Many companies have begun migrating certain aspects of their operations to the convenient and cost-effective world of cloud computing. But how much of your company should live in the cloud? That’s still up for debate.
Most small business owners opt for a hybrid approach in which they maintain on-site servers while using public or private cloud services for some storage tasks. This method gives companies the peace of mind of being able to choose where they store certain types of data. Perhaps they feel like their most sensitive information should live in-house.
Organizations also find that utilizing this hybrid approach allows them to cherry-pick the best attributes of each system and create an ideal data-storage situation. As useful as this strategy may seem, it’s still worth evaluating your company’s needs and exploring the option of fully migrating all of your data to a cloud service.
Break down public and private clouds
Before we dive into why you should move your storage to the cloud, let’s take a look at the difference between private, on-site cloud servers and public cloud storage options.
Private clouds are single-tenant services, meaning that the hardware, network, and servers needed to run them are exclusive to your business. Some companies — like those that have to abide by certain privacy compliance laws, for example — are legally prohibited from storing and sending data over public cloud networks, so they rely solely on private systems for their storage needs.
Public cloud services are subscription-based and enable you to outsource the storage of your data (and all of the operational and personnel baggage that comes along with hosting a cloud server).
As a small business owner, you’ll find some major advantages to using the cloud — public or private — for your operations:
#1. The price is right
When you factor in the cost of on-site hardware, licensing fees, electricity, staff salaries, and other operational needs, the price tag on hosting your own on-site server can be astronomical. Contracting with a cloud service could be up to 50 percent cheaper for your company in the long term.
Cloud services also allow you to scale your usage easily. In the same way that you can adjust your email service plan as you grow, cloud services only make you pay for the services you need.
#2. It enables remote access
Cloud services enable employees to access company data from anywhere — at home, on the road, even in the bathroom. This is especially useful in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. Business doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt just because people can’t get to the office.
#3. It’s secure
Cloud companies place a heavy emphasis on security. You can certainly trust that your data is safe and sound under their supervision. Amazon Web Services offers a particularly strong system that protects user information from internal and external threats. It lets you choose from different security plans to find one that matches your compliance needs, and it lets you handpick who in your company is allowed to access sensitive data.
#4. It has automation and syncing capabilities
Cloud services automate the mind-numbing (yet essential) backup process, saving your data at designated intervals and automatically syncing your files across all connected devices. This is yet another reason why your data is more secure in the hands of a cloud service. The ability to automate essential processes removes the potential for human error.
Choose the right provider
Once you decide that your small business will benefit from migrating to a cloud system, you’ll want to arm yourself with some vital information before you make the switch. Transitioning to the cloud model is a complex process that begins with identifying which type of service best suits your company.
There are three main categories:
- Software as a service: Cloud companies such as Dropbox and Slack use the SaaS. These are centrally hosted services that allow users to sign up and begin using the product immediately, usually via a web browser or mobile app. This is a less traditional model than other cloud platforms, but the low barrier to entry makes it appealing and easy to use.
- Infrastructure as a service: IaaS providers such as Rackspace give users virtual access to servers, storage, IP addresses, networks, and other business essentials. The providers maintain all of the cloud components, which users then manage via a dashboard. This category of storage is mainly applied to business-related endeavors.
- Platform as a service: The most complex of the three cloud computing options is PaaS. Providers allow users to develop their own software apps and services from their web browsers. Amazon Web Services and other PaaS companies supply all the necessary tools and resources you’ll need to create your product without having to purchase the clunky and costly hardware for your office.
When evaluating potential cloud providers, it’s important to research their credentials and read customer reviews to select the best match for your business. First, find out whether the company has a history of data breaches. If it does, find out how it addressed the crisis and what it did to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Then, determine the ease of use and level of support. Does the provider offer employee training to make sure your team knows how to properly use the new system? The learning curve for these new technologies can be steep, so there should be a responsive customer support team to contact in the event that the system breaks. Lastly, look at the service-level agreement. Don’t commit to a provider until you know for sure that it guarantees enough uptime for your business to function effectively.
Make your move
Once you’ve chosen the right cloud service, you’ll likely want help making the transition. Hiring an IT service provider is a great way to make sure the move is as seamless as possible.
You’ll want to sit down with the team and come up with a realistic budget for the transition. Once it’s determined, the IT service provider will conduct a systems and applications assessment of your organization and offer recommendations. It will also do a viability analysis to ensure your Internet connection and servers can handle the burden of your system operating in the cloud.
Cloud services can help you better manage your data, increase productivity, and develop apps without ever leaving the comfort of your web browser. By shifting your day-to-day operations to the cloud, you’ll empower your team, streamline your processes, and free up resources to devote to other ventures. All of these benefits lead to increased output, better results, and more overall success as a company.
Images: “Cloud computing symbol being pressed by a persons hand/Shutterstock.com“
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