Key considerations when moving to the cloud

 The cloud is inherently flexible and a practical move for business owners looking to gain agility, scale, and cost benefits. Servers are moving to the cloud, data is stored in the cloud, but is your business ready to move to the cloud? 

Let’s talk through some tangible examples of cloud services your business might want to take advantage of, and how you need to manage your move to the cloud.

Storage and file sharing

A common practice in today’s workplaces is for employees to save files in their Documents or Desktop folders, and when someone else in the office requires access, these files are sent via email. In a larger business with more IT infrastructure, there might be a file server which everyone in the business can access and where file locations can be shared.

When you need to share work with an external stakeholder, your options are to email the file or possibly upload to your own personal cloud account.

In each of these cases, a professional cloud solution is beneficial. Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive are all cloud-based file storage solutions worth consideration.

Cloud solutions can be set up by the business, and individual employees have access through their own account. Once set up, software on each computer will allow the cloud storage to be accessed as if it’s a local drive on the computer. Saving documents from normal software programs is easy, as is sharing documents within the business or with third parties.

Implementing cloud storage through the business, rather than relying on the personal cloud accounts of employees, offers greater data safety. Business management has access to all information, and can delete or restrict data in the event an employee leaves the organisation.

Another important benefit of these systems is backup. If there’s ever an issue with a computer in your business, you risk losing data. If your team are using the business’s cloud storage, however, files are safely stored and can be accessed from any computer at any time.

Each service offers a comprehensive system of file storage. What sets them apart are things such as the cost per user, total storage available, and interoperability across various platforms such as PC, Mac, Android, and iPhone devices. You’ll want to ensure your cloud solution meets your budget and storage capacity needs, and is compatible with the devices and operating systems in your business.

Collaboration and teams

Enhancing collaborative processes undoubtedly leads to better outcomes for companies. Cloud services playing into this space include Skype for Business, Google Hangouts and Slack. What these services do is replace long-winded email communications with chat systems, where information is easily accessible and digestible.

These services create a space for open communication and conversation between employees, and are an easy medium to share thoughts, progress, files, and data within and between teams.

Most chat systems also help to bridge the divide between remote workers, with the aid of video calling as well as text-based chat.

A significant aspect of business collaboration is when multiple employees need to contribute information to a single document. Online platforms such as Google Docs allow team members to work on the same document, spreadsheet, or presentation at the same time, seeing the changes the others are making in real time and genuinely collaborating to get to the final outcome.

Accounting

When it comes to managing your business, one of the biggest risks is your financial data. Having financial data stored on a single computer or an in-house file server leaves it vulnerable to cyber-attack, in the event of any physical failure. This is why the adoption of cloud accounting solutions has grown rapidly.

Quickbooks and MYOB, two of the biggest accounting software platforms, have moved to cloud-based solutions as demand has grown, competing with disruptors like Xero and Invoice2Go.

These online systems allow you to manage your entire accounts system on any device, no matter where you are. Importantly too, the information can be shared with your accountant or financial team, no matter where their physical office is.

Making the choice

The best way to evaluate which systems and services might be right for you is to try them out. Most cloud services have free trial periods which you and your team can take advantage of. Consider the following: 

Costs and benefits – In most cases, you’ll be moving from a Capex (buying and owning the software or device) to an Opex (paying a fee for a service) model. Assess how the extra monthly costs will affect the rest of the business moving forward, and consider how variables such as hiring more people or requiring more storage may change these costs. Compare this to the upfront cost of buying software or hardware.

Timesaving and scalability – Cloud services can help your business save hours every week on data sharing, team emails, and even visits to your accountant. Additionally, a cloud service may be able to scale at a much faster rate and lower cost than your own internal systems.

Your team’s feedback – Last but not least, be sure to ask your employees for their thoughts, experiences, and constructive criticism, as they will need to be comfortable using these systems and services in their day-to-day work.

Doing it right

Once you’ve made the decision, it’s important to manage the migration from old to new in a structured way. 

Plan for the following:

Training your staff may need, from simple how-to videos to comprehensive onsite courses 

If there are any accounting deadlines that will be impacted

How your existing data will migrate from one platform to another

How long this process will take and how it will affect your business.

While these difficult questions may seem like roadblocks, they should instead be seen as stepping stones to the future, one where your data is safe, secure, and much easier for you and your employees to access than before.

Making the most of it

When your cloud-based service is up and running, keep your eyes peeled for updates. There will be new and exciting ways for these platforms to integrate over time, and other services which can make use of these platforms too.

For example, you may have a cloud accounting service that starts to accept integration with a point of sale payments system. Imagine every transaction going straight into your accounts, rather than needing to be processed each day.

Likewise, you might find new ways of using cloud services to benefit both your own business and your clients. You could set up a shared cloud folder with access for your team and your client, to ensure =everyone is across  the work being done and to save time when discussing updates to a project.

In the coming years, cloud integration will remain one of the key buzzwords of the business world. Look out for it.

The cloud is here to stay – is your business ready to make the transition? Here are six critical points you should take into consideration first.

Trevor Long

Trevor Long is a technology journalist with over 20 years’ experience in the media. Trevor hosts a weekly radio show on 2UE called Talking Tech and is often seen providing technology commentary across Channel 9’s, A Current Affair and the Today Show nationally. Trevor is the co-founder and publisher of EFTM, an online site covering all things motoring, lifestyle and technology and produces two of the most popular podcasts in Australia.

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