By Tahir Qazi, Chief Executive Officer, iQuasar
A small and medium business owner has to balance many priorities and must be able to run their business on the go. Facing a deadline, I started writing this article on my iPhone, while waiting for my daughter at the doctor’s office. I sent an instant message using Google Hangouts to a colleague to insert a chart from a specific Gartner study in this document. Concurrently, I continued to edit the document on my phone, while communicating through a chat session with my colleague within the document itself. I completed the remaining portion of my Microsoft Windows desktop, and just before submitting it, I proofread the completed document at night using a browser running on Android software. All of this was seamless, without having to email any files, save or manage different document types or versions, or deal with vagaries of different operating systems and software products. Such is the power of the cloud! It allows people to become more productive, reduces the cost of software and hardware used to automate the business processes, makes work accessible from anywhere, makes work portable across devices, while unlocking collaboration in unprecedented ways. Most importantly, it frees up the time of small and medium business owners and focuses it more on running their core business, instead of spending it on information technology!
Small and Medium Businesses can now use cloud computing for all their information technology needs. It is easy to move to the cloud; the cloud model is simple and cheaper to use, there are no up-front capital costs, and the businesses get access to the expertise of high-quality technical resources that manage the cloud infrastructure and services at companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. One of the biggest reasons for cost reduction is that businesses no longer have to buy hardware and servers that remain largely under-utilized and are costlier to maintain at each individual business. However, when deployed and operated by experts at server farms from cloud providers, better utilization and scale lowers costs significantly for the end-user businesses. These expert resources cost a fraction of what the on-premise employee costs are, as the scale allows the service providers to distribute the cost of their technical resources across many customers.
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In addition to cost reduction for similar services, the real value in migrating to cloud is in the functionality and utility of cloud based infrastructure and services. Such a migration enables collaboration across the whole business enterprise and a new wave of productivity is unleashed across the enterprise. Employees are now able to access information wherever they are by simply using a browser. Working on projects becomes a lot easier as information is seamlessly accessible on any types of devices employees may have. The security, control, and administration of information becomes much simpler, as powerful technologies and tools used by cloud services providers are part of the services they offer. As an implementation partner of cloud services organizations, we have noticed unprecedented productivity gains in the organizations that have made a move to the cloud. No wonder, Gartner projects that more than $1 trillion in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to the cloud during the next five years. Most of the change is projected to be occurring in the business process outsourcing related “cloud shift.” The simple graph below is based on Gartner data and shows the 2016 shift.
So, how does one go about migrating to the cloud? There are four steps that a business must take: Asses, Plan, Deploy, and Migrate.
To assess if moving to the cloud makes sense for business, the business needs to consider the challenges related to the move. These generally are around adoption and change. People, by nature, are resistant to change and must be prepared ahead of time. It is also important to consider the value that a move to cloud generates. If a business does not currently use technology and does not have any process that can be automated using technology, there is no reason to move to the cloud. A typical business that needs to have communications tools for its employees keeps records, manages documents, shares calendars, or manages customer and inventory data, is a good candidate to move to the cloud.
The next step is to develop a plan for getting specific cloud services. This should include considering various cloud offerings like Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS), or Software as a service (SaaS). As a stepping stone, it is best to choose applications that make business processes easier, so that the migration to and adoption of the cloud becomes easier. It is also beneficial to do a thorough research of the providers, which in turn will result in an accurate cost/benefits analysis models.
The deployment step is totally dependent on the planning and can be executed by a third party provider if needed. During this phase, cloud infrastructure and services will be readied for the eventual migration. This includes selecting types of services, the provider, and the implementation partner. This also includes creating a migration plan ahead of time. Once the cloud infrastructure and services are ready, it is time to migrate.
The final step is migrating the whole organization to the cloud. This involves migrating data and services and helping employees through the change. It is critical to have third party resources who can help set up employee devices, train them, and provide help when needed. To get the best out of the cloud migration and to continuously improve, it is important to have a lessons learned process in place so that effective steps can be taken to fine-tune infrastructure, services and processes.
It is becoming easier to move to the cloud and a large variety of quality vendors, with an array of products and services, is facilitating the transition even more. Those who have moved to the cloud or are making the move now, have a competitive advantage over those who are not making the move yet. Those who are not thinking about the cloud yet, stand to remain at a disadvantage.