Prepare your business for Cloud Computing

The IT industry may shout that Cloud Computing is the way of the future and that all businesses should move their IT to the Cloud. The reality is that any IT solution should be investigated and planned, whether it’s within your office or accessed via the Internet. So, what factors will you need to consider? The following guidelines address some of the pains that can be experienced with a hurried, unstructured move to Cloud computing.

Identify what you want in the Cloud – Cloud computing doesn’t need to be an ‘all or nothing’ project. Start with a picture of your current IT setup and the functionality that it gives your business. If you’re only just starting up, this will be different than if your business is already established with historical information. Is there something new you want to explore, like email marketing or a prospect database? This could be perfect for the Cloud. But if you are looking to only move pieces of your existing IT capability, consider any flow-on effects to other systems. Make sure that a move to the Cloud won’t hinder any future integration opportunities.

Confirm your ongoing costs & savings – Cloud providers will point out the cost savings from using a centrally owned and managed system. Certainly this may give your business access to IT at a fraction of the cost of owning it yourself. However, can your business handle a cost on an ongoing basis instead of a one-off purchase when you do have the cash to invest? If there is still a large amount of technology needed in your business, Cloud computing may not significantly decrease your support costs. Do your homework and know the costs you will be committing to and where the savings will be coming from.

Confirm the flexibility – Cloud solutions can be cut-down versions of the full software, so if you are getting ‘email’ (for example), make sure you know what functionality is included and what isn’t. How flexible is the hosted system if you want to make changes, like increasing attachment size limits? Are you locked in to what you can change and what you can’t … and are you OK with that?

Prove the Backup & Disaster Recovery plans -Debate rages on whether businesses with their information in the Cloud also need their own local backup. Thoroughly reviewing your provider’s agreement is only the first step. Ask about their last Disaster Recovery test. Include offsite backup testing reports in your contract. Plan how your business will survive if your Cloud provider fails and ensure your plan is implemented and tested on a regular basis.

Review your Infrastructure – Your Cloud solutions still have to be accessed via your local computers with your internet connection. If your PC is slow, or if you are significantly increasing your internet usage, then your Cloud application may be slow or unreliable. Consider your local IT components and plan for any necessary upgrades. Also consider additional redundancy, like a backup internet connection or spare internet modem, as any failure in your connectivity will have a larger impact.

Ultimately, Cloud computing must deliver increased business benefits or reduce IT costs overall without reducing functionality, unless your business is prepared to make sacrifices to improve your bottom line.

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