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Providing High-speed Internet is like providing water and electricity in the classroom.
Lynn D. Smith, Superintendent
Brewton City Schools, AL
The Cloud offers your small business several strategic advantages that can help it grow and prosper. In this blog, we offer you real-world tips on making smart decisions when it comes to getting started in the Cloud.
There is a lot of talk these days about small businesses and cloud computing. Before you decide to have your small business utilize the Cloud, let’s start with the basics. Simply put, cloud computing is storing and accessing your business data over the Internet instead of the traditional method of using your computer’s hard drive. As long as you and your employees have an online connection, you can work anytime, anywhere as long as you have a web-enabled device such as a tablet or smartphone.
Once you’ve decided your small business should use the Cloud, you have a variety of cloud apps to choose from, including several that are small business-friendly. They include Mozy, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Carbonite and CrashPlan. When deciding which cloud back-up to use, there are plenty of questions to ask about your individual business. How many employees do you have? How big is your business and how much information do you need to back-up and store? What kind of CRM system do you have in place and how do you manage it? What is your company’s five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in the long-term? What will your cloud needs be in the years to come?
When you’re choosing a cloud service, make sure you consider the future needs of your business. Choose one that will be able to meet the needs of your business now and down the road. Once you have made a “big picture” evaluation of your business, do your homework – shop around among the cloud apps out there, asking specific questions about what each one can offer your business.
Here are some tips from small business experts on making the transition to cloud-based computing:
Don’t go at it alone. Trust at least one other person in your company to help you make this important decision. While the call is ultimately yours to make, it’s important to have input you can trust. After all, your employees will be using the Cloud on a daily basis to conduct business.
Don’t overdo it out of the gate. Working with the Cloud is different than traditional ways of conducting business. Realize that it is bound to affect your regular business processes. You should start small – consider having two or three employees work together on a Google Docs file. Plan on at least a few hours to acclimate your team to this new way of working and know there will be a learning curve, especially for those employees who may be averse to change. Once your team feels more comfortable with this different style of working, you can start expanding the cloud services you utilize.
Understand what you’re signing yourself up for. Before you sign an agreement with a cloud service, read it carefully. Make sure you’re getting the level of service your company needs, that you can live with the provider’s policies on things such as privacy and early termination and that all the elements you’ve been promised are in writing. You don’t want any surprises down the road.
Be sure you’re able to export your information in standard formats. Make sure you use formats used by Excel, Word and other programs used by your business. That will make it easy for you to back up and access your data in-house or easily move it to another cloud service later, if you decide to do so.
Consider encryption. Cloud experts say one of the best ways to protect sensitive business information is to use data encryption. You can do this with Data Loss Prevention Tools (DLPs), which monitor data leakage and facilitate the secure transmission of information to and from the Cloud.
Look at open-source Cloud services. They encourage third-party developers to develop features that will make your cloud-based experience more relevant to your business.
Consider ways to save money without sacrificing utility. For example, some small businesses use Google Docs spreadsheets as a basic CRM system, rather than paying for a CRM cloud service.
To avoid buyer’s remorse, shop around. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, and you shouldn’t choose a cloud service without testing it out first. Since most services offer potential buyers a free trial, this one seems like a real no-brainer.
Make sure your employees can use the cloud on their cellphones and mobile devices. Since so much work is done out of the office these days, this is a crucial consideration. You might want to offer special training on using the Cloud outside the office.
Embrace the future – don’t fear change. Of course, moving your business to the Cloud is a big move, but plenty of other companies have taken the plunge (most likely at least one of your competitors) and with higher-than-ever levels of security, now is a great time for your small business to make the transition as well.