If you own a business, you’ve undoubtedly considered moving to the cloud. After all, proponents of the cloud promise that it will save your company money, increase productivity, and generally improve the overall success of your company.
Before you make the leap to the cloud, though, it’s important to consider whether it’s actually right for your specific business, or if you are just blindly following a trend. After all, remember what your mother used to say: “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”
So before you “follow your friends” and jump off the proverbial bridge to the cloud, it’s important to conduct a thorough assessment of not only whether the cloud is appropriate for your business, but also whether you’re even ready to make the shift.
Finding the Baseline
One of the key aspects of any major change is determining whether or not the change will actually make things better — or if you are just changing for the sake of change. For that reason, any assessment of a potential move to the cloud needs to start with an evaluation of where you are now. This includes asking:
- What is the status of our current infrastructure? Is it adequate for our needs? Is it running smoothly, or does it require more maintenance every year? Are we considering an upgrade?
- What applications are we using? Are they Web-based? Or are we running virtualized machines, and require in-house hardware to run licensed versions of software?
- How are we maintaining our current infrastructure? How is it being secured? Has downtime increased?
- How is IT spending its time? Are they focused on troubleshooting, maintenance, and constant upgrades? Could their time be better spent on innovation and development?
Obviously, if your infrastructure is currently adequate and your IT department is able to manage the servers without too much difficulty, it may not be the right time to shift to a cloud-based environment. However, if you are dealing with equipment that is a few years old, and are considering upgrades and replacements anyway, than a shift to the cloud could be a more cost-effective solution.
Looking to the Future
Developing an IT infrastructure isn’t about just looking at the present and finding efficiencies in the short term. It’s about looking to the future, and ensuring that what you put into place will allow for growth. Ask yourself:
- Are we growing? What do have planned for the future that will contribute to growth? What are the growth projections — and can our current infrastructure handle that growth?
- Are we prepared to deal with unexpected costs? Even if your current servers and network are working fine today, can you handle a breakdown or unexpected expense to replace or upgrade equipment?
- What are the plans for a virtual or mobile workforce? Could you benefit from a staff that is dispersed geographically? How are employees working on the go or remotely now, and is there a better way to do so?
A business can grow and change without moving to the cloud, but by doing so, you may find that it is easier to scale resources in the future and better meet the needs of your employees and customers without incurring significant costs. At the same time, if your growth is relatively steady and you aren’t planning to make any major changes to your business model — or if remote work is not a possibility — than you may be better off maintaining your current server configuration.
While your current workload and future plans are key considerations when looking at a move to the cloud, there are few other important points to consider.
Compliance. What are your industry’s standards? Are you bound by security standards that could significantly affect how you use the cloud? Most cloud service providers and colocation centers are set up to meet the compliance standards for HIPPA, PCI, and Sarbanes-Oxley Act reporting, but it’s still important to ensure that you can adequately secure your data in the cloud.
Redundancy. Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place? The cloud can be a vital part of a business continuation plan, but it’s also important to ensure that you have a plan in place should the cloud servers experience a failure.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” cloud solution, so it’s important to thoroughly assess your business’ individual needs and plans before making the shift to a cloud-based environment. When you do so, you will reap the benefits of the cloud without regrets.