The cloud has been around for six decades, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that its practical applications filtered into the mainstream. Still, more than 17 years after Salesforce.com pioneered the online delivery of enterprise services, businesses are only just cottoning on to the benefits of cloud computing.
To recap, cloud computing is flexible, cost-effective, secure and ideal for businesses with blended mobile and office-based workforces. The advantages of moving your business to the cloud are clear. What remains unclear for most businesses is how to get cloud-ready. It's not a small thing, so a thorough plan is essential. Here’s a basic framework within which you can work.
1. Learn the lingo
It’s best to familiarise yourself with some of the basic jargon of cloud computing. There are many technical terms and abbreviations in the field, but the ones you’re bound to encounter frequently are:
- Cloud server – Similar to a typical server except that it is accessed remotely.
- Public/private cloud – A private cloud (also known as an internal cloud) sits on a company’s hosted data centre and is only available to company staff. A public cloud resides on a third-party provider’s data centre and is available to anyone who can afford to rent space.
- SaaS (Software as a Service) – A cloud-based software delivery method where tools are accessed via the internet. Services billed as web-based, on-demand or hosted fall under SaaS.
- Hybrid cloud – A hosting solution that combines the use of internal and third-party data centres.
2. Formulate a migration strategy
Switching your business to the cloud isn’t as quick as you might think. You can face serious consequences if the process isn’t carried out with efficient planning, supervision and testing. Your hosted solution provider should walk you through all the important considerations before migration and help you establish a fail-proof migration strategy which should loosely cover the following:
- An audit of all your data and applications
- Choosing the appropriate cloud-hosting provider/solution
- Establish governance and security policies
- Maintenance and ongoing management (if it is a private cloud)
Remember to inform the entire organisation of your plan to migrate to the cloud and how and when this will affect them.
3. Get a scanner
You can migrate all your data from a traditional server to a cloud server with few obstacles. But you will need a dedicated scanner to convert all your paper documents into digital ones.
“Dedicated” because archiving large quantities of paper documents can take several days – a job not suited to the capabilities of an office multifunction printer (MFP). While MFPs include a scanning functionality, they’re designed to do much more. If you use an MFP to convert all your documents, the productivity of the office suffers. On the other hand, document scanners are designed for a single purpose – one in which they excel. Investing in a document scanner saves you time and money and ensures that your documents are converted and archived in the highest resolution. It is a crucial part of getting your business cloud-ready.
4. Prepare for the worst
Moving your business’s data to the cloud is the safest move you can make to protect it. Yes, data in the cloud can also be compromised and websites hosted in the cloud can still fail. But it’s much easier to bounce back from the cloud than a traditional server – especially if you have a disaster recovery plan. Advanced cloud disaster recovery strategies include automated failovers and failbacks in the event of a man-made or natural disaster that interrupts services or leads to data loss. When you’re choosing a cloud-hosting solution provider, it’s important to ask about its full contingency plans in the event of intrusions, disruptions and failures.