To Cloud or Not to Cloud

Many articles pass by my desk, some good and some not so good.  On occasion I find something worth sharing.  This article appeared on our processing partner’s (BluePay) blog on August 3rd of this year and I find it a worthwhile read for business.

What Part of Your Small Business Should You Move to the CloudRunning a small business means everything is on a smaller scale. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. This is especially true if you are a one-man band or have a few remote employees. In managing your work and life, you are most likely always on the go and tuned into your mobile device. It’s the migration to the mobile world and remote resources that led to the emergence of cloud services.

Prior to that, history tells us that business people had to carry disks with files on them, and more recently flash drives and memory sticks. The problem with this was you could never really be sure if you had the most recent information. That meant everyone may not be “singing from the same song sheet” so to speak. Clearly, it wasn’t the most efficient process, but it was what existed prior to cloud services.

Enter cloud services, which offer a way to access real-time information like files, project work, and any type of document anywhere in the world at any time from devices that have been connected or provided access. That alone can be a game changer for any business owner that is considering moving their business to the cloud.

However, the question is whether the whole business should migrate to the cloud and go all-in on the technology investment. Here are some things to consider about moving to the cloud.

Moving the Entire Business to the Cloud

The decision to move the entire business to the cloud is typically undertaken by larger enterprises that have numerous locations and thousands of employees to include. They typically have significantly more files, projects, and data that also has to be shared, making a complete migration to the cloud a viable investment.

That’s not to say a small business can’t do the same and realize the same type of return over time. However, there may be upfront costs that make it difficult to move everything. Also, when you move everything to the cloud, there can be considerable downtime to complete the process. While a larger business may be able to absorb this period with no business, a smaller one may become financially impaired.

Stepwise Movement to the Cloud

An alternative is to still consider migrating your entire business to the cloud, but doing so in a stepwise fashion. With each phase, you’ll experience far less downtime that might adversely impact your business. Additionally, this will help you budget more effectively for the upfront costs associated with investing in cloud services and platforms.

Look at applications you already use to see if they offer cloud capability. These include accounting software like QuickBooks and communication services like Skype. Collaboration and project management apps like Slack and Basecamp are cloud-based, as well as calendars like Office 365 Calendar. It’s a good start to try these out for their cloud capability so you can see the benefits of moving to the next functional layer in your company and transitioning those applications to the cloud. Since people and processes tend to be one of the most challenging aspects of migrating to the cloud, this gradual approach will help with the adjustment period.

Key Cloud Services to Focus On

You can also leverage the benefits of cloud services by only opting to move a few functions. Start with those functions you most need to access from anywhere. They will deliver the most value, and they will help prepare your business when every device is connected. For example, you could start with email, computer files, accounting system, and back-end functions.

In fact, you may already be using a cloud tool and not realize it. Dropbox is one of the most commonly used, and it doesn’t require other aspects of your business to be in the cloud. This means you can leverage a remote team to help you rather than having on-site employees. Also, the aforementioned apps that may already have cloud capability may be enough for your business in terms of productivity improvements that you don’t have to consider any other cloud services until you grow further.

Things to Remember

While much improved, there are still risks related to security, availability, and data loss. As a small business owner, your best strategy is to do your due diligence. Thoroughly research each cloud service provider before signing up to work with them and entrusting them with all your information.

Make sure they can scale with you as your business grows. Also, by only moving certain functions, you can create additional backup strategies just in case the unexpected happens. Lastly, don’t assume the most expensive cloud services are the best because some of the low-cost cloud tools are just as great and maybe even better for what you need.