Many of the posts on this blog have been about cloud services and that’s because so many of our clients are looking at migrating their IT infrastructure (their shared files, backups, email, applications and many times their whole desktop experience) to the cloud. But how do you know if it’s a good fit for your business? If you do decide to move to the cloud, do you have to move everything? While for many people, a full cloud migration is the right way to go but there are also ways to take advantage of the cloud without giving up the functionality or control that you may require onsite. When we work with our clients, we walk through all of the necessary items to determine what parts of the cloud (if any) are right fit.
How does your business use the technology that it has? What are your core applications? Are web-based versions available? Are those web versions viable replacements for the on-site version? Is your staff in one location or in many locations? Do you have mobile staff that travels a good part of the time? When they do travel, do they go to places with reliable Internet connections? Do you have core applications that you all share or is it just your files that need to be accessed by everyone? And finally there are the legacy systems out there – – for example, do you have a key card access system that needs to talk to a server? There are all things that need to be considered when you talk about moving any or all of your IT to the cloud.
This is one of the first things that people bring up when we discuss moving to cloud-based services. How do I know my data will be safe with so-and-so cloud provider? And for large enterprises that have huge IT security budgets, that’s a valid question. They’ve invested a ton of money in internal security staff, hardware and software and they want to make sure their cloud providers meet or exceed what they are already doing. But for almost every small business, any reputable cloud provider is spending more time and money than any small business could (or should!) spend on worrying about the security of all of their clients’ data. So, it’s safe to say that usually your data will be MORE secure in the cloud, not less.
The other time security comes into play is around regulatory requirements. Are you a healthcare organization that has to worry about HIPAA? Do you process credit cards and need to be PCI compliant? While a lot of organizations get tripped up here when comes to considering the cloud, this is where the cloud’s flexibility can shine. Your compliance efforts might be simplified if you move everything to the cloud. Or, if you can’t move everything, you may be able to segregate your data to take advantage of the cloud for certain parts of your business.
How is the cloud going to save me money? That’s what business owners want to know. And, yes, in many cases going to the cloud is a cost savings right off the bat. When you look at the cost of doing it internally (the software, support, hardware, redundant systems, etc.), paying just one monthly fee to have it hosted can be very attractive. But, the other way that savings can be seen is in employee productivity. The anytime, anywhere access of cloud services will make it that much easier for your employees to just get things done. It may be that going to the cloud is only a true cost savings for certain parts of your infrastructure. It may also be that looking at it over a 5-year term, the cloud is actually a bit more expensive in terms of predicted expenses but the increased security, flexibility and productivity are worth the extra cost.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into evaluating a move to the cloud and there isn’t a cookie-cutter answer or formula. Each business is unique and each has different priorities and needs. For example, for one company it may be best to just move the email to the cloud so they can avoid the hardware and support expenses of the on-site email server but their database server needs to be on-site because it talks to their website and that’s also hosted internally. In a case like that, the cloud is also something that can easily be tackled in phases (e.g., do the email server first and move the website and database later when the budget permits). Hybrid cloud/on-premise solutions can be designed that let you migrate to the cloud in stages or they can enable you to keep certain systems on-site while migrating others.
So, the bottom line is that there’s a lot of homework that has to be done before making any decisions regarding the myriad cloud services that are available. At 1 Point, we are well versed in all of the major technologies available and, just as critically, we are able to translate those technologies into things that will help your business’s bottom line. Give us a call and we’ll help you navigate through it all.