How can businesses move towards cloud computing without jumping straight in at the deep end?
Many small businesses are keen to explore the opportunities offered by cloud computing but are reluctant to dive straight in, preferring to take one step at a time. This element of caution when entering the cloud is understandable and a good cloud computing service provider will always offer a consultative approach, offering solutions that support your business rather than pushing a full cloud solution you’re not comfortable with.
What’s cloud computing really about?
Cloud computing, otherwise known as “hosted technology,” or sometimes “Software as a Service (SaaS),” can be a rather mind-boggling concept. Cloud technology essentially refers to the ability to use a computer program (which has been installed on a server) over the internet, without needing to install anything on your own computing device. The advantages of cloud computing service providers is that they make data available from anywhere; you don’t have to be sitting in your office to carry on with your work. This ability for remote working is becoming increasingly important with the rise of flexible working.
Hint: Look for a cloud provider who will work with you on a business level as well as a technical one. If you’re struggling to make sense of the options out there, the last thing you need is an IT provider who showers you with jargon rather than understanding your needs and advising you on the solution that’s right for you.
The benefits of a staged approach
Leaping straight into the cloud is a daunting prospect for many SMEs which are already operating an IT system and wish to upgrade. Sometimes, the best approach is to dip your toe in the water first by introducing certain IT functions to the realm of cloud computing, allowing you to leave moving your internal servers or leaving behind the office network until you feel more confident. A good cloud computing service provider will help you to manage and upgrade your servers, network and internet connectivity, ensuring that your IT systems remain robust and reliable.
A taste of the cloud
There are a variety of cloud-based services which can introduce you to the benefits of cloud computing without requiring you to commit entirely.
1. Office in the cloud
Microsoft Office 365 essentially provides Microsoft’s traditional Office suite of programs (including Outlook, Word and Excel) in a cloud environment. This means that you won’t need to install it on any computers; just subscribe and access all the features of the latest version of Microsoft Office straight away. You’ll also be able to use it wherever you are, making working from home and working on the go a piece of cake.
2. Online backup
Cloud backup is essentially a managed online backup service. Your encrypted data is sent over the Internet to a secure backup server where it is stored and managed by your provider. If you’re still struggling along with tapes, online backup is a great way not only to cut the costs you’re spending on hardware but also ensure your data is secure from theft and physical damage.
3. Hosted desktop
Hosted desktop is the full cloud solution for SMEs. It’s the fully functional desktop you’re used to when you log onto your PC - but hosted in the cloud instead of on site. So hosted desktop essentially replicates your regular computer desktop on any internet connected computing device, meaning you can log on from anywhere and simply carry on where you left off. The service will be managed by your cloud computing service provider, who will take care of things like security and support. Hosted desktop can also be up to 40% cheaper than running applications and data on a local network.
- Cloud computing sets your business free from the confines of your office, making apps and data available wherever you are.
- Cloud computing is not an all or nothing approach. Don’t be afraid to take small steps towards becoming cloud enabled if that’s what suits your business.
- Talk to a provider who knows their stuff, but also understands your needs. If you’re not a techie yourself, it’s important to work with someone who speaks your language.