The idea of your IT being ‘moved to the cloud‘ might inspire thoughts of servers flying through the air, but what it really means is removing internal hardware to be replaced by access to your own private servers which scale and cost based on what you need and use. There are a wide range of cloud computing infrastructure options available, but what can you actually implement, and how do you avoid problems?
What can be moved to the cloud?
The short answer is effectively any computing process can be virtualised and run via a cloud service, from could hosted document storage to entire virtual machines including operating systems, applications and data. This can remove a further cost as virtual machines can be added to employees own preferred computers and laptops.
Commonly many businesses have started with website hosting, which removes the need for a rack of servers in your office, along with the cost of power, cooling and adequate fire protection – having witnessed business servers located in some of the most expensive areas of London, the cost of running your own servers cannot be underestimated! Even on a much smaller scale many businesses can still find large savings.
Most individual business processes can be implemented using Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, whether for financial operations, file storage, automated backups, and email. It’s not a question of what is possible as much as what is acceptable to both business owners and those running the IT department. The most common concerns are:
- Data Security: Although a legitimate consideration, cloud providers are able to specialise in security to a greater extent than most business IT specialists (Unless you’re an IT security company), and given that most servers will need to interact with the outside world, the risk level is realistically less.
- Vendor Lock In: When considering SaaS solutions, it’s important to check any time-based lock in, but more importantly that all data can be exported and will not be provided in a proprietary format which is useless with any other system – the option to host your own software on your own virtual private server means you can retain this control internally.
- Reliability Issues: Although no system is 100% safe from failure, datacenters are constantly evolving their systems to try to reach perfect uptime. Internal servers are not immune to hardware failure or human error, but the advantage of the cloud is that your hosting company engineers are the ones solving the problem at 2.30am in the morning.
- Connectivity: Almost a non-issue in most cases as there are very few businesses which are not constantly connected, and most services will offer offline syncing .
There is also the concern that it reduces the importance of internal IT teams – but this is actually a chance for IT staff to become strategic partners of the business, managing cloud-based providers, and being able to become more responsive to business needs rather than hardware support.
Steps to a smooth migration:
Approaching a migration to cloud-based services simply requires a three step process:
- Define key business drivers and objectives.
- Form a project team of both IT and business staff
- Develop the project plan to include business requirements, success metrics, timelines and dependencies, particularly around decision making and agreements with external suppliers.
- In following the plan, avoid scope creep and additions to the project plan. At best it lengthens delays, and at worst adds confusion and muddled objectives.
- Communicate back to the business and start training users as soon as possible to let them experience the benefits.
- Monitor adoption and success metrics
- Implement internal customer service and a catalogue of services which can be provided.
In this way moving to the cloud not only provides the business managers with cost savings over traditional infrastructure, but it also allows IT teams to be enablers of faster moving business solutions and opportunities rather than gatekeepers restricting options.
About the Author: Ben Jones is a tech writer, particularly interested in how technology can help small businesses. He’s been assisting businesses in getting IT setups maximised, and is sharing experiences along the way.