Any SMB considering a move to the cloud must understand that the perceived benefits can be short-lived without a plan that places cloud computing in the context of its overall business strategy and affects security, performance, and connectivity.
With cloud based software increasingly freed from ongoing infrastructure management to focus on new areas for innovation, business integration demands simplification. With this in mind, let’s look more closely at how SMBs should prepare themselves before adopting the cloud.
Best Practice #1: Create a strategy and a set of (realistic) goals upfront
SMBs are jumping in without articulating a long-term cloud strategy and how it relates to their overall business. As with any project SMBs need to establish realistic goals and priorities, a clear budget and deadline, as well as a shared understanding of what resources are available for implementation and maintenance. Although cloud computing promises significant ROI – productivity gains of 50% or more – keeping complexity and cost to a minimum requires planning and strategy. Start with a high-value, tactical problem that can be solved with a public cloud and use the project as a way to prove initial value
Best Practice #2: Learn from the mistakes of those who came before you
Early adopters took a standalone approach to cloud computing. The services were readily available, easy to consume, and economical. Implementation challenges were few. However the “detached” cloud might deliver only short-term value and potentially require future re-implementation or migration. Although a standalone approach risks creating silos of applications, an integrated cloud strategy will deliver long-term results to your business.
Best Practice #3: Avoid upfront costs
One reason SMBs turn to cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) is to mitigate risk. With a pay-as-you-go model, you can simply turn the system off if it is not working for you, and you only pay for what you use. Be sure not to jeopardize return on investment with expensive software licenses – your integrated solution, like every other part of your cloud computing investment, should use a flexible subscription model, too.
Best Practice #4: Get serious about security
Most of those in IT won’t dig your initial movement to cloud computing, and they’ll spout the usual concerns around security. It’s best to take this off the table as an install issue by providing a formal plan and technology solution. In this plan, make sure to include security testing and validation, which should put most fears to rest and move you to a much more secure final solution. Keep in mind that as enterprises move more processes to the cloud, the volume of sensitive data flowing to and from the cloud increases.
Best Practice #5: Include as many people as you can in the review process
Many cloud projects operate like they are secret projects in SMBs. However, the best approach is to include as many people as you can in the process of defining, designing, and deploying your first cloud computing project. As they walk through the progress of the project – perhaps in monthly review sessions and demonstrations – they’ll learn about the concepts and the technology, and the fear level will quickly fall.
Current economic conditions are driving SMBs toward cloud computing, and with good reason. No one can argue that the cloud doesn’t deliver value. It is already proven to be a disruptive force. SMBs that follow these five practices are the ones that prevail in their move to the cloud. It’s not an all-encompassing list, but it’s a good guide toward your own success.