“Go Cloud!” Haven’t you already received this advice a dozen times? Do you run a small or medium-sized business and want to give your company a boost and benefit from the latest IT technologies? Chances are you have been told about the Cloud and all its associated wonders.
In all fairness, it is true that bringing your business to the Cloud can present interesting benefits – time and money savings, mobility and flexibility, to name just a few. But switching to the Cloud can be daunting and you will most likely have many questions. Where do you start? How do you organise the migration? What will the impact be on your business? Where can you get help? Who can you trust?
These are all very relevant questions and they do matter substantially. It is your business we are talking about after all!
Ready? Steady? Go Cloud!
Firstly, like any significant business decision, this one needs to be framed and carefully considered. Take some time to analyse your motivations to move to the Cloud. Not all businesses have the same aspirations and dynamics. It is important that you clarify what you expect from your Cloud services as these expectations will drive and influence your choice of solutions and ultimately, your choice of providers.
If you want to increase the mobility of your staff, you will decide to “cloudify” most of your systems, whilst paying particular attention to the associated security features. You will probably favour providers that are highly experienced in mobile applications.
If you want to decrease your costs, you should be looking for providers that offer the best cost/benefit ratio. In this case, you should expect to forgo some additional more complex features and acquire instead a convenient, easy set of tools that bring significant cost savings to your business.
Each case is different, and only you know what is best for your business.
Where to look for that Cloud provider
Once you have completed this basic needs assessment, you are ready to go out and benchmark the solutions the World Wide Web has to offer. Now, there is a reason why the Internet is called the World Wide Web; it’s an enormous, global marketplace and chances are you will find an overwhelming number of choices.
A good place to start is to look at one stop Cloud providers that present the multiple solutions that you need in one place. Some of them will have an extremely wide range of solutions while others a more select range. Some will allow you to get started immediately; others will re-direct you to original providers.
But either way, this will keep you away from the ‘too much choice and confusion scenario’ created by a random search and allows you to properly benchmark and compare.
Looks dodgy? It probably is…
Now you have some shortlisted providers. And found a Cloud provider that seems to offer everything you’ve dreamt of and more. Possibly almost everything you could wish for?
Warning! Cloud systems are like cars, washing machines and coffee makers. If they have too many fancy features, they don’t perform any of them to their full extent. I would recommend a Cloud provider that is excellent in one core domain, rather than one that is average at a number of them.
Some Cloud websites may also appear odd or seem dodgy. Always trust your instincts – they are probably right! If it doesn’t look right, if you can’t find clear, transparent information – especially regarding payments, security and quality of service – then don’t use it. You may not be able to fully justify the way you feel but are you really prepared to take such a risk with your business? Instead, look for simple, clean websites and providers. Look for reviews and endorsements on tech expert’s websites and online media.
Read testimonials of existing customers. Contact them via email or phone. If you cannot find a way to contact them, then ask yourself: “what would I do if I have an issue?” Online doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean you are alone without backup and support from the Cloud provider. Serious Cloud providers will be easy to contact and if you initiate communication with them, they will immediately respond. Dodgy providers won’t care.
Also, look for free trials. In this day and age, there is no reason why a Cloud provider wouldn’t offer a free trial. And there is no reason why you would provide your payment details for a free trial – it’s free, isn’t it? Any serious Cloud provider will give you the opportunity to try and assess their service before making a commitment. Steer away from the ones who don’t.
Take that first step
You will hear horrific stories about the Cloud and how businesses were almost destroyed by poor choices. Most of these are probably true. But always remember that you are in control. You are the customer. Do your research and investigate, listen to your instincts. Talk to other customers. Remember you deserve a service that answers your questions and gives you clarity. Look for all of the above before you start. And then try – for free. If it’s not right for your business, you will know straight away.
Good Cloud providers will help you get started. An account manager will contact you. They will have various ways to help you get setup and load your data. You will not be alone and your business will be all right – if anything, just faster, more flexible and a bit easier to run than before. So, are you ready to start?
About the Author:
Stephane Ibos is the CEO of Maestrano, an online one-stop-shop specifically designed for Small and Medium Businesses, providing top tier professional Cloud applications and software ready to use in 1 click and automatically connected to share data together, making it a unique offering for all SMEs. Maestrano has offices in Australia, the US and the UAE.