If you own a company or if you’re an executive, director, or manager, part of your job is understanding and adapting to changing times. And one big change happening right now is the death of server rooms. Servers are being exchanged in the name of cloud computing. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time for you to start making plans for moving your business to the cloud.
The cloud is a great place, but it does require many considerations. Today we’re going to go through them. From bandwidth to cost to the variety of cloud products available to you, we’ll discuss it all. We’ll even talk about why you might not want to go to the cloud.
Moving to the Cloud: Bandwidth Considerations
Right out of the gate, let’s hit on the primary concern with the cloud: bandwidth. If you’re considering moving to the cloud, you need to evaluate your current bandwidth. Ask yourself if you have enough speed and reliability to manage and run your business from the cloud. If you find that you don’t, however, it doesn’t mean you should throw the idea of moving to the cloud out the window.
Take another look at your bandwidth and what needs to be adjusted. Do you need it to be better? Does it need to be more redundant? Whatever the problem, there are solutions. For instance, if you need more redundancy, there are products available, like a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN). This product gives you a complete redundant package in your office, meaning your system is continually live, it will never go down.
Moving to the Cloud: Financial Considerations
Next, many people argue that moving to the cloud is more expensive than housing servers yourself. Don’t believe them! The reason this false rumor exists is because people have a hard time calculating the cost of hardware over time. They don’t think about having to replace servers every few years, maintaining equipment, powering equipment, and housing equipment. All of these factors cost your business. When you add in all of these forgotten costs, the cloud is less expensive. And it gets less costly over time.
Moving to the Cloud: Product Considerations
Another consideration you have to make when planning a cloud migration is which product(s) you are going to use. There are many great offerings out there, with different reasons to choose each one. We work in Microsoft, which has excellent product options, but there are other products- like G Suite- that are also exceptional.
Some of the most common options are Amazon Web Services (AWS), G Suite, Office 365, Dropbox, and Box. Let’s take a look at each one a little closer.
Dropbox is a popular option for cloud storage, but we don’t recommend Dropbox to any of our clients. Although it offers convenient and easy storage, it is associated with security concerns- such as getting hacked often. So, if you have sensitive data, Dropbox is probably not your best option.
If you like a web browser interface, G Suite is a great product. It offers various integrations that provide added functionality, and it’s heavy in AI technology and data analytics.
Box is another cloud product, not to be confused with Dropbox. It’s a secure cloud storage solution that offers content management, workflow, and collaboration.
AWS is the biggest player in the cloud market and offers a very economical storage system for basic systems. However, if you want to integrate Microsoft systems like a server or a SQL database, your costs will snowball.
Office 365 is another cloud option that integrates a variety of web and desktop apps for efficiency and collaboration. The most common four plans offered under Office 365 are Business Essentials, Business Premium, E3, and E5. Let’s talk a little bit more about each one.
Business Essentials is on the lower end of the Office 365 plans, but it still gives you a lot. With Business Essentials, you get SharePoint, which is a cloud server. You also get access to web versions of products you’re likely familiar with such as Word, Excel, and Outlook.
The next product to consider is Business Premium. With this option, you get web and desktop versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook, unlike Business Essentials, where you only get the web apps. You also get access to a few additional features, such as Bookings and MileIQ.
E3 is pretty similar to Business Premium, but if you have over 300 users, you have to choose E3. The plan also includes Yammer and Stream, a few tools that Business Premium doesn’t offer.
And finally, let’s talk about E5. E5 is the top plan Microsoft offers and includes extremely strong security features. If you are in a highly regulated industry, like health care, finance, or government, you may want to consider E5. A fully-fledged phone system is also included in this plan.
Office 365 Tools
As we mentioned above, we’re a Microsoft shop and work heavily with Office 365. We’ve gone through some of the different plans of Office 365, but now let’s walk through some tools offered.
OneDrive is Office 365’s cloud storage tool. It saves your files, videos, and photos, which you can then access from any device, anywhere. It integrates with many other Office 365 tools, allowing you to send files easily.
SharePoint is a tool that is very similar to OneDrive in that it stores your work on a cloud storage server. However, SharePoint is aimed more towards sharing and collaboration than OneDrive (just take a look at the name). With SharePoint, you can share, organize, and discover information across your organization.
Delve is kind of like social media for your business. It uses OneDrive and SharePoint, helping you discover the most relevant people and documents in your organization. It allows you to see what other employees in your organization are up to and promotes collaboration.
Microsoft Teams is a tool that allows organizations to communicate and collaborate efficiently. In Teams, you can add to-do lists, documents, and other files. This is on top of the chat and group messaging features that allow your employees to stay up to date on all things happening within your team.
Flow is a great tool by Microsoft, where you can implement workflow scenarios for projects. Set the rules, and then once the first action is completed, it triggers the next step. This kind of automation for notifications, alerts, data gathering, and communication is exceptionally helpful for businesses.
