Still not sure whether to employ cloud computing or an on-premise IT infrastructure in your business? Proactive IT Solutions can guide you through the decision-making process.

Whether to move your IT infrastructure to the cloud is a critical decision for your business.

Cloud computing promises a completely different type of responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency in IT service delivery; but it does have its pitfalls. You’ll need to assess the pros and cons of a fully cloud-based system, an entirely on-premise system, or a hybrid model.

In a traditional on-premise system, you’ll have full control over the entire IT infrastructure including software, applications and databases; but building this infrastructure usually means significant expenditure.

Cloud computing allows everything from processing power to computer infrastructure, applications, business processes and interpersonal communication to be delivered as an online service at any time and place you need it; and it usually requires a much lower up-front investment.

A hybrid model provides a choice to combine both cloud-based services and on-premise solutions based on specific business needs and technical considerations.

Successful deployment of technology – be it through a cloud, on-premise or hybrid delivery model – depends on understanding your particular business. Proactive IT Solutions will identify your needs and assess your options to customise a quality, cost effective, solution designed to facilitate optimal business performance.

Moving any significant part of your business to the cloud is a big step, and not to be taken lightly. Like any strategic shift in business operations, it should involve careful research and planning.

Here is a rundown of the key things to consider when moving to the cloud.

1. Your strategy

Before doing anything you need to review your business strategy.

Are you planning on growing your business or going into new markets? These sorts of things will impact firstly what cloud applications you use as well as the sort of costs you incur.

Moving to the cloud opens up possibilities and, in most cases, provides flexibility.

2. Your objectives and requirements

Once you have reviewed your business strategy, it’s time to understand your business objectives and your resulting requirements. List your requirements and note what’s important to you; i.e. security, ease of access, ability to increase or reduce users.

At this stage don’t consider software applications, just your requirements and the objectives you are wanting to achieve.

3. Your budget

At this stage you should also consider your IT budget and determine how much you’re prepared to spend. A five year timeframe is a useful one to consider, since IT infrastructure generally needs to be replaced every five years.

The cloud drastically reduces upfront costs but the flipside is increased ongoing costs.

Proactive IT Solutions spends upwards of $800 a month on our main cloud application. That’s a $48,000 investment over five years. You can buy a pretty swish server and on-premise software package for that – so why didn’t we? The answer lies in point 3, below. The cloud app we are using is the best fit for us. It does everything we need and we could not possibly have built a comparable package ourselves for that price.

Of course, there are ongoing costs with on-premise servers, too – things like maintenance, power and repairs. When determining your budget, be sure you include everything you currently spend on your IT, including:

  • hardware (new, upgrades, leasing, maintenance, support, hosting)
  • software (new, upgrades, maintenance, support, hosting)
  • ongoing costs such as maintenance, power and repairs
  • hosted and online services
  • telecommunications (voice, mobile and data, WAN, internet)
  • consumables (printer cartridges, paper, print/copy fees, batteries, electricity)
  • internal and/or outsourced labour costs
  • training
  • depreciation.

4. Which business functions can move to the cloud, and which shouldn’t

In most cases you will be considering a hybrid model where some applications remain on-premise and some move to the cloud.

The cloud relies heavily on quick, reliable access to the internet. The more you have in the cloud, the faster the internet connection you’ll need.

Fully clouded businesses have access to fast internet connections, usually fibre-based, which can cost upwards of $800 a month. As a small business owner paying $800 a month for internet is tough to justify; which is why most small businesses opt for a hybrid model.

It makes sense, for example, to move your accounting package to the cloud as it doesn’t require a lightening fast internet connection. Your file server, however, will.

5. Which cloud apps are best for you, and whether they can integrate

Once you’ve figured out which applications you want to move to the cloud, and confirmed the specifications you’re looking for in a cloud application, you’ll need to work out which cloud apps best meet your needs.

At this point you may need to increase your budget, but fear not! One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is the ease with which you can integrate different applications. This integration is often where you see a positive return on investment as you can automate manual processes and improve workflows. It may even be possible to reduce staff costs.

There is a bewilderingly large number of cloud applications, which can make selecting and settling on particular vendors difficult. It will pay at this stage to talk to cloud computing experts as well as getting recommendations from other business owners and managers about their experiences of moving to the cloud.

6. Migration and deployment planning

Once you have settled on your cloud applications, it’s time to consider how you are going to manage the move. Some important considerations include:

  • trialling software
  • training up your team
  • migration of existing data
  • backup of and access to legacy systems (if required)
  • timelines for ultimate deployment.

This step is perhaps the most complex one and requires plenty of forethought and planning. Often it is easier to engage experts, like us, to do this for you.