Future- Building a. Business: The Ultimate Guide. Business to

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1 Building a Future- Proof Business: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Your Business to the Cloud Fluid IT Services 5601 Democracy Drive, Suite 265 Plano, TX Phone: (866)

2 Introduction One size doesn t always fit all. But that s what makes cloud technology so powerful, and so ideal for small and medium businesses. Cloud solutions are flexible, scalable, cost-effective, efficient and have limited downtime. They allow you to access your critical processes and data from any location, and on any device. You know it s time to get your critical business systems off of the server in the closet and into the cloud. But where do you even begin? This guide will outline the things you need to consider and give you the steps to procure and manage your technology and infrastructure needs without more hardware. What is the cloud? At the most basic level, the cloud means using computing resources outside of your premises. A cloud service is housed in an offsite datacenter (or datacenters) somewhere around the globe. This datacenter resides in a reliable and secure facility that was (ideally) purposefully built to house and host computing services. Cloud services are computing resources and services that users can access from other locations (office, home, hotel, mobile, etc.), so there is no need for the user or the user s company to purchase and run computing resources (servers) on their own premises. By definition, when you use cloud-based services, you are using computing resources running in and managed by an offsite datacenter. The cloud service provider takes care of buying and maintaining servers on their end. You just access it over the network. Imagine the cost savings if you no longer had to buy and maintain your own servers and software. Now you see a huge benefit of the cloud! Larger enterprises that have sufficient capital and resources can create their own cloud infrastructure in a datacenter they own or rent. It is still a cloud resource because the hardware is housed in a dedicated datacenter and users access it remotely. But most businesses do not have the amount of money required to do this, so they buy cloud solutions from other providers. Does the cloud still seem nebulous to you? You re not alone. There is no strict definition. In fact, we asked some of our employees what their definition of the cloud is, and got their hilarious answers on tape. Check that out right here. The cloud is not in the sky How is the cloud better than a traditional IT setup? A substantial benefit to the cloud is not having to buy and maintain servers and best-of-breed software at your own office. The cloud service provider takes care of all of that on their end. It all begins with cost savings... 1

3 Industry analysts have determined that any company migrating to the cloud should expect at least a 30-50% reduction in spend for IT support services, whether using internal staff or outside contractors/vendors. Cloud services are elastic, meaning they have the ability to rapidly change and scale. You can add storage, change services, add users, increase security whatever your business needs, whenever your business needs it. The cloud also gives users the ability to use services specific to business needs, rather than having all business solutions under one roof. Each specific business need is aligned to one or many software solutions. Ultimately, the cloud provides more flexibility, more control over using what you want when you want it, and more mobility as you can use cloud services from anywhere on any device at any time as long as you have an Internet connection. come in at approximately $25,000 an hour. The fact is, cloud services are far less likely to have outages and downtime when compared to owning your technology. In addition, any outage a business has with their owned inhouse technology solutions will usually last much longer than compared to a cloud provider. Typically the difference can be measured in days (for owned technology) versus minutes (for cloud services). The reason for this is the sheer magnitude of what cloud providers deploy when compared to what any one business would do for themselves. The Pièce de Résistance: How the Cloud Enables Your Users One of the primary benefits of cloud services is the ability to quickly get in, get out, move up, move down, whatever the user s needs dictate, in real time. There is no need to build-in days or weeks of lead time or schedule weekend downtime to add, change or remove services. Modifications of any type can be done in seconds, minutes or hours based on the need. The key benefit to any user or business is not having to worry about how this happens, when this happens or who is doing it. The management is done by a third party, and is no longer something to be concerned with. Often in-house systems become aged and stale. It s not uncommon for businesses to be two versions behind or more on software updates. Aside from the technical issues and compatibility nightmares this causes, the business is not able to take advantage of the latest features and benefits built into newer releases. With cloud services, software licensing and versions are upgraded regularly as a normal course of business, and this ensures every user can take advantage of enhancements. This is something most businesses don t think much about, but it can be a source of real value in improved processes, automation and workflow. This then translates into greater efficiencies and business growth. In addition to the benefits of regular technology upgrades, migrating to the cloud has two other massive productivity benefits: freedom from downtime and flexibility of location. Even More Ways the Cloud Enables Your Business By now you understand that the cloud is flexible, scalable and cost-effective but it enables your business with more uptime, too. Although the highest cost by far, most businesses never compute what it costs them per hour when their systems are down. Some estimates for small to medium businesses 2

