10 steps to the Cloud for SMBs Introduction to Cloud computing. Ask the Experts. Making Business Work Better Online

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1 10 steps to the Cloud for SMBs Introduction to Cloud computing This paper is designed to explain, in plain English, the real reasons behind how your business can benefit from Cloud computing, and help you to get beyond the buzzword. Ask the Experts

2 10 steps to the Cloud for SMBs Introduction to Cloud computing Whatever industry you re in, it is likely that you have come across the term Cloud computing before. You may even be using a Cloud service within your business already, and be unaware of it. But how can small to medium businesses (SMBs) in the UK really take advantage of what Cloud computing has to offer, without having to delve through reams of management speak? Non-profit industry association, the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), defines Cloud computing as: Cloud Computing is a term that relates to the IT infrastructure and environment required to develop/ host/run IT services and applications, on demand, with consumption based pricing, as a resilient service CIF predicts that 75 per cent of UK companies will be using at least one Cloud service by the end of In its latest research into Cloud adoption rates, CIF found that 58 per cent of organisations with fewer than 200 employees (52 per cent with fewer than 20 employees and 64 per cent with employees) are using at least one hosted or Cloud-based service, an increase of 10 per cent in total on the previous 18 months. UK SMBs those organisations employing less than 200 staff clearly represent a growth market, but they are still behind the huge adoption rates of larger enterprises, with a 16 per cent increase in use, year on year. The same report also found that operational cost savings, scalability, 24/7 service dependence and flexibility of delivery are consistent key drivers for Cloud adoption, no matter the size of the business. But what does this actually mean? This paper is designed to provide you with enough insight to be able to make a decision on how your business can best use Cloud computing in the short, medium and long term. 10 steps to Cloud adoption: 04/13 2

3 1. Where am I now? The first step to take is to evaluate your company s current IT infrastructure, as well as its existing and future needs in terms of data, information and electronic resources. What absolutely needs to stay on-premise, and what can be delivered off-premise via the Internet? Historically, SMBs have been restricted to only on-premise hardware and systems, with business critical applications such as customer relationship management, accounting or installed on each staff computer, or terminal. Your business may have an internal IT manager or team, or even outsource this to a managed service provider (MSP). On-premise can be capital intensive, prone to failures, needs annual licenses and often has to be replaced as hardware wears out. With limited resources and budgets, money and time thrown at IT issues could be better spent on growing the business. The cost effectiveness and flexibility makes off-premise an attractive alternative but the perceived threat to staff can put decision makers off choosing such a solution. However Cloud computing need not be a threat to your skilled IT department or outsourced provider. Moving to the Cloud has created a lot more opportunities without the threat of redundancy. Daily IT tasks can all be outsourced, quite possibly to your existing MSP if they provide Cloud services already. But the IT department will absolutely retain control of the IT infrastructure, and even develop their expertise in implementing and administering your Cloud-based applications and services. 2. Which type of Cloud is best for my business? Cloud services can be public, private, hybrid, on-premise, or offpremise. Each type suits different business needs, has slightly different attributes and benefits, and ultimately your provider will help you to determine that most suited to your SMB. Public Cloud offers high-scale, cost-effective virtual outsourcing, but the risk is that the provider is handed management control in many cases and data security and sovereignty. So choosing a trusted provider is essential. This drains both time and resources out of the businesses, leaving IT leaders unable to support business strategy as nimbly as they should. Many businesses benefit from a hybrid approach; whether this is mixing on-premise private for some applications, with public Cloud for s, or even adopting a lesser-known but increasingly viable option, creating a private Cloud that is hosted outside the business by an external provider. Unlike the other options, this can provide tremendous agility benefits while leaving the strategic and operational elements of the in-house IT function intact. With an externally hosted private Cloud, responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance and upgrading of the server estate a task that adds little value to the business falls on the provider, whereas the strategic and operational aspects of its usage and management remain in the remit of the internal IT team. IT leaders no longer have to sweat their hardware assets and can shift their focus to strategic business support instead. 3. Why will my Financial Director love me? Since all Cloud services are pay as you go, there is a huge argument for improving cash flow. Businesses can pay monthly, per user, per licence or by the amount of space that they use. Cloud services are flexible, so businesses can scale up and down usage, as the business needs change. Depending on the service level agreements (SLAs) in your provider s contract, off-premise solutions, private or public, means that maintenance is handed over to the Cloud provider, freeing up valuable resources and re-directing them to other parts of the business. And it is not just the direct costs that can be reduced, since in the long-term, indirect costs such as those attributed to labour versus productivity (detailed later in this report) will fall, as well as lower staff attrition as they feel the benefits of Cloud during the working day. Cloud computing has no capital expenditure, and it is much faster to deploy. Project budgets have minimal start-up costs, and operational expenses are therefore much more predictable, all helping towards delivering a healthy balance sheet. Private Clouds can be designed, built and hosted internally onpremise, but in many cases they leave IT teams with the same support and maintenance headaches that they have already. 10 steps to Cloud adoption: 04/13 3