Another fantastic product offered with Office 365 is Power BI. This tool is used for business intelligence and analytics. With Power BI, you can create multiple reports to give you a snapshot of where your company is at, all from one user-friendly dashboard.
If you’ve never heard of Sway before, think of it like PowerPoint on steroids. Instead of a slide presentation, Sway allows you to create more visually appealing presentations to really tell a story.
The last Office 365 tool we’ll discuss is Yammer. Yammer is a place where users can go to connect with and share ideas with like-minded individuals and organizations. There are all sorts of different groups in Yammer, meaning nearly any industry can find peers.
Moving on from Office 365, let’s discuss another important Microsoft tool- Microsoft Azure. Azure is the cloud server for Microsoft products and is an essential part of their ecosystem. Azure includes many helpful tools and features for organizations, and we’ll discuss a few here.
First, Azure works exceptionally well with SQL databases and gives you SQL much cheaper than other competitors. This is a large advantage of Azure.
Another great feature is the Azure Active Directory. With this tool, you get seamless access to any application in your system. Most companies have controls for passwords in place- how often they change, their complexity, etc. With Active Directory, you don’t need an on-premises server for this; Azure can do it all in the cloud.
Azure also offers a Virtual Machines (VMs) feature. With VMs, you can deploy your website all from the cloud. You also have access to blob storage, which allows you to store large volumes of data in the cloud.
Security is a big concern with cloud computing, but Microsoft has a tool that helps you ensure your data is protected. Azure Security Center syncs with your server in the cloud and gives you the optimal way to set up your server to keep it secure. It also alerts you when something’s wrong and detects threats and notifies you.
Cloud Components and Products
No matter what cloud provider you choose, there are a few products that you will want to consider adding to your operations also. Let’s walk through some of them now.
Content Delivery Network
When moving to the cloud, one thing you’ll want to make sure you have is a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN will help protect your website and cloud systems from hackers. This works by masking your IP address.
One CDN that we recommend is CloudFlare. CloudFlare masks your IP address from hackers, but it also stores copies of your static data on your website. This reduces loading time and reduces consumption charges.
Another essential element of your cloud system is a good backup. Many individuals may underestimate the value of a backup, but we always insist our clients have some form of backup. There are two types of backups you will want to look into.
First, you may want to make a static copy of all of your data. For example, if you are storing Excel, PDF, or other types of files on your cloud server, having a static copy will save those in case your cloud provider gets hacked or goes down.
The other type of backup is replication. Two products we recommend for this type of backup are Acronis and Microsoft Azure. Both have replication products that help protect your data and systems. By taking a mirror copy of your server and storing it in the cloud, you don’t have to worry.
Voice over internet protocol, or VoIP, is another great cloud product that you might want to consider for your organization. VoIP is a popular type of cloud phone system. With VoIP, you don’t have to worry about having a phone system on your premises or about connecting different locations with fiber or data lines. Instead, it’s all in the cloud. It doesn’t matter where you or any of your coworkers or employees are located; you can work as if you’re all in the same building.
We already spoke about active directory a little, but let’s go a little deeper. Most companies have some regulations they must follow, whether it’s PCI, HIPAA, or something else. For example, if you are in Utah, no matter what industry you are in, you are required by law to follow some cybersecurity regulations. And many other states have similar mandates.
One of the most common regulations is controlling how your users access information. This involves ensuring they are using strong passwords, changing passwords often, and using multi-factor authentication. An active directory is a method to enforce these types of controls, and Azure Active Directory is a simple, cost-effective option.
Why Does the Moving to the Cloud Matter?
One of the biggest reasons people want to make the switch to the cloud is because they are frustrated with hardware failings. Hardware fails all the time, and people are sick of dealing with it. With the cloud, once your data, workloads, or network is on the cloud, hardware failure is no longer your problem.
This is different than colocation, though. Many people mistake the cloud and colocation. Colocation involves hardware that you own, but that is placed in a colocation facility. It works like a private cloud, but you are still responsible for everything. With something truly cloud-based, like Office 365 or Salesforce, the hardware is never your responsibility.
In the end, moving to the cloud matters because we live in a dangerous business world. Nearly every organization out there is collecting and housing other people’s data- meaning they are responsible if that data gets breached. If you get hacked, you are responsible for the damage just as much as the perpetrator if you cannot prove that you protected it.
The fact is that the cloud has better security than most on-premises systems. Many individuals think that because they can physically see and hold their onsite servers, they are somehow more protected. But with the cloud, you have an army of people employed by sophisticated cloud providers whose sole responsibility is to protect and watch for threats.
Now that you’ve made it to the end, if moving to the cloud interests you, talk to your IT team or sign up for one of our free assessments. We can come and evaluate your network to see what a cloud migration might look like for you.