5 Things to Consider When Moving to the Cloud
Cloud technology is a constant consideration for all businesses. But with the range of terminology, different solutions, and a multitude of vendors to choose from, it can be confusing to know what the best solution(s) is, and just how to migrate your business to the cloud successfully. In this blog, we look at five key things you should consider to ensure that you experience minimum disruption and maximum output from any migration project:
In the past few decades, particularly since the introduction of smartphones, technology has accelerated at an unprecedented rate. From social media to artificial intelligence – it can be easy to forget just how much things have advanced and changed everyone’s day to day lives, and the impact on businesses is no different.
Where there may previously have been apprehension amongst business leaders to embrace the cloud due to fears surrounding cost, security, and a little bit of ‘the unknown’ mixed with the need to not spend money fixing something which wasn’t broken, a recent article by Forbes reported that approximately 90% of businesses have implemented at least one cloud solution.
Whilst this adoption can largely be accredited to improvements in the stability, usability, and availability of the technology over the last decade, COVID-19 forced businesses to re-consider their entire approach overnight. Suddenly, the focus shifted to technologies which provided the flexibility and accessibility their business needed to operate from anywhere (mainly employee’s kitchen tables!).
The requirement for businesses to facilitate remote working is not predicted to be a temporary one either, with 72% of the UK workforce reported to prefer some form of hybrid working going forward. With this in mind, businesses should most likely be considering the solutions they depend on to function optimally every day and making a plan for how, and when, they can move those systems to the cloud. In our experience, this would normally relate to at least productivity solutions such as Microsoft 365, VoIP phone systems, as well as other critical functions such as finance and CRM.
The process of cloud migration involves moving the data, applications, and storage currently managed on-site to a cloud-based server or solution. This means that any migration process should be a considered one and carried out by someone, or a team, who fully understands the technology involved, and can mitigate potential pitfalls or security risks which could impact the success of the project.
Based on our experience of migrating 100+ customers to cloud solutions (click here to see some of their stories) we have listed five key things you should consider when moving to the cloud, to help your migration run as smoothly as possible and provide the best solution to your business.
One of the key reasons for businesses to move to the cloud is the accessibility it offers. As such, it provides a practical solution to creating the hybrid working environment alluded to in the introduction.
Unlike on-premise solutions (technology installed in your office, on your server, and/or physical network), cloud solutions are delivered via the internet. This means that the systems can normally be accessed from anywhere, on any device with an internet connection.
Whilst it is possible to achieve similar outcomes by implementing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Remote Desktop (RDP) Sessions, the ‘live’ nature of cloud-based solutions can dramatically increase collaboration amongst teams. This is due to the functionality provided by cloud solutions to work on documents and projects simultaneously, on their own device with no lagging.
Microsoft 365, for example, combines everyone’s favourites Outlook, Word and Excel, with Teams and SharePoint to provide a platform which enables staff to communicate with each other, customers, and suppliers. Users can easily access and manage email, video calls, instant chat, and even in-document collaboration from their mobile phone, tablet, laptop or PC providing they have a minimum 4G connection.
Similarly, VoIP (cloud) phones, including our preferred Xelion solution, enable users to make, receive and transfer calls via your landline number wherever they are. The advantages of cloud phones being that calls are made over the internet rather than a traditional phone line, so the physical location of the line no longer determines access. As a result, calls can be handled from mobile phones, laptops or traditional desktop phones depending on everyone’s preference.
So, unless there is a complete blackout in your area there is no reason your team should not be able to interact with each other or your customers.
It is worth noting that with this freedom to access data from anywhere, your business faces a slightly larger security risk than before. The two reasons for this are that you are both dependent on the cloud vendor’s security capabilities as opposed to having 100% control over what is used in your own office. Secondly, on a more practical level – your team are not as visible or within touching-distance as they are in the office, so it can be harder to see if anyone is doing anything they shouldn’t.
We talk more about security in the next section, but as part of your cloud migration strategy you need to ensure that you include a combination of security tools (e.g. two factor authentication) along with clear processes in relation to how staff should access, and more importantly, log out of, or protect critical systems and data.
Contrary to the last paragraph, when done correctly the cloud is usually a considerably safer way to store your data as opposed to onsite servers. In fact, one of the key benefits of moving to the cloud is the access you gain to major vendors infrastructure, some of which spend up to one billion dollars a year on security. However, the planning of moving to the cloud is crucial to make sure the security of your business is kept intact.
Perhaps the biggest consideration in terms of the security of the cloud is who has access to your data. It is essential that only the right people have access to the cloud. This means taking the time to consider who needs to have access, and what it is they need access to rather than letting everyone in the business use things they might never use but could hugely hurt your business if they end up in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have them.
When migrating to the cloud we recommend that you:
- Request and understand the security provisions offered and guaranteed by any solution you choose to implement.
