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How your SMB can start using cloud solutions now

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way businesses operate. Cloud solutions provide flexible, affordable, streamlined options for getting things done. Not only that, but they enable unreal levels of collaboration.

As modern cloud-based solutions become more sophisticated, they have the power to not only organize workflow but radically transform your IT support—and maybe your organization as a whole.

Cloud-based solutions provide a birds-eye view that used to belong exclusively to big businesses. SMBs have never before had access to these kinds of tools. Even a small company can now move strategically and think big.

You don’t have to retroactively put out fires. Not anymore. With the cloud, you can get out ahead.

There’s just one question. Where do you begin?

Know your needs

Cloud solutions fall into three general categories.

SaaS

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the most well-known. It includes on-demand web-based applications that are hosted centrally. Examples include Gmail, Dropbox and Salesforce.

IaaS

Next up is Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS allows you to fully build your own customized system from the ground up—all of it hosted in the cloud. Two common examples are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

PaaS

Finally, there’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This option gives you the power to develop and run applications without having to manage infrastructure. It’s a hybrid of the first two. Think Windows Azure or Google App Engine.

To get you started, identify your key needs at this point in time.

Things like scalability, compliance requirements, cost factors, and data volume may need to be discussed in greater detail. In addition, determine your security needs and who will be responsible for them. Where are you stretched to the limit? What could you really use a hand with? What systems feel disorganized or unproductive?

Digging into these questions will reveal the types of cloud assistance that will benefit your organization. From there, you can begin assessing your current applications.

Assess your readiness

If your business currently uses any applications, start thinking about whether they could be adapted to the cloud. This involves identifying any applications that may have security issues, compliance requirements or unique limitations that make them incompatible with the cloud.

Consider whether any of your hardware is outdated. Older systems are prime candidates for a switch to a cloud-based replacement. You might even need to completely replace a system, partially rebuild, or simply rehost it.

An IT expert can help you predict how well your applications will perform after a cloud migration. Figuring this out ahead of time will reduce the number of surprises you face later on.

Failing to assess cloud readiness is like rushing into marriage with a stranger. If that sounds like a bad idea, that’s because it is.

Lack of readiness has been known to cost companies money, time and major headaches. An IT services company can walk you through this assessment process and answer any technical questions you may have.

Once ready, you can begin implementing cloud technology gradually.

Shift focus

Prior to adopting any new technology, teams need to make a collective shift in mindset.

Managers are going to need to help teams acknowledge that the old way of doing things is out. We can guarantee that you’ll have employees who buck against the change, even if it’s clearly for the best.

The most important thing here is explaining why the transition is happening. The better people understand the business case of a change, the more likely they are to roll with it.

Team members should be assured that the changes will bring greater flexibility, security, and reliability into their daily work environment—even if the transition is a bit rocky.

Start small

Take it from us. Don’t transition everything to the cloud overnight.

Unless you’re prepared to have your business grind to a halt (while all your employees go into fits of rage), it’s much better to implement just one cloud-based application to start moving your business toward a more efficient and productive future.

Pick the one application that’s most likely to make a positive change. Something helpful, but not so critical that a mishap could sideline your entire business. Your employees can use this time to determine who will do what.

Be crystal clear. If you think you’re dumbing it down too much, you might be communicating as clearly as you need to be. Explain expectations and individual roles so that everyone knows exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Starting small ensures there’s enough time and resources to address unexpected problems without stopping your whole operation. As you get used to your new cloud systems, you can begin to analyze what’s working and what’s holding you back.

This kicks off the fine-tuning phase of implementation.

Observe and evaluate

Once a business begins to implement cloud-based solutions, the most critical stage begins. You’ll need to observe how well your team is adapting and evaluate how well the technology is performing.

Smart leaders will set key performance indicators (KPIs) to better understand their progress.

During this time, team members need to communicate openly about any issues. Troubleshoot and tweak both the technology and how you work with it. You may not be able to foresee obstacles until this stage, so be ready to spend a little extra time smoothing things out.

As time passes, a successful business owner pays attention to forecasts, uses benchmarking to improve, and continuously aligns the business to its new technology.

Because of the rapid adoption of cloud solutions, many SMB leaders get nervous about moving to the cloud. They see it as a single, final decision—one that could make or break the entire business.

But here’s the two-part truth. First, it’s possible to ease into new technology, only utilizing the types of cloud solutions you’re comfortable with. You may even rely on the cloud already without realizing it. Are you using Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs? Then you’re already in the cloud.

Secondly, the one sure-fire way to sink your business is to refuse to evolve. Things are moving to the cloud. You don’t have to go all in at once, but you don’t want to be the last one in your industry to make the leap. By then, you’ll have so much catch-up to play, we can guarantee you’ll regret having waited.

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