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  1. Technology
March 19, 2014

How to move your small business to the cloud

Plus what are the benefits of using Software as a Service?

By Ben Sullivan

Thinking about moving your business to the cloud, but unsure what it entails? Then this article aims to give you a brief overview of what the cloud offers and why you should perhaps look to moving your data to it.

The Cloud

Instead of purchasing software that you run on your workplace desktops or laptops that allows for data storage, with cloud, it can all be done online. Hosted by a third-party provider, employees can access the data through a browser. Look at is as rather renting a service than buying software. This cloud service comes under the term SaaS (Software as a Service). Cloud-based solutions can take less time, money, and work, and can also be more secure if the right provider is chosen.

Here are 4 reasons to move your SME to the cloud:

Cost: One of the biggest reasons to move to the cloud is the amount of money businesses can save. A lot of providers offer pay-per-use plans that are scalable to the needs of the business. Furthermore, without the need to upgrade, expand, or buy new software, you’ll save on those expenses too. You won’t even need any IT staff to handle your data, as it’s all in the cloud.

Access anywhere: Using the cloud, you have access to your data anywhere, especially with the ongoing adoption of BYOD.

Automatic data back-up: We all know how important it is to back up data, and fortunately, with the cloud, you can usually trust your provider to do this all for you. Even if your business suffers from a disaster like a fire or flood, your data is safe and sound hosted on your provider’s servers. Obviously, check your provider’s redundancy and back-up credentials before buying into a plan. The great thing about cloud providers is that you can check out their reputation online with forums and user-submitted reviews.

Easy collaboration: Document sharing and real-time editing is all made easy in the cloud, and as the apps used to access data are all browser based, it’s fairly easy for all employees to know what they’re doing an no extra training is needed.

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So how do you start to go about moving to the cloud?

First off, there are different types of cloud services. These can be broken down to public, private, and a third called turnkey.

A public cloud is normally provided by a large company, for instance Amazon or Microsoft. They are usually low cost, but that comes at the expense of lack of control of data and vague security issues. They’re not always the most flexible, either, but if you need somewhere to dump a load of data then public services a re a good place to start.

A private cloud is more dedicated to your business needs, and all your data is stored in a remote data centre. You have more control, security, and privacy, but it does cost more then public cloud. This is probably a good choice for businesses looking seriously at getting their work moved onto the cloud.

Turnkey cloud brings in IT advisors who can personally help develop the right combination of cloud services for your business. It includes pre-tested packages of software and storage than a provider can deploy, and are a good choice for businesses which don’t have the resources for a customized cloud service.

So once you’ve chosen which type of cloud to go with, what about choosing the right provider?

Look at the support a cloud provider offers. If you’re new to the game, you’ll want a provider that’s perhaps locally based that you can call or email without too many problems. Moreover, a local provider can customise to the needs of your business better, and change with your business as it grows or shifts. With a small, local business, you’re just as important to it as it is to you, so it’s going to need to look after you. A larger public or national provider won’t be able to meet your specific needs as well as a local provider, perhaps, and won’t miss your business if you go elsewhere.

Then take a look at what other customers are saying about the provider. How important are their businesses to the provider? Have there been any issues?

Moving on to security, look at where your data will be stored, and what methods are used to protect it from breaches and leaks. Also think about the legal issues surrounding your data, and if it’s allowed to be stored outside of the country you are based in. The provider you choose should priduce a service level agreement (SLA) which commits to delivering your required needs, and other options like a guaranteed level of uptime.

So there you have some of your options. But the cloud isn’t just for storing data – there’s a massive range of software now being used via cloud which can help your business achieve its needs. Services like Microsoft’s Office 365 can give everyone in your company the ability to work with presentations, documents, spreadsheets and calendars anywhere, anytime. Other services can help you manage projects, increase security, and pretty much anything else you can think of that would normally be done in-house but can now be done in the cloud.

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