Helping SMBs move to the cloud

cloud-computing-626252_640The increasing adoption of cloud computing by businesses doesn’t appear to have convinced many small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the UK to move their business application from on-premise to the cloud. The three common concerns mentioned are:

  • security of the cloud, particularly data privacy,
  • complexity of migration, the amount of time is takes to migrate, and the downtime while migrating,
  • cost of migration, with many believing that the costs are high.

Although I haven’t found the evidence, I suspect the same reluctance holds true for SMBs in other countries. The question is – are these concerns valid, and how can SMBs mitigate their concerns and the risks.

Why migrate to the the cloud?

Despite what UK SMBs believe, there are at least two reasons (excluding cost) why organizations are finding the cloud beneficial.

Going mobile

In an increasing mobile oriented world (think smartphones and apps), the cloud-based technology called platform-as-a-cloud (PaaS) provides an established back-end as well the development platform to allow businesses to deploy mobile solutions.

SaaS applications

The cloud has allowed best-of-breed and industry-specific (vertical) cloud apps to flourish as software-as-a-service(SaaS), in addition another category of software applications, integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS), provide the connectors to enable integration of cloud apps.

Are the cloud concerns valid?

If UK SMBs have concerns about cloud computing, are they valid?

Security

It’s worthwhile noting that cloud providers have better security and are more aware of security risks than most SMBs. In fact, many cloud providers have an ISO27001 certification that shows their level of security preparedness is higher than most companies no matter what size. The tipping point about cloud security may have been reached, according to a recent survey, which found that 65 percent of IT security professionals think cloud software security now equals on-premise.

Most SMBs with on-premise systems have a mix of technology acquired over different periods of time, and this is harder to secure than modern technology, which is what cloud providers use.

Migration

There are companies these days whose business model is to provide cloud services – these are managed (or cloud) service providers – MSPs or CSPs. These organizations can help SMBs by providing the skills, experience, and the integration services needed for many cloud projects.

Costs

The fact about cloud computing costs is that the average price for enterprises has dropped by two-thirds since 2014. Another study showed that organizations don’t move to the cloud primarily for cost reasons – there is a compelling business event. That event is a realization that a business needs to be forward thinking, or it’s a drive to become a digital enterprise, or to make use of best-of-breed apps. In effect, it means that cost savings are not an immediate result of moving to the cloud, it happens over a period of time. Functionality such as greater agility beats cost, with the cloud providing faster response as well as the creation of new functionality.

What SMBs need to do

There are good reasons for SMBs to look at cloud computing, and not to be too concerned about the risks. Then what are the steps SMBs should be taking?

  1. Plan. Don’t expect perfection right away, but plan for success, and have a rollback strategy in case.
  2. The actual cost of the cloud is not for the services themselves. The real costs come from the people, tools, time.
  3. Have a well-thought-out TCO (total cost of ownership) model that considers all aspects of the cost of moving to the cloud, such as people, migration, security, operations, and testing. You need to then balance that cost with the value of agility and time to market, which are typically huge for most enterprises.
  4. You don’t need to have a clear picture at the outset, but be prepared for how going to cloud could impact business culture.
  5. Select your CSP or MSP carefully.
  6. Start by migrating new applications to the cloud before moving older ones.
  7. Use your service provider to help build an integration strategy.
  8. Begin learning how to monitor the cloud environment, as there will be new issues and costs.

About 12 years ago it became obvious to me from the projects I had worked on that all businesses, enterprises and SMBs, should be looking at an integrated business system to manage the key aspects of their organizations – finances, HR, inventory, production planning and monitoring. An ERP seemed to be the obvious solution to the siloed functions that affected businesses. The world has moved on now, and from how I’ve seen business using and benefiting from the cloud, I’m now firmly convinced that at least a portion of every company’s systems can benefit by running in the cloud. That applies to SMBs as well.

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