As the message to move to the cloud becomes more frequent and increasingly urgent, you might finally be ready to begin this journey. After all, who can resist the promise of improved efficiencies, always on access, and simplified IT administration at a lower cost?

The opportunities provided by a move to the cloud can be tremendous — provided you align with the right solution supported by the right vendor.

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Image Credit: Ace Cloud Hosting, Source: iStock

Cloud offerings and the vendors who provide them are as diverse as your options for transportation. So before you jump on board and prepare to depart, you might want to review some basic safety instructions for your journey to the clouds.

Your Destination

If you are taking a journey down the street, your transportation options are very different from those needed for a transcontinental outing. The same is true for your journey to the cloud. The first step is to understand your destination. What are you trying to accomplish?

Consider the limitations of your current solution, what you would like to have happened, and then consider what it would be worth to have a more optimal solution in your business. Complete the following table to determine your needs and your budget for a replacement option.

Challenges of Current Solution or Environment Ideal Outcome for a New Solution Potential Value of a New Solution (in $ or Hours)

 

If you are perfectly happy with your current desktop application but need to access your data remotely, you might consider a hosted application. But if you find yourself limited by your desktop solution, are seeking to use cloud applications, or want to outsource your information technology needs, then you will want to consider finding an outsourced solution provider who can manage all your information technology needs. But either way, you need a clear understanding of your goals before you start.

Options Available

When you are taking a journey, the mode of transportation you select will depend on your requirements for speed, safety, and affordability as well as the number of passengers in your party.

The same is true for your journey to the cloud. The right solution will depend on your need for speed, accessibility, security, and the number of people on your team who will need access to the system. You will want to consider each of the following options:

1. Hosted Applications –

Often referred to as cloud applications by many vendors, this category of solutions includes traditional desktop applications hosted by either a specialized hosting provider or a company like AMAZON.

Critical:

Make sure your hosting provider understands the nuances of the application you are hosting so that your environment is optimized for that application. For accountants hosting applications like QuickBooks Desktop or Tax software like Lacerte, knowledge of these applications and the ability to keep them updated is critical.

2. SAAS (Software as a Service) –

These are applications (like QuickBooks Online) that are developed specifically for the Cloud and are accessible via a browser. They include specialized virtual online file storage applications like Dropbox.

Critical:

Understand how the vendor is protecting and monitoring the data that is being stored in their cloud application. Look for solutions that are part of a wider ecosystem of extensible applications.

3. DaaS (Desktop as a Service) –

This is an entire virtual desktop delivered by specialized vendors who have knowledge of hardware, infrastructure, and security as well as an understanding of the applications that are delivered in their environment. These vendors offer technical support, application updates, and varying levels of infrastructure support. In this environment, your files, operating system, and applications are managed for you in a virtual server.

Critical:

Understand the details of the support provided by the vendor you engage as well as their security and uptime guarantees. Make sure you know your options for data storage. Will your information reside on a Public Cloud (like AWS or Azure) or will it be hosted on a Virtual Private Cloud that is segregated and maintained by the solution provider you choose? You will also want to be sure that the provider you select uses multiple redundant data facilities.

Your Pilot

Before you buckle in for that journey, you will want to know that your pilot or driver is qualified to get you to your destination. The same is true of your journey to the cloud.

The difference between a failed journey and a successful one will often depend on the skills of the vendor you choose. Understand the skills and qualifications of their team, how long they have been providing these services, the depth of their support and implementation teams, and any technical certifications they hold. You will also want to review feedback on sites like Serchen to learn more about user experiences.

Ready for Takeoff

Armed with the right information about your needs, a clear understanding of your options, and how to evaluate the right vendor, it is time to start your journey. With the right vendor by your side and a clear roadmap for implementation, you will be able to fully enjoy the benefits of cloud computing and safely arrive at a profitable business destination with:

  • 24/7 access to critical business information
  • Increased collaboration with remote workers
  • Reduced time/costs
  • Increased security and redundant data backups
  • Automatic upgrades to software and hardware

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