The benefits to accrue to the small business by moving to cloud-based services are well-known. Many companies in the UK are migrating to third parties providing Cloud Services, and in turn Cloud Services UK providers are concentrating on the increasing demand for cloud-based services from the small business sector.
Moving to the cloud is not a simple exercise. If you chose to have a cloud services provider host your systems and data, its more than just migrating your systems and data to their infrastructure. If you choose to migrate to a cloud environment on your existing hardware, you need to ensure that if supports the new environment and that you can continue with business as usual while the migration takes place.
It is also an opportunity for you to see if your current applications systems will operate successfully in a cloud environment, or if you need new systems specifically designed to operate in the cloud.
If you intend to migrate to the cloud using your existing hardware, check to see if it can support the cloud environment, and if not, what hardware and software changes will be needed.
In short, there is a bit of work to be done before moving ahead with a migration.
The first and most important step is to set out clearly the objectives of migration to the cloud and the business benefits you expect, both financial and intangible. A migration as part of a planned Internet strategy can be expected to improve your profile in the marketplace and ease interaction with existing and prospective customers.
You should also set limits to the migration. Not all parts of the business can, or should, be migrated to the cloud. You must also prepare business continuity and malware protection plans, to ensure that if you lose access to all or part of your systems and data, for whatever reason, you can continue to operate.
It is also usual at this point to set out longer-term objectives for your internet presence as a strategic plan. As examples, if you already have a corporate website, how can this be folded in with your cloud migration? Do you intend to interact with your customers using Social Media? Should customers be able to place orders and make enquiries directly to your system?
The strategy and an outline migration plan must be agreed and signed off by top management to ensure that there is a commitment to the process. The agreement is needed as to an in-house or hosted scenario. It is not lawful in some jurisdictions to have an external party host data on your behalf.
You will now follow a different path, depending on whether you have chosen to remain in-house with your existing IT function, stay in-house with outsourced support or migrate to a hosted solution with a cloud services supplier.
For a completely in-house solution, you need to clearly understand how you will keep the normal daily business running while you carry out the migration. You may need temporary staff while the migration project is underway, perhaps to supply technical skills that you will not need in the longer term. As noted above you need to implement and test the business continuity plan.
If you intend to use outsourced services, either in-house or in a hosted environment, the roles and responsibilities of both parties must be clearly understood. This is usually via a Service Level Agreement with the cloud services supplier for both the migration and the subsequent operational support.
As with most IT projects, the devil lies in the detail, and careful planning before rushing to migrate will ensure a successful migration.