4 Functionality & App Usage Almost every business process can work well in the cloud: Company network (file sharing/ file storage, printing, scanning, user management, software, active directory) and calendars Accounting Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software Vertical business applications Proprietary software Production and collaboration But a few types of business processes are actually not a great fit for cloud solutions. Heavy video editing or large computing of CAD drawings would be difficult and may not be cost-effective to implement in the cloud. Sometimes a hybrid approach is best. For example, a business might use SalesForce as their cloud CRM solution, Fluid Cloud for their core business servers, and keep their high-end processing (like video production) in their office. That s THE Biggest benefit of the true flexibility. Cost Most cloud-based solutions are purposely sold to get you in, and then have ways to increase fees over time. This can be through upselling to a version with features you really need after you re already in, additional peruser fees which grow as your company grows, or usagebased fees that increase as you use more. IInvoices should be detailed and clear. Many cloudsolution providers give you an invoice with a single line and no explanation of what s in it. Ask for more. The Fluid team would be happy to give you a breakdown of the cost of one of our cloud packages for your business, so you can see what you should be expecting from every provider you talk to. Just give us a call. 3

5 Things to consider as you move to the cloud Security Most cloud providers can meet almost every requirement you can throw at them. The question is, What are your requirements? And do you have an IT resource to help you figure this out? Some common regulatory requirements include: HIPAA-compliant solutions for healthcare data PCI-compliant solutions for retail SEC compliance for financial services There are security level standards for small and medium businesses as well, because they are dealing with customer s personal data (e.g. credit card information, usernames and passwords). The minimum security requirements every cloud provider should offer are: Physical security in a protected datacenter requiring card access to enter the building security check-in once in the building, documenting the name, personal ID and date/ time of the person entering Physical security to enter the datacenter floor (where all the computers are located) using biometric recognition and/or key-card access specific to the individual accessing the space 4

6 Once on the computer floor, the physical computers should be in locked cabinets Firewalls within the computer cabinets to provide intrusion protection, anti-virus, etc. network separation, both physical and logical, to separate your systems from all others additional logical separation within the cloud environment to protect your systems and data login IDs and passwords for authorized administrators only to access systems login IDs and passwords for authorized administrators only to access specific software within the systems In addition, some data requires high regulatory compliance (think tax information, legal documents and healthcare data), the locked cabinets should be contained in a cage, which is a physical fence with sides, top and bottom surrounding the computer cabinets, with the cage requiring additional card key access. The absolute worst time to learn your security requirements is during an audit. Make sure you discuss any special security requirements with your IT resource while you re creating your cloud plan. There s even more to think about to make sure your cloud provider is keeping your business safe in the cloud. What about data backup? Does your cloud service provider back up your data? How often? How easily and quickly can it be restored? What if one of their data storage facilities goes down will your business still be operational? As with an audit, the worst time to find this out is after a disaster has already happened. Security 5

7 convenience There are a lot of things to consider, here, which is why a trustworthy IT resource is so crucial. What software is most critical for you to have access to from anywhere (at home, on the road, etc.)? Do you want to buy each solution from a different vendor, managing all of those relationships yourself, or would you rather have a single cloud service provider that manages all of that for you? If you decide to go with a single cloud service provider, would you rather go with one of the big names (who will expect you to speak their language and offer minimal support) or get more personalized service from a smaller provider like Fluid (who will speak your language and provide immediate, personal support)? If you speak fluent Techie, you are confident telling a large cloud provider exactly what you need and you can provide your own IT support, the big cloud providers will be just fine for you. Word of caution: Google and Amazon are examples of big cloud providers that offer solid public cloud solutions but simply can t offer personalized service or support for your small or medium business. Think long and hard about whether or not you can provide your own IT support before signing up with a big provider. If you are like most small and medium businesses, and you need a bit more help in setting up cloud services that fit your needs (and don t make you pay for more than you need), get a smaller cloud provider like Fluid on the phone. It can be so much more convenient (and save you money and migraines) to have one company expertly managing all of those cloud services and vendor relationships for you. 6

