You need to understand the cloud to embrace the cloud

Better understanding of the potential gains offered by the cloud will make the move easier to contemplate says Aidan Simister who outlines what companies should be looking for in a provider.

You need to understand the cloud to embrace the cloud
You need to understand the cloud to embrace the cloud

Technology laggards – those slow to adopt new technologies - can feel intimidated by innovations because they lack an understanding of it; the same is true in business.

Take cloud for example. Despite its current ubiquity on both the business and consumer agenda, cloud is causing consternation among some businesses still cautious about adopting it.

survey carried out by AVG Technologies found a third of small companies in the UK and US don't understand cloud services. Yet the reality is, with careful planning, migrating to the cloud is far simpler than using on-premises servers.

Cloud software vs on-premise hardware

Deciding on whether to migrate to the cloud depends on comparative cost. Moving to the cloud involves outsourcing the entire IT infrastructure to a provider, meaning no initial outlay for systems, no instalment fees, no asset depreciation and no clunky hardware to dispose of at the end of its life-cycle. And, while providers charge a premium for their services, maintaining office hardware requires IT staff (and their salaries), or at least someone with the technical knowledge, to sustain uptime. Cloud-based services move staff away from constantly monitoring servers to work that is more beneficial to the business.

Leading cloud providers offer carrier-grade infrastructure – a luxury that very few SMBs can afford on hardware – so the chances of these disruptions due to hard drive failure, power interruption or patch problems are dramatically lower than for on-premises capabilities. The 99.9 percent up-time offered by the likes of Google and Microsoft could actually be improved upon (that equals 8.76 hours downtime a year, compared to 5.26 minutes applying a 99.999 per cent up-time guarantee offered by some outsourcers).

Beyond this, cloud's main selling-points over in-house servers are flexibility and scalability. The cloud can be accessed from virtually any location and device. Companies need only pay for the capacity they need while ensuring that volume is available if traffic spikes.

Balance costs with business needs to find a partner

Every SMB has different IT needs and every provider has different services. Organisations considering cloud migration must have clear data needs and a realistic budget. Financial constraints mean that for most SMBs, finding a cloud provider which meets both will require compromise. The most important aspects are security, scalability and manageability. Not all start-ups can afford the highest security so must balance costs with business needs.

The right partner will offer the capacity you need and should be flexible. Scalable data capacity is a vital service for companies that expect spikes in users.

Simple cloud management isn't purely in the personal interests of the CIO. A complicated service requires a lot of supervision which will lead to costs for the business both in terms of productivity and IT support. One of the goals of migrating to the cloud, particularly for smaller companies, is to negate the need for dedicated IT staff to manage users. A cloud-based solution, therefore, must allow granular and easy-to-use management of user capabilities.

Finally, but no less importantly, especially with new flexibility laws, is mobility; ensure the cloud can be accessed securely from virtually any location and device. This will enable employees to access the business' systems on the move, giving them the freedom to work from home, during a commute, or on a business trip.

Partner the cloud

It can be easy to forget how much data you're trusting your partner with: employees' payment records, customer details, company secrets, and much more.  Trust and security are crucial. Make sure the provider is well-established and reputable. A good cloud provider should also help with migration. Make sure this is offered as part of the agreement, with no hidden costs.

Contributed by Aidan Simister, director of UK sales, Intermedia