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10 key cloud considerations for small businesses

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wpid-thumbnail-f00993ff37b9e5941d402d3eb86003d3-500x333It’s a well-known fact that cloud offers small businesses the means to start and scale quickly. But while many small businesses have already taken full advantage of cloud services, a new report from cloud services provider RightScale says that a full 30 percent of small businesses still have no plans or remain on the sidelines while evaluating their options.

To allay their fears, Thoughts on Cloud editors spoke with two consultants from Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – which are regional consultancies and part of the U.S. Small Business Administration – in order to offer a few tips that small business owners should consider when looking to the cloud. Marc Farron, an SBDC Certified Business Consultant at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, and Tammy Warner, a Business Advisor based at the University of Connecticut – Torrington, shared their combined insights with Thoughts on Cloud. Because, as Farron explained, “You can’t go it alone. Get advice from someone who knows more than you, an expert.”

With that, we present to you the 10 key considerations for small businesses shopping for cloud services:

  1. Stay focused on the goals of your business, and be sure that whatever cloud services you engage help you move toward those goals, either by reducing costs, improving cash flow, offloading non-strategic work, or by improving the service that you offer your customers.
  2. For start-ups, be aware of the lock-in potential and really consider whether the providers you choose will be suitable when growth plans come to fruition.
  3. For established businesses, start small and scale up if possible to assess ROI. Start with something that is relatively low risk – perhaps CRM where you may have less resistance.
  4. For businesses nearing a transition point – for example ownership transfer due to retirement – investing in newer technology may make sense, even if you can’t justify the ROI in the immediate time frame, because it will increase the purchase price.
  5. For rural businesses, connectivity can be a challenge. Make sure Internet infrastructure is adequate.
  6.  Be very aware of data security and make deliberate business decisions about this. For many, data privacy can cause trepidation. However most small businesses don’t have security experts on staff so storing data in the cloud can actually be more secure.
  7.  Look out for hidden costs. The stripped down version of an app may not be able to do everything you need and require you to purchase add-ons.
  8. Pay attention to training and implementation. As with any new IT solution, make sure you allow time for users to get up to speed, minimize the frequency and number of disruptions with upgrades or new tools, and provide assistance as needed.
  9.  Retain IT expertise. Even though you have less on-premises equipment, you still need a trusted advisor who understands and acts as a cloud broker. You still run into problems and confusion, particularly around data integration and reducing duplicate data entry.
  10.  Embrace the cloud. It isn’t going away and will offer significant top line and bottom line benefits and give you the agility to scale and compete more effectively.

 

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