8 Ongoing Support The key to cloud support is understanding beforehand what processes, procedures and service levels the cloud provider includes and will commit to. Remote support may be fine, but your business needs probably require a response within 2 hours, not 2 days. This should all be defined in the cloud service provider s Service Level Agreement (SLA). The service level may also vary for each of the actual software programs you use in your business. You may need 2-hour response for you retail creditcard processing systems, where 8 hour response is fine for your internal marketing system. Once you have defined the desired service levels, you can then ask each cloud provider what their support processes are, what service levels they will commit to and what to expect when support is needed. Generally speaking, the more general and public the service (think Google and Amazon), the more commitments of support are reduced. The more customized and private the service, the higher the commitment of support. The Cloud Stretches and Lets You Pick and Choose Security. Flexibility. Uptime. What are the different cloud configuration options? There are cloud solutions for virtually every type of business process file sharing, accounting, inventory management, project management, construcation, legal, collaboration, telecommunications, the list goes on. As a potential buyer of cloud services, you can literally purchase a different cloud solution for each individual business process (and have 7-8 vendor invoices each month), or you can consolidate your business processes with a single cloud provider (one invoice, one throat to choke). What will work best for your company depends on your specific company goals, requirements and preferences. Many companies choose a single provider just t o reduce the number of relationships they must manage. Many companies offer packages where you can get cloud services and support bundled together for one price. Shop around, but remember to get those detailed breakdowns of services and cost! 7

9 Main Steps to Migrating a Business to the Cloud Regardless of what model you choose, disparate or consolidated, here are the main steps to make the best decisions about and move forward with your cloud solutions: 1 Define your business requirements first. What does your business actually require, versus what is just nice to have? Do you need to have the cloud solution match your business process or can your business process be modified to match the way the cloud provider does things? 3 Ask for references. Ideally, get references from people in your same industry and actually talk to those references. Ask them what their experience was like when migrating to the cloud, what has the service quality been since going live, and if there been any issues or downtime. Here is what you should expect from the cloud service providers you talk to: 2 Decide if you need or prefer to have several cloud solutions (one for each business process) or a consolidated cloud solution for the entire business. Some cloud solutions are very specific in what they can and will offer, while others can be customized to meet your specific business needs. 4 This is probably the most critical factor: Have a trusted IT advisor represent your company. More often than not, small companies ask their office manager or CFO to work with the cloud provider to set up services. This is akin to a Texan being dropped into Germany without knowing the language, the land or the culture. You need someone that can speak geek on your behalf. 1. They should be able to define cloud solutions to you in relation to your everyday business needs. They should also work with you to define a plan (an IT roadmap) to get there, then implement your plan and provide ongoing support once your cloud services are set up. 2. They should help you customize your solution based on what your actual business needs are and align with your future business goals as well. That way you mitigate the risk of under- or over-building your cloud solution, making your investment much safer. True cloud solutions are tailored for each customer. 3. They should define their service levels up-front. This is the first step to ensuring you don t set yourself up for a disappointing and frustrating support situation. You may not need IT staff, but having a trusted IT service provider looking out for your best interest and keeping up with all these requirements is key. They do the legwork for you. They can also provide the hand-holding and support required when needs fall outside the scope or capabilities of your solution provider. Most importantly, they provide a holistic view and can make recommendations for your IT needs from top to bottom something none of the individual solution providers can do. 8

10 When You Need Help Whether you need help making decisions about what cloud technology would be best for your business, or you re ready to pull the trigger on a cloud solution, give us a call. We take the time to understand your business and its goals. We also look at your immediate technology problems. Then we create a Strategic IT Roadmap that solves your immediate problems, but also supports and enables your business over the long haul. We help get you from where you are today to where you want to be. Call us any time at (866) or us at Fluid IT Services 5601 Democracy Drive, Suite 265 Plano, TX Phone: (866)

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