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Why small and midsize businesses (SMB) should consider the cloud

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that cloud solutions provide significant benefits to companies of all sizes, but a recent study shows that less than 10 percent of organizations believe their existing IT infrastructure is fully prepared to address the proliferation of mobile devices, social media, data analytics and cloud computing. This was formerly considered the IT department’s responsibility, but business decision makers are increasingly viewing cloud as critical to the business—not just IT—for a number of reasons. Here are five of them:

1. It offers better insight

In a world awash in structured and, increasingly, unstructured data, 54 percent of leading organizations are using analytics to derive insights from big data, in turn helping them target customers and product opportunities more effectively.

2. It helps collaboration

Cloud allows work to be accessed from multiple devices and from anywhere, which in turns makes it much easier for teams to collaborate on shared data.

3. It can drive better engagement

As we see the focus of business decision makers shift from cost efficiencies in their back-office systems to improvements in their systems of engagement, cloud is often seen as the most effective means of forging a tighter link with the customer.

4. Speed!

Fifty-two percent of leading organizations are turning to cloud to drive more rapid innovation in products and services. No more waiting to make the cut on the IT department’s long list of priorities.

5. Benefits are measurable and you pay as you grow

From efficiency gains to improved employee mobility, leading organizations are able to measure significant benefits from their cloud investments, but equally importantly, can pace their investments so they avoid a big up-front capital expense and pay monthly as the business scales.
Reasons-to-use-cloud-computing

What should a small or midsize company consider before moving to the cloud?

While many of the benefits above are achievable with minimal upfront investment, that doesn’t mean you should rush to migrate your entire business to cloud immediately. Here are some tips for rolling out both internal and external cloud solutions.

1. Set clear objectives

It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many IT projects go ahead without clear and measurable objectives for the business impact. Any cloud solution should start with agreement between the business sponsor and the implementation team leader regarding the scope, timing, phases and expected results of the project.

2. Consider when (and whether) to integrate existing data and systems

The beauty of cloud solutions, and a key reason driving adoption, lies in their simplicity and speed of implementation. This is true when you’re considering green field projects, but becomes less so as you start to try to integrate into legacy systems. Take care to understand the risks involved with migrating an existing core business system, and look instead to focus initially on new projects with a direct impact on customer engagement. Also, remember that the cloud solution is only as good as the data it provides, so take care not to underestimate the importance of data cleansing for any system of engagement.

3. Research solutions online and start for free

Various studies have shown that around three quarters of leading companies start their search for cloud solutions online, before even contacting a vendor. What’s more, most cloud solution providers today offer free trials to help you assess their solutions and compare it to alternatives in your environment. Because it’s “in the cloud” by definition, there is no cost other than time for this simple evaluation – time that will be recovered easily when you identify the best solution for your project.

4. Consider all costs—not just initial purchase price

Some vendors, particularly in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market, make a big deal about how much they have reduced the price of their cloud services. While this may work as part of a broader marketing strategy for the vendor concerned, it’s not the whole story. What is often not spelled out in the headlines about price drops is the lifetime costs, particular when a project or service begins to scale. In-network communication costs, for example, are charged as a separate expense by some vendors, but not by others. This can represent up to half of the total service cost, so be sure to get the full picture before deciding.

5. Fail fast, learn and move on

In today’s world of mobile, social, cloud and big data analytics, speed is of the essence. While it’s still important to have a plan, with clear objectives and implementation milestones, it’s equally important to move quickly and learn as you go. For many IT professionals, this feels uncomfortable and potentially out of control. The reality is that the world is changing so quickly that detailed implementation plans can be out of date before they are completed, so it’s important to start somewhere, experiment, fail quickly and learn as you start to scale up. Of course, there are some areas that need to be given plenty of attention, particularly where data security and privacy are concerned, so it’s important to be able to trust the vendor you ultimately select.

These are just a few of the reasons to consider cloud solutions and a few guiding principles as you start your cloud journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice, so please do comment.

Connect with John C. Mason on LinkedIn and Twitter

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