The issue of moving an organisation to the cloud may seem like a daunting task for many directors or decision makers. This is especially the case if you are not particularly familiar with the cloud. It is important to understand that moving an organisation to the cloud and using cloud applications should be easier than whatever you did to set up your current infrastructure.
The benefits of cloud computing are potentially numerous -- all the more reason to do the transition correctly. You will reduce costs, increase collaboration, increase security and retain a flexible IT system at the same time. You can enlarge or contract your capabilities at any time, and that means making the most of your resources through monthly payments instead of paying upfront for costly applications and having to install them on all of your devices.
A basic example to familiarise yourself with cloud
For those who feel they need a little more understanding of what cloud computing really is, open a couple of Gmail accounts and see how you can use email, chat, create documents and use applications inside Google’s Drive application and share them seamlessly with other users on Gmail.
In short, cloud computing places all of your applications and your stored files in a centralised, safe place, so you can access your applications through your browser-based applications through an Internet connection. Nothing is stored on your devices, and that includes the applications you will be using. Facebook is a form of cloud computing. Facebook is an application, and you use it while all your data is stored inside it.
Office 365 Essentials is a simple cloud solution for those organisations who require video chat, email and software similar to that of Microsoft Office 2016. The only thing left to do is to upload your existing documents and start sharing them online instead of emailing them as attachments to each other.
Most companies will require a little more than this first basic example, such as guaranteed uptime, guaranteed backup, disaster recovery, and customer IT support, so we are providing the following step-by-step guide so you can make a clean and cost efficient move to the cloud.
Cloud computing sounds a little confusing, mainly because of the term ‘cloud’. In reality, your applications and data are not stored in a ‘cloud’. Applications and data are stored on dedicated servers, which are managed, secured and maintained by your vendor. You can access your applications and data through a browser such as Google Chrome, Safari or Firefox.
Step 1. Get more than enough internet and bandwidth
Cloud computing doesn’t require a huge amount of bandwidth, contrary to popular belief. This is because the majority of Internet use is only for downloading. New documents are created in your cloud, and changes are saved on those documents.
However, you are going to need a little extra Internet juice to access your documents with ease. Packages can be bought to match your organisational size. That being said, ample Internet is required. Simply put, you need a decent amount of bandwidth.
To get the best deal on Internet, you should think about an Internet provider that can provide Internet services to your office and your company’s mobile devices. Good IT companies and consultants helping you with your move to the cloud should also be able to recommend the best local Internet provider.
You can also talk to major vendors of phone, mobile, broadband and wireless communications directly, or you can save this issue and wait for a recommendation from your cloud computing vendor -- highly recommended.
In summary, you need to understand that you will be using the Internet on all your devices all the time. You need to get the best deal for land-based broadband and fast wireless services. Economical packages for organisations of different sizes with everything for all devices are selling at very competitive rates.
Step 2. Create a requirement list
There are a couple of ways to look at your organisational requirements when preparing to move to the cloud.
Listing your current software applications
In the first round of creating your requirement list, you can simply look at all the software applications you currently use in your organisation. That means everything, including chat software and even VoIP applications. This is the most basic of all requirement lists and is still a very good place to start. You are going to need the help of experts, and this information will give them a lot to go on.
Many applications are already browser-enabled
The latest applications are already available in the cloud. Email and anti-virus applications are two very good examples of this. Your current business applications may be replaced by better options that are already browser-enabled.
Looking at your organisational operations
Once you have your list of cloud requirements based on your current applications, it is time to look at your organisation and processes. In the IT Industry, functional requirements are found by looking at a organisation, looking at the processes, looking at the systems, and creating a map so a composite solution can be found. This secondary approach to your checklist may be a little complicated, but you can start thinking about what would be good to have and where you will be going, and what you will need in the future.
Step 3. Identify potential cloud vendors
Unless your company is only the smallest of operations, you are probably going to need some help moving your current infrastructure. Many small owners dream big, but it is important not to miss a gigantic opportunity by not getting the professional advice you truly require. You may save a lot of money by simply replacing the applications you are already using. More sophisticated IT infrastructures may require replication in a cloud environment.
Your goal is to have all the applications you need supplied and managed by a single vendor.
Now that you understand more about cloud computing, you might find you are already using some browser-based applications. Office 365 and Creative Suite 6 by Adobe are two excellent examples of this.
Obviously, searching online is the best way to find cloud platform vendors and IT experts. Create a list of cloud computing providers that initially capture your interest. You can also talk to others in your industry. Previous or existing clients are often the best way to get an honest opinion of how a provider performs.
Make sure you understand the importance of having local support. There is nothing like having your cloud computing vendor and IT consultants close by. While cloud computing feels very global, having a local vendor is extremely important because this is a business, and your legal agreement and your data must be physically signed and stored in your country.
Next, move on to create your short list.
Points to consider when making your cloud vendor short list
Compare products (applications, backup, disaster recovery, support, upgrades, packages)
Compare online security, backup and disaster recovery options provided by the vendor
Consider and compare service and attitude
Compare terms and conditions
Compare legal protection provided by the vendor
Consider the physical location of the vendor
Compare customer support options
Compare flexibility and the ease with which you can change plans
Consider what vendors other companies similar to yours are using
Read online reviews of the vendor
Read information on the vendor’s website so you better understand what they aim to provide
Look at the financial viability of the cloud vendor and how long they have been around
Look at the vendor’s experience and business licence, and consider a background check
Here are some suggested questions to ask each vendor:
Where is your company registered?
Where are your offices located?
Where is my data physically stored?
Can I access my data at any time?
What security measures are being taken to protect my data?
Can I upgrade or downgrade my cloud computing services as I need them?
What level of support do I get with my services?
Why should I choose you over other cloud computing vendors?
What guarantee in regards to uptime do you provide?
How many years have you been in operation?
Can you recommend any Internet service providers, and can you get me a better deal?
Will there be hidden or unexpected costs in the future?
What type of rewards or discounts can you offer me?
Step 4. Do business with the best cloud computing provider
Now it is time to get down to business. The best cloud computing vendors will know exactly what you need after consulting your requirements list. Some vendors only provide products for you to buy online. The size of your organisation will define the type of vendor you have chosen.
As with everything you do in business, you want to get the best value for your budget. Ask the top three vendors on your shortlist to provide you a future-proof package or solution. The best cloud computing vendor will become obvious as you negotiate your final package.
Smaller organisations will find that moving to the cloud will only take a matter of minutes, as it may mean simply purchasing a small package online and selecting the applications and storage space you require. Larger organisations with complicated requirements are normally moved to the cloud in stages. This is typical with SaaS (Software as a Service) or cloud computing.
Moving to the cloud comes in many shapes and sizes
Most organisations are moving to the cloud to reduce costs. However, even with cloud computing, costs can add up quickly. Freemium is not free. You can use Google Documents for free, but there is no one to talk to if you have trouble accessing your account.
A little bit of support can go a long way, especially during your transition to the cloud.
If you are not comfortable with the terms of the contract being offered, you should always walk away. The security of your data and your legal right to ownership is paramount. The only way to ensure the integrity of your rights and your data is to work with a local provider that has experience and an excellent reputation in your locality.
Your action list for moving the organisation to the cloud
Look around for the best deal on Internet service for your company, including packages for your office and your wireless devices, such as your mobile phones and tablets.
Search online and locate cloud computing vendors -- this will include IT consultants for larger companies with more sophisticated requirements.
Give your requirement list to your shortlist of vendors and request a costing and proposal.
Discuss your options and negotiate the best deal for transition and maintenance of your new cloud-based IT infrastructure.