Running your small business on the cloud can offer several advantages. It can improve security, better protect your essential data, and provide a better experience to your customers. However, many new businesses do not start off on the cloud. To gain these advantages, there are a few steps you can follow to set up your small business on the cloud.
Step 1: Learn the Lingo
Before you start making any changes, you should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the language surrounding cloud computing. This will help you understand the different aspects of it and make better decisions for your business. Here are just a few terms you should know:
- AWS – This is Amazon’s collection of cloud services, one of the more popular providers on the market.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) – A system of servers in different physical locations, which allows the user to access the one closest to them, which in turn improves speed.
- Hosted Application – An application that is internet-based. Users can access the application via the internet or web browser. Sometimes also called a Service as a System (SaaS).
- Hybrid Cloud – Combines a public cloud provider (like Amazon’s AWS) and a private one.
- Subscription-based Pricing Model – This model lets customers pay a fee to use a service for a specific time period.
- Consumption-based Pricing Model – In this model, the consumer pays based on how much of the service they use, rather than for how long they use it.
To learn more key terms, you can check out this mini-glossary of cloud computing terms.
Step 2: Determine Your Needs
Once you’re a little more familiar with the language of cloud computing, you should think about what it is you need. Are you in need of software that will help you connect with your customers? Or do you need a place where you can safely store customer data? There are a lot of different software options out there and you definitely don’t need them all.
Go through each area of your business and write down the ways you want to improve it. From there you can begin to research different cloud computing options and how they can help you achieve those goals. By knowing exactly what it is you want the cloud for you can prevent yourself from buying something you don’t need.
Research Your Partners
For every area in your business that you want to incorporate cloud computing, you’ll find that there are likely dozens of services to choose from. For example, there is more than one company that offers cloud storage and file sharing. It’s vital that you thoroughly research each potential service provider before signing up, as these partners will become a significant part of your business.
There are a few things you’ll want to look at when comparing one provider against another. To start, you should look up reviews from previous customers. Don’t go by just the testimonials on the company’s website. Instead, read independent reviews from other parties to get a sense as to how well others have enjoyed this service.
Another thing to look for is whether that provider is developing their software as cloud-native. Cloud-native development allows companies to quickly update and improve their applications, meaning you will likely have a better experience with them. Scan the company’s website or talk to a representative to learn more about its development approach before signing up.
Begin the Transfer
Depending on what you are doing, the transfer over to a new system could be an easy or complicated one. It could just be a matter of instructing your employees on how to use a new piece of software, or you may need to drastically change the way you do things.
Luckily, most cloud service providers offer assistance to help make this transition an easier one. Talk to one of their representatives about the resources they have available so that you and your team can get up and running as quickly as possible.
Hire New Staff (Or Provide Training)
Once the cloud has become an integral part of your business, you will need someone to oversee it. For this, you have two options – either hire someone new or train an existing employee.
Which option you go with will largely depend on what the cloud is doing for your business. If you’re using the cloud to provide a service to your customers, track essential data, file share and run various applications, you’ll likely want to hire a cloud computing specialist.
On the other hand, if you’re only using a single cloud application to store some files, you can probably just train someone in how to use it. There are some great online courses that can help teach anyone the basics of cloud computing, such as these courses from EDX.
Track and Improve
Finally, setting up your new cloud services is not the end of the line. You’ll want to set up a system to track how it’s doing and see if you are getting a good ROI. To start, you should set up a specific goal that you would like to achieve.
For example, maybe you started with the cloud because file sharing within your office was too slow. By measuring how long it used to take your employees to complete a project and comparing it to how long it now takes you can see if your new cloud service is getting the job done.
If it’s not, you’ll want to consider whether the problem is the cloud service or something else. It could be that the file-sharing software you’re now using is too complicated and you should switch to another. Or maybe the issue was never with the software, and instead, you simply have employees who are wasting time each day. This is why it’s important to set a goal, track your progress, then analyze the results.
Make the Best Use of the Cloud
In most cases, cloud computing is a tremendous benefit to small businesses. However, every business is different and not all solutions will be right for you. If you can take the time to analyze your current situation, research potential improvements via the cloud, and transfer over in a smart way though, you can likely achieve significant improvements.