… is the first question many managing directors will ask themselves or their IT supplier. The cloud by its very nature is a nebulous, well, thing. But the advantages of Cloud computing are well-documented:
- Store all company data from emails and files to calendars and documents securely on the internet;
- Access it wherever you are in the world;
- Enjoy a reduction in IT costs of 20 per cent – 40 per cent a year; and
- All hardware and software upgrades are taken care of by the cloud provider.
In many cases, the cloud provider will offer better security against data loss than your own IT department. Everyone in your company can access the same information and software with a click of a button.
The number of SMEs moving into the cloud will triple during the next three years according to a Microsoft survey.
What do you need?
You could consider creating your own cloud – but unless your business is a specialist IT provider, we don’t recommend it. Instead, approach a reputable cloud provider who can sit down with you and draw up a bespoke service solution to meet your exact needs.
But be warned…
… there are several questions that you should ask cloud computing providers before employing one:
- “Can you assure me in writing that all data uploaded to your cloud remains my property?”;
- “Do you offer my company the ability to move data in and out of the cloud as and when I want or need to?”;
- “Is your cloud solution underpinned by industry-based, open standards that mean I am not tied into a proprietary system”; and
- “Is my data secure?”
If the answer to any of these four questions is a ‘no’, you should find another cloud provider or you run the risk of being ‘locked-in’ to one provider. You want a cloud provider who gives you the ability to hold on to your data and do with it what you want.
There are several options available for successfully integrating the cloud into your business – your cloud provider will be able to recommend the ones best suited to your needs.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS);
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS); or
- Email-as-a-Service (Eaas).
Don’t let the acronyms put you off – at the core of each are services which would have previously been operated in-house. These are now pushed up into the cloud and maintained and operated by the cloud provider.
For instance, ‘IaaS’ offers a virtual ‘office’ environment online for you to access and can include software, network equipment and servers. Whereas ‘SaaS’ means solely applications that can be accessed over the Internet, negating the need for them to be installed or regularly updated on your own office computers.
Cloud (Managed) IT support services
Reputable cloud computing providers will be able to help and monitor your cloud operations. From 24/7 support to server sizes and management, you can take on as little or as much responsibility as you wish, or slot the cloud into existing services.
For example, your existing ISP can continue hosting your business but the cloud provider can deliver the IT services to support your company on a day-to-day basis.
Making the move
Don’t fret about making the leap – reputable cloud computing providers will take you through each phase of the move. This period can be challenging but it’s worth bearing in mind that the move can help spot existing problems within your IT architecture and enable you to resolve them so they won’t be an issue in the future.
Mark Walker works for IT Support, consultancy, information management and application support company, Ubertas.
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