4 4. How can the Cloud help me work better? As long as employees have an Internet-enabled device whether that s a smart phone, tablet or laptop they can now work from home, other offices, on the train or even in the pub. The possibilities are endless. No longer are employees required to work within the traditional confines of the office s four walls. Again, this can help decrease staff attrition as they are able to maintain a work/life balance, and increases productivity during time periods where previously they would not be able to work. The other benefit of Cloud computing for productivity is the ability to connect to colleagues, customers, partners and peers via the Cloud. They can collaborate on documents and business critical applications (rather than duplicating various versions and increasing the amount of unnecessary data within a business), as well as communicate speedily via , chat and unified communications platforms, such as Microsoft Lync. In a nutshell, data and information can be delivered to employees in real-time, providing access when and where it s required, increasing operational intelligence, and improving decisionmaking lead times. 5. How secure is my data in the Cloud? In reality, Cloud servers are typically safer than your own internal servers. You get to use servers that are protected with the latest security measures and have IT professionals watching them around the clock. An on-premise server can always be destroyed, e.g by a flood, but is handling your precious business data over to a Cloud services provider any better? to regulate the fine print in your provider s contract and ensure that your business retains control over data sovereignty. Also, don t forget, hard drives and laptops can be lost. Data in the Cloud is always there, no matter what. 6. Is the Cloud environmentally friendly? Cloud computing enables companies worldwide to pool and share facilities and resources, and is helping to contain data centre duplication. Swapping out on-site servers and hardware for hosted services and infrastructure over the Cloud will dramatically reduce your SMB s carbon footprint. Migrating some or all business functions, data or applications to the Cloud reduces energy usage and therefore utility bills, stops the need for cooling power and equipment, and decreases the amount of floor space you need to house servers, racks and storage. For SMBs, the cut in energy use and carbon emissions has been reported to be as high as 90 per cent, according to a Microsoft study 1. Less directly, since Cloud computing significantly improves mobile working and collaboration capabilities, employees spend less time on the road and in the office, again reducing your business s carbon footprint. On top of this, there is an argument that increased Cloud adoption by businesses in the main has displaced resources that otherwise would have been physically consumed, such as online retailing. 1 emissions-235 This report talked previously about the risk of handing over data to an external provider with public Cloud, and the lack of clarity and transparency of what is permissible or acceptable, versus what is possible, continues on. Recent high profile debates over subjects like the evolution of the European Data Protection legislation only add to the concerns. Data security, protection, sovereignty and portability concerns have been fuelled by the media, but initiatives such as CIF s Code of Practice are working on ensuring confidence for Cloud adopters from the start. Data held within the Cloud can actually be a lot more secure than having it on-premise, but it is important 10 steps to Cloud adoption: 04/13 4

