Many factors are involved in deciding how your business will utilize cloud computing services. These include features of the application, security of the platform, reliability of the provider and user experience, to name a few. Before you get into the details of comparing cloud providers side by side, there are four steps you should take to help you make a well-informed decision that will ensure that your choice fits in with your IT and business strategy.
1. Inventory Your Current Applications
Listing all the current software applications your employees use will give you the lay of the land in your IT environment. Along with the application, include information about the number of licenses you own, who actually uses the software and any important dates relating to expirations or updates. Some software tools can help you compile this sort of information but a spreadsheet will work, too. If you partner with an IT managed services provider (MSP), they might be able to provide you with a report that gives you most of the information you need for your inventory.
Surveys sent out to employees can gather more information. Ask if they utilize desktop or web-based (SaaS) services not already listed, if they know there is software they don’t use and if there are capabilities that software could provide that they wish they had but don’t right now. Analyzing this data will help you learn:
- If you have purchased applications or licenses that your employees seldom or never use
- If you have duplicated or underutilized capabilities
- If customers require specific apps or use their web portals to do business
- Where your employees are already using cloud services
- If there are opportunities for technology to improve how you meet customer needs
- If you have end-of-life or major updates in the near future that will require significant investment
2. Review Your Business Plan
The decision to utilize cloud services should be a business decision, so get out your business plan and focus your thoughts on your vision for the future. Whether your business plan is very detailed or concise, it aims to help you decide where to invest your resources.
Cloud technologies can enable your success if they are part of an IT strategy that is aligned with your business goals. Situations where flexibility and agility are needed are potential opportunities to go to the cloud. Some examples of business objectives that can be enabled with cloud technologies include:
- Opening of additional locations
- Launch of a new product
- Gain flexibility to handle peaks and valleys of activity
- Improve productivity and efficiency of mobile workers
- Increase efficiency in time of accelerated growth
- End-of-life scenario with line of business application
3. Review the Status of Your Infrastructure
You should consider how any new software or hardware will impact your network before you decide to move forward. This includes cloud services. While part of the benefit of the cloud is to take the burden of storage and computing space off your internal network, other factors will affect performance.
Increased use of cloud computing means that employees will need access to the internet, and there will be an increased amount of data flowing through your network. Will your internal infrastructure and bandwidth be sufficient to handle the traffic without compromising access?
Implementing a great new cloud app won’t meet your goals for efficiency if performance is sluggish and frustrating to the user. Your MSP can help you review the specifications of the cloud service to see if it is compatible with your current infrastructure or if modifications need to be made before implementation.
4. Revisit your Security Requirements
Cloud computing providers invest heavily in security and can have better perimeter defenses than your business can afford for your internal network, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your data is safe.
Human behavior is an unpredictable vulnerability for any business and is best addressed with regular training. Policies and procedures for passwords and access to information that you have internally should apply to cloud services. Review the regulations to which you comply (HIPAA, PCI, ITAR, etc.) to see how they address the use of cloud services.
The Cloud Should Make Your Business Better
The advantages of cloud computing can empower your employees to meet your customers' needs better and bring more value to your business. Your decision-making process should include steps that ensure you are well-informed about all the factors contributing to success. If you don't feel like you need to ask, "what is IT strategy," then maybe that's where you should start your homework.
Thriveon’s managed IT services include business-level technology guidance by a dedicated virtual CIO to help companies make good decisions about IT activity and investment while providing a whole IT department for a fixed monthly fee.
To explore how you can get better IT results, schedule a meeting today.