- As a minimum, enforce two-factor authentication (2FA). This significantly reduces the opportunity for hackers to access your system by requiring an additional layer of security to be completed every time someone tries to log in.
- Most platforms offer the ability to set ‘automatic log-offs’ due to inactivity, use this. I.e. ensure your team can’t leave critical data and systems exposed by simply wandering away from their machine at lunch.
- Set out clear processes, procedures, and responsibilities for staff to adhere to. You can read our further tips on securing technology for remote working set-ups here.
Business Continuity can be described as having the right plan and systems in place to ensure that your business can continue to work following disruption to “normal practice”. Such disruptions could be anything from malware attacks to the COVID-19 outbreak which forced many businesses to operate from home to some degree over the past few years.
Although no technology is full proof, the fact that cloud solutions are delivered via the internet, the risk of circumstances occurring which result in your business coming to a standstill are much less likely than when using onsite servers. As the applications can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, it is much easier to find an alternate connection than it is to deal with a major outage of a server for example. Even in the worst case scenarios, many cloud solutions can function pretty impressively even on a 4G connection, so tethering to your phone is always an option.
With this in mind, it is fair to say cloud solutions can offer businesses a degree of continuity that you may struggle to achieve with an on-premise solution as there are almost no scenarios where staff will have no access to the cloud, meaning your business can continue regardless of the problems you may encounter.
Similarly to the advantages outlined in relation to accessibility, due to the fact that cloud-technology is deployed via the internet, often via subscription pricing models, it can offer benefits to businesses who need to increase or decrease the IT resources your business uses, as and when it is needed. This could be the infrastructure, applications, memory, or anything else your business might require more or less of at any given time.
The process of upscaling is usually quick and easy, requiring no downtime at all. This means that you can easily tailor what your business needs in terms of resources dependant on the needs of your business at that time.
In addition, as the bulk of storage and processing is managed by the provider, it means that hardware costs can often be reduced and you only pay for what you need, as opposed to investing in a more comprehensive server from day one to ensure there is room to grow, whether you use it or not.
As with all investments, one of the biggest factors that will be on any business owner’s mind…how much will this cost?
The conversation relating to cost is an interesting one when it comes to cloud technology. Most marketing materials and cloud vendors advertise the cloud to be a cheaper option for businesses. From our experience, this is true more often than not, but there is no definitive answer on this.
In some instances, for example VoIP set-ups, there are usually notable savings to be made due to reduced cost for line rental and call charges. However, as with all things in this world, each situation is unique and therefore needs to be judged on its own merits.
There are two elements we would normally discuss regarding the cost of a cloud solution.
Firstly, cloud platforms normally represent a different pricing approach from more traditional, on-premise IT solutions. Where technology was previously purchased as a capital expense, and essentially bought out-right for an upfront fee, cloud technology is pretty much always delivered as a subscription model. This often means that year one costs are lower, but the ongoing costs can appear higher.
This leads nicely to the second element we discuss – total cost of ownership. In addition to lower year one costs, cloud solutions normally require a lower investment in hardware to operate as a lot of the processing is being done via the browser or app used, as opposed to the user’s device.
Beyond this, whilst on-premise solutions tend to require a higher initial investment and lower ongoing costs, they do usually also require additional investment and upgrading every two to three years. It depends on the solution in question, but upgrades can sometimes cost 25%-50% of the initial investment and require consultancy and downtime to complete. Both of which result in direct and indirect costs.
Again, it is extremely common that all upgrades are carried out automatically as part of your subscription with a cloud solution. This means no unknown cost, no risk of your technology ever being out of date, and normally no downtime.
In our experience, significant investments in IT are often done as part of a five-year project. So, if you are considering the cost of moving to the cloud, versus not, we would recommend to analyse the total costs over a five-year period, including all future maintenance, upgrades, and associated costs as well as potential downtime for the business.
As part of our proven process, we share clear pricing and can provide information and experience in both cloud and on-premise solutions to allow you to make an informed decision.
As can be seen in the five points which have been discussed, moving to the cloud can offer businesses many advantages, and can improve how a business operates immensely. However, to reap the best rewards the cloud has to offer consideration must be taken on what your cloud system will look like, what is necessary to your business and who has access to it. With all of this in mind, we recommend having a plan in place using the points covered and discussing them with your potential provider to make sure you implement the right solution for your business.
At Innovec, our business-critical systems (phones, email, support, and finance solutions) are cloud-based to ensure our business can operate from wherever we need it to As a local IT support provider, we understand the challenges owner-managed and growing businesses face, especially when IT is involved, and know that above all, you just need your technology to work so that your people can get on with what they are good at.
If you would like to discuss any of the points covered within this blog, or any other IT needs your business may have, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01292 427 420, and speak to one of our expert team about how Innovec can help!