5 7. How does the Cloud make IT easier? One of the big advantages of Cloud computing is that it makes your IT functions a lot simpler. When you have IT professionals working for your business, they will be able to gain approved access to documents, systems and applications more easily if everything is housed inside the Cloud. For example, instead of having IT professionals come to your office in order to fix the problem, they can simply log into the Cloud server from wherever they are, and address the issue. IT professionals also do not have to worry about taking care of the physical hardware because it is housed in a data centre, being watched by other IT professionals. Cloud computing also removes the need to manually update business critical applications, software, services and infrastructure. Updates are fast and delivered online automatically, reducing the need for any manual interference or disruption to the workforce and daily operations. 8. How do I ensure business continuity in the event of a crisis? Cloud computing offers SMBs an easy-to-use, cost effective business continuity and disaster recovery option. No longer do you need a complex, multi-strategy recovery plan, since whatever you decide to migrate to the Cloud is already backed up (backups will need to be configured by your provider) whenever changes are made to the data on the Cloud service. It was discovered recently that businesses using Cloud to backup their data were able to resolve issues four times faster on average than businesses that didn t use Cloud Does the Cloud really help me grow my business? One of the primary benefits for SMBs when using Cloud services is the 24/7 access to enterprise-class technology and resources. No longer are managers restricted by the hardware and equipment they could afford, but now they can compete with the big players in their market. As well as this, the size difference enables smaller businesses to manoeuvre faster and act in a more agile way than enterprises, which have a lot more considerations to include when changing business processes. As the backbone of UK Plc., SMBs including entrepreneurs, start-ups and spin-outs are being allowed the chance to compete on even ground with established competitors. The Cloud also enables businesses to identify new products, services or revenue streams, previously blocked by on-premise IT. The improved cash flow, mentioned previously in this report, also ensures a good flow of working capital and increased budgets to be able to diversify and expand operations. 10. What are my next steps? This paper is designed to equip managers at SMBs with enough information on the key benefits of Cloud computing to make an initial decision to research it further, and look towards adoption. Although an eagerly sought option for most business models and IT setups, Cloud services must be carefully considered in relation to the business model, scale and working environment. Depending on the complexity of a business s IT infrastructure it may be advisable to move to the Cloud in a phased approach. Cloud services can even be bolted-on to existing on-premise systems, easily and effectively. Since Cloud in its nature backs up data in real-time, there is no need to execute traditional back up processes on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This saves valuable time that can be more productively re-directed to elsewhere in the business steps to Cloud adoption: 04/13 5

6 Choosing a provider of any good or service is never an easy task, but there are some key factors to consider when taking on Cloud: 1. Be clear on your needs and constraints Consider everything from the essential features you require, to what business functions should be Cloud based and what should stay on-premise. Don t forget the length of the minimum contract with potential providers, as well as regulation specific to your industry. 2. Understand the breadth and depth of providers In order to build trust in a provider you ll need to understand exactly what they re about, including their expertise, and who owns them. Consider customer service levels, reviews from other users, their processes and where their data centres are. 3. Look for the fine print Check terms of supply, personnel (i.e. who can access your data, if at all), contract termination protocols and auditing procedures. 4. Understand providers operating procedures and practices As you are entering a partnership with a Cloud services provider it is essential that you have the ability to understand their operating practise and procedures in order to ensure that you exercise appropriate controls and monitoring, and therefore align your own practices to reduce risk and improve service availability and performance. About Fasthosts Fasthosts, established in 1999, is a leading web hosting provider that specialises in Cloud Computing. Its state of the art data centres and team of experts ensure the smooth running and security of its customers IT. Services include: virtual private servers, dedicated servers, Exchange , Cloud hosting, domains names and online backup solutions; all of which can be self-managed through Fasthosts uniquely designed control panel. Looking after over a million domains and delivering over 42 million s is just an average day at Fasthosts. Fasthosts operates 24 x 7 x 365 days a year, and offers 24/7 support for its customers by phone or online. Customer service levels are consistently high, helped by customer feedback and a commitment by Fasthosts to invest in on-going training and development of its technical support staff. Fasthosts also maintains an award-winning, highly successful reseller channel. The company won the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Partner Award and Microsoft s Global Hosting Partner Award in For further information about any of the products and services mentioned, visit or call the Fasthosts Cloud experts on steps to Cloud adoption: 04/13 6

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