Should you move to the cloud?

I still get asked this question by so many of my clients, especially who are told by younger business owners that they are “old-school” for still having a server in the office.

Well, first would it surprise you if I said, you are already there, and have been for decades!  Let’s start with figuring out what exactly the “cloud” is anyway.

The “Cloud” is any Internet based service! So, if you have used hosted email in the past 20 years, you are already there.  But, what about the other services “UP THERE”?  You see the cloud isn’t just one place.  It is services hosted by millions of servers spread all across the world wide web, managed by hundreds of thousands of companies and people.

Here is a short list of basic “cloud” based services:

  • Email
  • Websites
  • Remote Backup
  • File Sync
  • File storage
  • Collaboration (including telephony)
  • Virtual Servers
  • Virtual Desktops
  • Game Servers
  • Infrastructure
  • Applications (QuickBooks, CRM, etc)

You see, just about any part of the computerized network can be hosted in the cloud.  Now, we get to the question of: Should it be for you?

Let’s start with email.  My personal answer is ABSOLUTELY 🙂  Email has been in the hosted environment for decades with lots of options of providers.  Many with great reputations, impeccable up-time, and security.  The cost of maintaining your own email server tends to outweigh having it hosted by qualified, professional organizations.

The big question comes when you talk about files, applications, or entire infrastructures.  Here is where a real professionals analysis should be considered.  Someone who understands your business model, how the work is performed, and how your processes are or can be automated.  The more diverse geographically your employees are, the easier this decision becomes.  Surely you want your team to collaborate, and often these days it is much easier to have systems hosted by cloud providers so your people can collaborate from one location.  That is not to say your location can become the cloud location.  Depending on the size of your firm, and the skill set of your IT department, many arguments for keeping data and processes in house can be made.

The trick is finding the right provider(s).  Realize the provider who hosts your email, does not necessarily need to be the same as the other providers.  A prime example is using Microsoft’s Office 365 email subscription and QuickBooks online.  Two completely different services, yet the integration (like emailing reports from QuickBooks) can still work just fine.  You likely already have a hybrid scenario and don’t realize it.  That is some services and data is hosted by a cloud provider while others are still in house.  This is perfectly OK!

When you are contemplating what should or should not be in the cloud, be sure to speak to an IT professional who understands business, will evaluate the security risks of each provider, and can walk you through how each service will integrate where processes are needed.

Remember, just because the Cloud is a new term and works for your colleagues two floors down, doesn’t mean your firm should jump.  Make the business case before you soar to the Cloud!