5 things you need to know about cloud, that you might not know already
Still getting your head around the cloud and whether it can help you at work?
Here is an introduction to some basic questions you should be asking. As part of our coverage of the cloud and how it can help you, we invited Kris Hansen, technology manager at GFI Software to submit this guest column. Disclaimer: GFI has been an advertiser on the BIT website.
1. You’ll still need your IT support
Even though your hardware (and software) will be off your hands you’ll still need access to expertise to configure and manage your cloud based services and accounts.
How do you find the right solution? Who can you contact to ask questions? What if it stops working? Managed service providers (sometimes called cloud service providers) can be your contact point to get the most out of cloud services and keep them running smoothly.
Consider Google Apps, a popular cloud service to host IT services like email, websites and documents. The price might be attractive, but you don’t have a number to call for support when you need it. Other providers may not offer support during your core business hours. Having an IT Expert who is well versed in the cloud services you need is a necessity.
Having an easily accessable IT Expert who is well versed in the cloud services you need (and knows of more you may want) ensures the service is configured for your business.
2. You need a way to migrate your existing data
Unless your first day running in the cloud is the first day you’re open for business you will need a way to export all of your company data from the old way you stored it, to the cloud storage. Data can come in all shapes, it could be a excel spreadsheet you keep, it could be a storage file in a local application you use or it could be a directory full of text files such as sales receipts and job notes. This data must be identified then converted into a version the cloud solution understands, and then uploaded.
Always ensure that the cloud solution can migrate your existing data and how much time and money this migration of all your data will cost.
Don’t forget to also consider how you get it all back again if you need to? In order to change service providers in the future, or to retrieve your data for sharing with 3rd parties a cost effective, bulk retrieval method must be available to “get your data out” when you wish.
3. Its easy to try it out first
Don’t get me wrong, most services are better in the cloud but there are some compromises, which for your business may be a deal breaker.
For example you may have a requirement to regularly transfer large amounts of data from your local computers into a custom system, your internet link may not be quick enough to provide cloud benefits, or should you have compliance requirements to locally store data. Apart from that, most of your current business applications can either be hosted on cloud servers or better, provided as a direct service to cut costs and increase capabilities.
Reputable cloud solution providers will provide free trials if you ask so you can test out the live solution on your company’s network before you go ahead. You can find out if you need to upgrade other parts of your network to allow for the service.
Also compare a few different solutions before you pick the one that feels right for your company. With cloud services the setup time is minimal so trialling is very simple – experiment with a non-critical business function first to get a feel and remember, your on-tap cloud expert can help you identify and work around any such considerations.
4. Due diligence… are you going broke?
Many cloud service providers will boast, “It’s so easy to get started with a cloud account, anyone can do it.” The fact that cloud is great for easily expanding capacity without the cap-ex, of purchasing a new computer means you need to be diligent to ensure that your consumption remains under control. With cloud adding capacity can be as easy as ticking a box in your interface or sometimes just being billed for what you HAVE used.
For example, one of your staff members may want to buy some cloud file storage. The setup charge may minimal but an accidental upload of a large amount of data or even just a large amount of traffic may mean a larger bill next month you didn’t expect.
It’s important to have a well-managed process for controlling who in your business can order extra capacity. Negotiate with your service provider to place limits on your usage beyond which they’ll need to notify you and gain your sign-off; in the same way your mobile provider or your internet ISP notifies you when you reach various billing and usage thresholds.
5. Regulation and compliance requirements in your industry.
Data Privacy, Backup & Security are a requirement in most professional industries. However many Australian small businesses don’t know this until the auditor arrives at their doorstep.
Cloud services can actually help you better achieve compliance in some instances, but you need to ask questions to your cloud provider to ensure you know where your data is stored along with how it is secured and backed up.
Ask your cloud service provider to attest to which security standards they adhere to that can be referenced in any compliance reporting you’re on the hook for.
1. Know what data you want to “move” into your new cloud services and make sure the company can help you get it there.
2. Retain the services of an IT support company for help and advice.
3. Try before you buy and ensure the cloud service is better than your current way of working.
4. Only authorise key staff to setup cloud services and have them stay vigilant over what’s being spent. An existing service can easily be expanded, which may cost you more unnecessarily.
5. Is the solution industry compliant? Know your requirements before you decide and choose a solution that can meet your industry requirements.