Five Factors SMBs Should Consider Before Embracing The Cloud



Cloud Migration

Cloud computing has been quickly adopted by businesses of all sizes, keen to take advantage of promised cost savings and improved flexibility.  Yet, for many small and mid-sized businesses, shifting core systems and data stores to a hosted platform might not actually deliver all the benefits they expect.

Cloud proponents point to reduced IT complexity and an ability to scale resources as key reasons cloud platforms make sense. They argue that, rather than investing capital in infrastructure that must then be managed in-house, a business is better off making use of hosted resources provided and maintained by an external party.

Hybrid Cloud. Many have opted to shift some of their IT resources to a cloud provider while keeping sensitive applications and data in-house.

Photograph by Cedric Servay via Unsplash

These arguments certainly stack up for large companies. Many have opted to shift some of their IT resources to a cloud provider while keeping sensitive applications and data in-house. Having access to in-house IT teams means the task of managing such a hybrid infrastructure is readily achievable.

“…many are tempted to go ‘all in’ on the cloud and shift their entire infrastructure to a hosted platform.”

Cloudy misconceptions

Unfortunately, many find the subsequent experience to be somewhat disappointing and the business benefits they expected to achieve from making the move simply don’t materialise. Some of the reasons disappointment occurs include:

  • Costs: Cloud is often positioned as a less expensive alternative to in-house IT. While this can initially appear to be the case, when all costs are included it can often actually be more expensive.

  • Shared platform: Most cloud platforms used by SMBs will be shared between multiple clients. This makes it more difficult (if not impossible) to customise applications and add features that might be needed by the business.

  • Lock-in: It can be easy to shift data and applications to the cloud, but not so easy to get it all back. Once a business has moved large file stores and adopted hosted applications, shifting either to another provider or back to an on-premise infrastructure can be a complex task.

  • Point of contact: Most SMBs are likely to have a reliable technical person they can turn to when problems IT arise. If instead they are dealing with a large cloud provider, finding someone who can help solve issues could be much more difficult, potentially leading to downtime and business disruption.

An SMB cloud checklist

For these reasons, it is important for an SMB to think carefully before shifting IT resources to a cloud platform or taking advantage of some of the many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings that are now on the market.

 It’s vital that the business understands exactly what benefits it will achieve and any issues or challenges that might need to be overcome. The five most important factors every SMB should consider are:

  1. Infrastructure: The performance of any cloud platform will be heavily governed by the state of a business’s local networking infrastructure. If an existing wired (or wireless) local area network cannot cope with the resulting increased data traffic, the result will be a significantly degraded user experience. It’s also important to check the capacity of the business’s connection to the internet to be sure there is sufficient bandwidth available.

  2. Security:  Be sure strong security is in place and protecting systems remaining in-house, data when it is traveling to and from the cloud, and data stored on the cloud platform. Any breaches that occur could cause problems when it comes to compliance.

  3. Feasibility: Before any contracts are signed or resources migrated, conduct a full feasibility study to determine exactly what is required and how it can best be achieved. Examine the offerings of a range of cloud providers to determine which one will be the best fit for the business.

  4. User experience: When applications that were running locally are shifted to the cloud, users are likely to notice a change in performance. Undertake testing with all users before changes are made to ensure they will be comfortable with the new platform.

Costs: Most importantly, check the full costs of the planned cloud adoption. This should include everything from initial monthly user fees to increased bandwidth charges and any modifications or customisations to software that might be required.

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    By carefully examining each of these factors, an SMB can be confident any adoption of cloud-based capacity or technology will deliver the business benefits that are anticipated. There is no doubt the cloud has much to offer business, however embracing it with eyes wide open is the best approach to take.

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