A Commonsense Approach to Cloud Computing for Small Business

Contributed by: Dave Key

The destruction done by Hurricane Sandy is another reminder of the vulnerability of maintaining on-premise IT systems.  Those businesses that had been running their business “from the Cloud” didn’t experience the downtime and potential data loss of those with on-premise IT.

Business continuity after a disaster is just one reason why businesses of all sizes have been moving their IT operations “to the Cloud”.  Other motivations for moving to the Cloud include:

  • The ability to focus on their key business drivers instead of IT, completely eliminating tasks such as system upgrades, backups, and IT administration
  • The improved business agility by rapidly being able to quickly take advantage of new software capabilities
  • The productivity gains of always using the most up-to-date software
  • The superior security and availability provided by world-class SaaS (software as a service) vendors
  • The “Access Anywhere” Cloud capability

The move to SaaS may also be precipitated by other strategic initiatives requiring changes to software such as supporting mobile devices, social initiatives, or new regulatory compliance requirements all  of which require a rethinking of company’s IT strategies.

Any company with 100 or more employees has sufficient complexity that they should assess the benefits of “moving to the Cloud” and create a formal strategy for their IT Cloud transformation.  Fortunately, the transition can be incremental.  The roadmap will provide guidance to ensure the transition happens smoothly with the maximum business gains.

The company should start with an inventory of all IT services they currently use by category, and identify the new categories (see below) as well as new IT initiatives to drive their business forward.   Some applications, like social applications are likely already Cloud based, while legacy applications such as accounting are likely on-premise.

IT Categories and Representation SaaS Offerings

Communications Applications: Telephony, Phone, Chat, Video Conferencing
Cloud Examples: Ring Central, Microsoft Lync, Google Voice, Google Hangouts, GotoMeeting

Productive Applications: Email, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentation Tools
Cloud Examples: Office 365, Google Docs and Mail, Evernote    

Sales & Marketing Applications: CRM, Marketing Applications
Cloud Examples: Salesforce, Sugar CRM, HubSpot

Social Applications: Twitter, Blogging Application, Social Media Compliance 
Cloud Examples: TweetDeck, Instagram, WordPress, Socialware, Facebook

Financial Applications: Accounting, Invoicing, Ecommerce
Cloud Examples: Sage One, NetSuite, QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks

Companies should also consider how Business Intelligence can help them more effectively run and grow their businesses using tolls that are a part of the core SaaS applications such as NetSuite’s SuiteAnalytics, Salesforce’s Sales Cloud.   Alternatively an analytics tool that works across multiple platforms such as GoodData can be used to create a comprehensive set of Business Intelligence insights to better manage the business. 

The company needs to tie their Cloud strategy together to ensure that their security, disaster recovery, regulatory compliance, and mobile requirements are addressed in the plan.  Finally the plan should include consideration on how all the individual Cloud applications will be integrated to share data to create uniform operations through the business.

There are a great number of benefits to moving IT to the Cloud, but it is crucial to plan on a phased transition to achieve the maximum benefits without potential pitfalls of any IT migration.

You’ll be glad you made the transition to the Cloud even beyond still having your IT operational after a natural disaster.

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