We get a ton of questions about "the cloud." When is a good time to migrate our infrastructure to the cloud? Should we be using Microsoft 365 (cloud-based) instead of traditional Office (device-based)? Can we move our servers into the cloud? Are cloud services inherently better? Why aren't we "in the cloud?"
The answer to all of these questions, as with so many other aspects of IT, is "it depends."
Sometimes, moving to the cloud is relatively easy: other times, it comes with unexpected consequences that can start small but quickly snowball. Every IT environment is different, so you need to incorporate a strategic view as well as the technical one. Really, you need an IT partner who can analyze these unique elements and help you make the right IT decisions that are best for your organization.
Before the pandemic, the main business interruption everyone here in Los Angeles considered was earthquakes (not fire or flood). The thought at that time was that this would be some temporary interruption and then we'd (literally) pick up the pieces and get back to work. Who would have thought we'd have to deal with what a global pandemic brought - where access to our offices for our whole team would change so drastically?
Because of this, the remote Work From Home approach has become the standard for most of us. To say this isn't going to change for the foreseeable future, is an understatement. Not only is WFH the new standard work paradigm, but now the question has become how can we leverage things so that our systems and information is accessible from anywhere?
The cloud HAS to be part of this discussion.
The cloud is a key way for you to continue your business operations from anywhere outside the four walls of your office. While the cloud delivers a range of benefits, there’s one benefit that outshines all of the others: the ability to work from most any device or location with access to all of your documents, applications, and files.
A couple of things to keep in mind when we talk about the cloud:
- The cloud is someone else's computers.
- The cloud is more than one thing - there's hosted applications (SaaS), there's hosted servers (Azure), there's hosted email and Office (Microsoft 365), there's hosted file services (SharePoint), there's hosted Active Directory (Azure AD), there's hosted phone services (VoIP), and more...
- And the cloud offers incredible insurance against disasters, outages, and yes, pandemics…
The good news is, we've had many, many conversations with clients around considering this move these days.
Also, the good news is more and more clients are already in the cloud to some degree. It's pretty rare that we see any business that doesn't have at least one toe dipped in the "cloud" water. From email hosting, to Microsoft Office 365, to VoIP phone systems, to hosted cloud applications - one way or another almost everyone has some portion of their technology in the cloud. This is what's known as a "hybrid" approach - some pieces are in the cloud and some are on premise.
The question now is how to disaster proof your IT so that you can not only ride out an interruption, but also thrive in the future. Again, this means integrating the cloud conversation into your strategic planning. Don't forget that this also means integrating the appropriate cybersecurity approach into the discussion as well. Regardless of where your computing resources are housed (and who they're served up by), this is a key component that's too often overlooked. Trust, but verify as they say.
benefits of the cloud
As a reminder, some of the benefits of leveraging "the cloud" include:
- Increased data accessibility
- Increased business continuity
- Agility and scalability
- The ability to pick and choose the resources you use (and to relinquish unnecessary ones)
- Decreased initial capital outlay
- Fixed monthly costs
Naturally, these benefits do come at a cost. We recently ran a cost analysis for a CPA client of ours who were interested in "moving to the cloud." While, technically, it really isn't all that complex for us to perform a migration like theirs, the cloud resources needed for their setup were fairly involved (which means more costly on an ongoing basis). When you've already invested in on-premise server infrastructure, your ongoing costs appear far less (because you paid for them up front). When you move to the cloud, now all of a sudden you have an additional ongoing monthly fee. Sometimes, the ROI is hard to justify (naturally, depending on your risk aversion and requirements). Hence the answer "it depends" that we started with.
In addition, the difficulty in realizing cost savings is that the smaller your business is (in the number of users) the higher the ongoing per user cost is. This is why we still see so many businesses with a hybrid approach to the cloud. Until the business continuity requirement becomes so valuable does the ROI seem worth it.
Here are a few resources to dive a little deeper into the cloud conversation:
- What is the Cloud and Why Aren't You In It?
- How CPAs Can Successfully Adopt Cloud Services
- What to Look for In a Cloud Provider
- If You Want the Cloud, Don't Go See Cal!
In addition, here are a couple more centered around the topic of Business Continuity:
- Business Continuity - Risk vs. Impact
- How Business Continuity Can Fill the Hole in Your Security Plan
- 3 Ways RIAs Can Implement a Business Continuity Plan
While "the cloud" isn't the end all be all panacea it's all too often touted as, there's no question it does provide significant value as a piece of your IT solution pie. At the same time, it's hard not to have at least some facet of your IT in the cloud. This is as much about business continuity (ie: the ability for your business to operate with as minimal an interruption to your business during an incident) as it is to running your business optimally at all times.
Which, again, brings us back to the initial question - "should we be in the cloud?" And again, it depends.
Now and into the future, this should be part of every business's strategic planning discussion. Both to address the current paradigm as well as to be prepared for the next interruption we can't yet see.
Are you considering moving to the cloud? What issue are you looking to address? Is this part of your business continuity plan or part of this year's strategic technology plan? Please share your thoughts in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you'd like to chat about this in more detail.