As first published on SmartCompany
Navigate the intricate maze of the cloud
You run a small or medium business, and like most business owners or managers, you are probably quite time poor, facing the daily pressures of satisfying your customers and expanding your reach in an increasingly demanding and fast-paced market.
Migrating to the cloud can be a game-changer for your business. No doubt you have heard about the benefits the cloud can bring to your business, as well as the risks of the cloud.
More SMEs are transitioning to the cloud every day but when making the move, many businesses find out the transition isn’t as seamless as they thought.
Here are five foolproof ways you can navigate the tricky aspects of the cloud.
1. Know your needs
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t only one cloud. There are many cloud offerings out there and all of them will be presented to you as “the best”, “the most affordable” or “the most secure”. Too often, small and medium businesses choose solutions that have been recommended to them but actually it all depends on the needs of the business.
You may not need a complex HR management system for your business, when a simple timesheet management system could do the job. In the same vein, a basic invoicing system may not meet your needs when a robust accounting package is necessary.
To do the cloud right, ensure you have the right cloud for your business.
2. Try before you buy
You should ideally always be offered a “free trial” period from cloud providers, no matter who they are or what they provide.
In reality, providing a free trial to customers is not costly for the provider but testing before buying gives you peace of mind knowing you are getting the right product for you. Providers who don’t offer this may be trying to hide something. Don’t go into your transaction blind.
3. Ask for support
Remember – you are the customer. You are entitled to support. As I always say to our teams, ‘online doesn’t mean alone’.
Your cloud service provider should have some support capability, with people available that you can reach out to whenever you need it (even remotely).
If this is not the case, chances are your provider either does not care enough (in which case why would you bother entering in a relationship with them?) or they cannot afford supporting their clients (meaning you may face the risk that they disappear one day).
Support is key. You deserve it, so ask for it.
4. Talk security
Security should not be taboo. Your cloud provider should be able to answer all your security questions; it is only fair that you enquire about how your data will be managed and stored, where and who will be able to access it.
Your provider should give you clear, transparent answers. If they start mumbling or over-complicating things, think twice about using them. If it’s not clear, it’s not clean.
Next, check the security facts, claims and testimonials on their homepage, as well as their PCI compliance: the most secured clouds are “PCI Level 1 compliant”, which means that your data is securely stored and measures are implemented to prevent hackers from accessing it.
5. Build your ecosystem
Most SMEs are disappointed with the cloud because their various systems, services or apps are disconnected and do not work together. Ideally, you want to build your own, tailored ecosystem where all your services work in sync – one software solution is never good for everything.
Favour solutions that specialise in a multiple areas and bundle them with others to complete your solutions portfolio. If you have talented software people, you can probably build your cloud ecosystem internally. If you do not want to re-invent the wheel, there are platforms out there that automatically connect your favourite cloud services, or at least provide you with the tools to do so simply.
Stephane Ibos is chief executive of Maestrano, a cloud services business management platform.