To Cloud or Not-to-Cloud? Five Key Success Factors for SMEs
Should Your SME Move to the Cloud?
Whenever this question is asked, enviably someone in the room will argue for Amazon, IBM, Azure, Google or Rackspace for hosting services before the issues, opportunities and risks are fully considered.
It reminds me of ‘back in the day’ when it was said “you don’t get fired for buying IBM.” Fast forward to today and Amazon could well be the new IBM.
Prove Your Business Case
The business case for cloud computing is proven, it’s a done deal, compared to non-cloud models, it’s faster, cheaper, flexible, agile and elastic.
Stop and Consider
For SMEs with limited resources, discussions about infrastructure (cloud) hosting can get very technical, very quickly and for this reason, it’s often left to the IT ‘guru’.
This decision is critical; especially if your core business is providing a service using software (software-as-a-service) or you’re making software products.
Hosting has a direct affect on the experience customers have when using your software, get this wrong and poor customer satisfaction will be reflected in fewer user license renewals, less new business and a reduction in revenue.
And it’s not just your customers who may suffer, your hosting choice will influence the level of satisfaction and productivity for internal users too.
It is a priority to consider how best to serve existing customers, while planning to offer the same service to future customers; possibly in different markets and locations.
This is far too important a decision to be left to the IT ‘guru’ alone as it requires real customer awareness, commercial and financial astuteness.
Do not settle just for convenience today — the hosting equivalent of fast food that gives you and your customers indigestion tomorrow —instead, get the best outcome from the get-go.
Five Factors for Success
Yes, it can be nervy and potentially expensive to move to the cloud, but it does not have to be if you select the right hosting partner from the outset.
I. Select a partner who will help you figure out the best cloud set-up to support your business objectives. Consider the markets you are in, plan to be in and the classification of your data.
II. Hybrid clouds can save an SME up to 65% compared to traditional IT operation models.
Consider a *hybrid cloud as an alternative to a stand-alone dedicated private cloud.(*Hybrid cloud = a mix of a private cloud used for better control of your resources AND a public cloud used for easier scaling).
III. Play the long game; think about your cloud needs today and tomorrow, set your cloud strategy to seamlessly scale as your business grows.
NB. Cloud vendors often offer low cloud entry costs to capture your business and data, then apply disproportionate cost increases (and inflexibility) when you come to scale up your operations. They think in most cases you will not take the risk of moving your data elsewhere once on board.
2. Technical Support
I. Select a partner that will provide you with the level of technical support you need.If you have limited resources in this area, that’s fine, select a partner who will provide you with on-call support and advice over the phone
II. Select a partner who will produce a properly resourced ‘transition to the cloud’ plan, this is your blueprint. It is critical part of mitigating the business risks and ensuring a seamless transition to the cloud.
III. Check your back-up and data recovery periodically, do not rely on the wording in contracts: make sure they work.
3. Try Before You Buy
I. Consider if a ‘move to cloud’ proof of concept is right for your business:
- • Have a clear objective – what is your goal?
- • What are you going to measure?• Understand your criteria for acceptance.
- • Select a suitable timeframe, days not weeks• Use data from your proof of concept for the cloud transition plan.
4. Develop a Cloud Mindset
I. If you are software as service business are your Apps cloud ready?
In the worst case, they may need redesign.
II. Is your software resilient?
The cloud is built for reliability and scalability with fault tolerance (redundancy) built-in. That does not mean however, that individual infrastructure components will never fail and your software should have an appropriate level of resilience built-in.
I. Finally, automation is key to your partner scaling ‘your cloud’, the ability to run up a new technical stack in hours.
II. Select a cloud partner that is utilizing DevOps and automation tool sets such as:
- • Cheff
- • Puppet
- • Ansible
- • Salt or one of the many other automation stacks
- • Along with the basic shell and PowerShell scripting.
Conclusions for SMEs
1. A move to the cloud is because it is faster, cheaper, flexible, agile and elastic.
2. Hybrid clouds are reducing IT costs for SMEs by up to 65% versus traditional IT models.
3. Select your cloud partner wisely, one who will work with you to get the best outcome for your business, today and tomorrow.
4. Carefully consider the level of support you need – online support versus hands-on support and advice.
5. Be cloud ready across your business.
6. If appropriate, conduct a proof of concept with your preferred cloud partner – ensure the benefits for your business stack up.
7. Ensure your provider is working to an agreed transition to the cloud plan.
8. Select a partner who runs automated processes and procedures across the technical stack.