A common question from the businesses we encounter is this – which of my business processes and services should I move to the cloud? As discussed in previous posts, we find that for most growing businesses, there is no such thing as moving the entire business to the cloud. Instead, it’s a question of identifying which services would be more efficient and cost-effective to manage using a cloud solution.
Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but in this post we discuss some of the options available, and our general recommendation.
Cloud based email has moved on a long way from personal services such as Hotmail, and now offers resilient, fully functional services for business. Hosting your email in the cloud costs a fraction of what you would spend building your own infrastructure, with no ongoing support costs.
Before you rush to sign up, however, you need to consider whether you need a more secure or bespoke approach, for example if you are in an industry that requires high levels of encryption (such as finance).
- Our recommendation – public or private cloud/rackspace depending on security requirements.
Most businesses are using collaboration tools of one sort or another, ranging from messaging systems and note taking applications to document sharing and editing. The power and functionality of these tools has expanded significantly with cloud set-ups, and it would be crazy to try and emulate the best of breed tools with your own set-up.
- Our recommendation – public cloud
There is no doubt that most telephone systems are headed to the cloud – Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and integrated solutions such as Skype for Business means that most companies will be using cloud-based solutions sooner or later. However, if you have invested in local systems there is no rush to change your approach, as long as VoIP is part of your long-term strategy.
- Our recommendation – cloud unless legacy systems are meeting all your needs.
Line of business tools
All businesses use specialist applications, whether commonplace ones such as accounting software, or specialist tools related to their industry – customer relationship management tools, recruitment software, e-commerce systems and so on.
Depending on the provider, many of these already offer cloud-based versions, while others are designed to run only on your own infrastructure. Assessing whether to move these to the cloud will mean considering the options available from the point of view of functionality, security, previous investment in infrastructure and the costs and benefits of the change.
- Our recommendation – commission an objective review and plan carefully before making any change: disruption can be costly if badly managed.
Many companies still store their documents and files on their own servers. However, the cost of cloud-based storage has come down to such an extent that the benefits of cloud storage are starting to be extremely compelling: benefits such as version control, access from anywhere, and synchronization with off-line files. An important consideration, however, is the time it takes to access large files over an internet connection – if you are working with design files or videos, for example, you may find that accessing these files in the cloud is considerably slower than on your own network.
- Our recommendation – if you mainly work with small file sizes, and are not using cloud-based storage and document management, why not pilot it with a small group first before you take the plunge?
Despite brave new world predictions of paperless offices, we haven’t seen the last of the humble printer just yet. The immediacy of print is one of its key features, and so it is hard to see how it could be managed any way except on your own premises.
- Our recommendation – Encourage print use only where absolutely essential. Keep your printers local, but consider how cloud-based document storage will affect their performance.
An emerging suite of cloud-based tools allow you to manage your IT infrastructure using centralised resources – for example the Meraki dashboard gives you the ability to monitor mobile devices and their access to your wireless (whether public or private) through a sophisticated cloud-based tool. At the moment these tools are useful add-ons, but should not be overlooked when considering cloud solutions.
- Our recommendation – ensure that your IT partner is keeping you up to date on tools that could make your infrastructure more efficient, and your life easier.