Most smaller businesses are shifting key elements of their business IT to the cloud. They often see it as a way to spread costs and provide more flexibility - although there are many other advantages too
However, the cloud represents a fundamental change in the way your company buys and provides IT services to your staff. It's therefore vital that you evaluate the costs and benefits carefully. Here are five things to consider when weighing up cloud computing.
1. Determine your business goals
Before you begin evaluating specific cloud services, it's vital you understand your business goals and how IT can help you achieve them.
Cloud computing is no different to any other element of your business IT in that it's simply a tool to help you meet your business objectives. So don't get too excited by the technology - focus on what you're trying to achieve, then consider if the cloud is the best option to help reach your objectives.
2. Identify apps that are suited to the cloud
Examine your existing IT infrastructure and decide where changes might make sense. For instance, are certain applications due an upgrade anyway? And if so, are they good candidates for the cloud?
For most companies, it makes sense to consider moving non-essential applications to the cloud initially. It's a good way to try out the cloud without risking critical services.
Also, applications that see big swings in user demand are good candidates, since cloud services are good at handling varying demands. They can easily be scaled up and down as required. Also consider any areas of new business or expansion.
3. Create a migration strategy
You need to have a concrete plan for introducing cloud computing. Which applications will you transfer? When will this happen?
Make sure you plan how to integrate cloud applications with in-house software. They must work together so your staff can access the most up to date information when they need it.
4. Evaluate cloud suppliers
You'll probably need to bring in some IT expertise at an early stage. Your existing IT supplier is usually the best place to start.
But once you've established your requirements and have a shortlist of services, you need some way to pick the best one for your company. There are many factors to consider, including:
- Where will your data be stored?
- Who manages the cloud service?
- Is the service guaranteed to be reliable with a service level agreement?
- What backups are in place if something goes wrong?
5. Work out the cost
Many businesses think that cloud computing will be cheaper than buying new hardware and software to use in-house, but actually this isn't always the case. The issue of costs is more complex.
Usually you're swapping a capital expenditure (buying new equipment and software) for operational expenditure (paying for a service by the month). It's worth analysing where the financial advantages lie for your business.
The big advantage of cloud services doesn't lie solely with the cost. It’s in the flexibility and freedom that they offer.
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