with skepticism. Additionally all SLAs should be based time period of a month or less. Take the difference between 99.9% up-time in a month vs a year. In that scenario the service can be unavailable for 75 minutes per month vs 900 minutes a year. If your SLA is based on the year, those 900 minutes of downtime can come all at once and the service would still within the guarantee. Review these items carefully.
5. Most importantly, what business need is being solved?
Every decision should be made to solve a business need. Technology is a tool to accomplish a job, so treat as such. For instance, moving email to the cloud can help reduce the risk of email going down, getting lost, and reduce costs for hardware. If you need to have your email encrypted for HIPAA compliance, a cloud based email solution will make that much easier. The cloud can also be used to help protect the business by having a back-up stored in the cloud.
The “cloud” can offer potentially great benefits to a business of any size. Services such as cloud-based email and collaboration software could improve productivity and keep the business protected. Despite the popularity of the cloud, it may not fit your unique business needs. Moving to the cloud should be a sound business decision based on your defined needs and goals. The biggest key is to review those questions and make your decisions based on careful review. If you are a business looking to leverage the cloud and want some help, give us a call or send us a message! We’ll be happy to help!