Small businesses are moving to the cloud in dramatically increasing numbers. According to Gartner, the market for public cloud, which tends to be the best option for most small businesses, will increase by 17.3 percent this year to $206.2 billion.
The benefits of cloud computing for smaller organizations are clear. One is financial: Moving workloads from an on-premises data center to the cloud means shifting that portion of your IT spending from capital expenditures to operational expenditures. The lower up-front investment for OPEX, as well as the cost certainty of subscription pricing models, are advantages for cash-flow conscious SMBs.
Another advantage is simplified scalability. Instead of deploying new data center equipment as the business grows, it can simply pay for cloud services as it needs them. This also removes the need to anticipate future growth and avoids overprovisioning, as cloud infrastructure can be scaled up or down as needed. And for seasonal businesses with resource needs that change throughout the year, this kind of simple provisioning can be extremely valuable.
5 Keys to Cloud Strategy for Small Businesses
Does that mean the cloud is right for every business? Perhaps not. But the vast majority should begin developing a cloud strategy if they don’t have one already. To that end, here are some things for SMBs to consider when it comes to deciding whether — and what — to move to the cloud.
Know what you’re already doing in the cloud. Just because a business has an on-premises data center where most of its workloads are performed doesn’t mean it has no cloud experience. Most businesses use some cloud-based solutions. Anything from Gmail to a number of Software as a Service solutions run in the cloud.
Consider your goals for a cloud transition. Every business should determine what it hopes to gain from a cloud transition over a period of time. Is it seeking to lower total costs for data management and storage? That’s often a benefit of cloud computing, but not always. Depending on the circumstances, maintaining or acquiring the right kind of data center technology can offer advantages. Is it merely to simplify business management processes such as bookkeeping or human resources? It’s worth considering cloud-based services that specialize in those areas.
Assess your workloads for cloud readiness. Many businesses are adopting a cloud-first mentality — striving to build new applications in the cloud while taking a slower approach with their existing workloads. The goal should be to evaluate each workload individually and determine what is a candidate for a cloud transition and what should stay on-premises.
Understand the security implications. The cloud is just as secure, and probably more so, than most on-premises data center technology — provided that organizations place their data in the cloud with the proper security configurations. The major cloud vendors, such as Google and Microsoft, have outstanding security expertise and all are certified compliant with federal data governance standards.
The truth is data is much more vulnerable when businesses are protecting it on their own. Unpatched vulnerabilities account for 60 percent of data breaches, according to the Ponemon Institute.
There’s also a growing market of cloud access security brokers that can not only help secure cloud applications, but also monitor use and enforce firmwide policies. Yet any business transitioning to the cloud should remember it is still ultimately responsible for data security.
Get help. Converting to the cloud can be a complicated undertaking. With so much at stake, businesses are wise to seek the counsel of a trusted adviser who can help them understand what workloads are most suitable to move and which cloud provider is best for them.