The Cloud is Here: Embrace the Transition
A guide to identifying obstacles and mapping your migration
Today, 90 percent of small and midsize businesses use cloud computing in some capacity, and nearly half of SMBs worldwide spend at least $120,000 annually on cloud-related expenditures.
Both the immediate and long-term benefits of moving to the cloud typically make the costs associated with the transition worth paying.
That’s not to say there aren’t risks, though. Data loss is probably the one that keeps most SMB leaders up at night, but it can be avoided with proper planning.
It’s also possible that not all your data will migrate properly or that it won’t be organized in the way you’ve done it up to this point. These are challenges that can be overcome with the right guidance.
However, adoption may entail changes to business processes that must be implemented from the inside out, which is why your leadership is critical during the transition period.
There will be a learning curve for employees as they get comfortable working in a cloud environment. As long as there’s a good internet connection, the cloud will be accessible no matter where you or your workforce are located.
And the way you access applications will change. In the past, you probably sat down at your desk and accessed all of your applications on your local machine. Cloud hosting might mean working from a laptop and going directly to the application website or through a portal, where everything is pulled into one virtual desktop.
Ultimately, the network accessibility the cloud provides makes your business more portable and more resilient. But it also means users may have to take extra steps to ensure they’re accessing company data via a secure connection.
The cloud offers advanced security features that on-premise data storage typically can’t match, but that doesn’t mean you can take security for granted. While 66 percent of enterprises report having a central cloud team or internal cloud center of excellence, SMB leaders may not have the same resources, which makes a codified cloud policy a key ingredient to your long-term success. Security should be adequately addressed during the project-planning phase, and your protocol should include some fundamental best practices.
For one thing, you’ll probably have to keep track of more passwords; a secure, reputable password manager can help your company stay organized.
You’ll also find that most vendors that provide cloud applications will give you the option to use their built-in, two-factor authenticators. Regardless of whether you decide to use their tools, you should have some sort of multi-factor or two-factor authentication in place when accessing applications in the cloud, which means employees will need to always have a second way of authenticating login credentials (usually a cellphone).
That might feel cumbersome at times, but it makes your data far more secure.
Map your migration
To reduce friction after adoption, have a plan in place before the migration, and make sure every member of your team receives adequate security and accessibility training prior to ramping up operations in the cloud.
You can minimize hiccups by implementing cloud services in Kansas City the following four strategies:
#1 Prioritize integration
Most small businesses have a few critical applications that teams use daily to conduct core business tasks. Law firms, for example, might rely heavily on practice management software; manufacturers might streamline company processes with an ERP system; accounting firms might utilize any number of tax planning and financial tools; and the list goes on.
The biggest problem companies in all industries encounter when transitioning to the cloud is integration. That’s because a cloud migration is as much a business process as it is a technical transition.
More than one-third of companies in the U.S. say that cloud computing hasn’t delivered notable benefits, but that’s because many don’t view adoption as a core part of broader business transformation. That’s a significant oversight. The point of moving to the cloud isn’t necessarily to replace existing applications but to improve efficiency, security, and productivity associated with those applications.
Many of the vendors licensing the software you currently use also offer cloud-enabled versions of those tools. Lean on these partners as you plan your larger adoption strategy in order to maximize efficiencies and minimize disruptions during the transition.
#2 Check your connection
A slow connection is a significant roadblock to getting the most out of cloud usage, and a single connection to the cloud is a single point of failure. Operating in the cloud over a slow connection is like trying to shove a fire hose worth of data through a straw.
In the past, speeding up your network connection was often cost-prohibitive or even impossible due to location constraints. Having redundancy in your connectivity was previously also costly for SMBs. Fortunately, this is less of an issue today, as high-speed connectivity options are increasingly available and affordable.
The pace of modern business leaves little room for latency: You need the fastest application performance you can find. Even as applications are getting tweaked to require less bandwidth, cloud providers constantly upgrade their infrastructures to ensure you get it. In the meantime, you can also use features like geolocation and latency-based routing to boost application response times.
#3 Figure out what should stay behind
Not every application can — or should — be moved to the cloud. Depending on the nature of your business, it’s often advisable to keep some applications within your four walls.
If you’re running a manufacturing facility, for instance, critical equipment, inventory control, and your parts manufacturer database might all run off a single application. You need a super high-speed connection to your machines to ensure that they’re always on and always working, which means it often makes more sense to keep that application running on-premise.
Your software vendors and IT service providers will be able to give recommendations on how to plan your migration. Likewise, don’t be afraid to talk to other companies in your industry that have made the transition. The more information you can gather from past experiences, the more prepared you’ll be when it’s time to make the move.
#4 Test and proceed
Whenever possible, create a team of testers comprising representatives from every department who will assist with the planning and testing — before you transition the entire organization.
In the past, having a test environment was an unaffordable luxury for most SMBs. The cloud, however, is itself an entirely separate environment, and so it inherently provides that test environment. You can migrate data and test it, often one department at a time, running the systems and software through a series of tests before cutting over to production.
Use this cloud ability to try out various scenarios and give your early adopters a chance to learn what it looks and feels like so they can help create training materials for the rest of the organization.
Expertise you can count on
Having an expert guide for planning and migration can make the process more seamless and position you for long-term success after adoption.
Consult an expert who will work with your software vendors to determine how application usage and functionality might change in the cloud and to identify any additional costs you might incur as a result of cloud adoption. Likewise, find an expert who will outline the steps you can take to achieve cost savings at every stage of the transition, helping you optimize your business for success both now and in the future.
About the Author
Jon Schram is a husband, father, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of The Purple Guys, a Midwest-based information technology support company.
The company has grown since 2001 to become the Midwest’s premier IT support company with more than a 96% customer satisfaction rating. Jon and his wife, Jill, have three children and have founded two businesses.
You can reach Jon at:
Phone: (816) 221-3900