There’s been a lot of hype around cloud computing, but many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often aren’t clear how to maximize the cloud’s power. In conjunction with the Small Business Association’s (SBA) National Small Business Week, Intermedia offers SMBs five keys to maximizing the cloud. Intermedia is a leader in business cloud services for SMBs and the world’s largest Microsoft Exchange hosting provider.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are the innovators and job creators driving growth in today’s economy. Technology serves as a great equalizer as they compete against large enterprises,” says Michael Gold, president, Intermedia. “Leveraging the cloud is a highly efficient and cost effective way for businesses to access technologies and services that are critical to running a successful business in today’s global environment. However, it’s important for businesses to understand that all clouds are not created equal – SMBs need to make sure their cloud services are business grade.”
Cloud computing enables SMBs to compete on a much larger scale. They need to think of the cloud as a way to improve how they address the “Three Cs” of their business – how they communicate, collaborate and manage massive amounts of content. In order to maximize the cloud’s value, it’s important for SMBs to require service providers to deliver a fully-integrated offering addressing each of the “Three Cs.” And emphasis on tight integration of services cannot be overstated as deploying services piecemeal through multiple clouds altogether negates the value and efficiencies of cloud computing.
It’s important for SMBs to understand all clouds are not created equal. While most clouds are built to optimize cost, only the best are built to optimize speed, availability and the protection of data. Most people are familiar with the personal cloud, like Gmail or Apple’s iCloud. These are great services offered for free; however, they are not designed for business. Whether a business is currently leveraging the cloud or is considering a move to the cloud for the first time, they should make security, control, support, integration and mobility top priorities.
When it comes to business communication tools, it is becoming clearer that you get what you pay for. Continued price reductions tell the business consumer that price is all that matters, and service levels and offerings are indistinguishable. However, that’s simply not the case with cloud-based IT services for business.
With lower prices, businesses inevitably sacrifice important services – like quality 24/7 support, security, file and application back-up, and more. These business-class services are increasingly important, but they are not included in lowest-cost, commoditized offerings from some industry service providers. SMBs should ensure they work with a cloud services provider that focuses on providing a full suite of professional-grade IT services packaged with the support and reliability they expect.
Security, reliability and privacy are mission critical to businesses today, but many cloud service providers cannot tell customers where their data actually is located. Make sure your service provider can tell you where your data is stored in their datacenters. Many of the largest cloud providers cannot provide this answer, which calls into question their ability to secure proprietary business data.
Next, require your provider to offer enterprise-grade reliability. Many providers claim 99.9 percent reliability, but this can equate to as much as a full work-day of downtime each year. Enterprise reliability means a guaranteed availability of at least 99.999 percent. And get the guarantee in writing, ensuring you are entitled to compensation if that guarantee isn’t met.
Just as SMBs experience rapid growth, technology rapidly evolves. It’s important for SMBs not only to consider their needs today, but also to ensure cloud service providers can scale and enable tomorrow’s technology. Enterprise mobility is the among the cloud’s most compelling trends today. And innovation and computing power in mobile devices will only continue to increase year over year.
The cloud will play a significant role in accelerating the productivity of tomorrow’s mobile workforce. Businesses need to keep this in mind as they migrate operations to the cloud and ensure they align with providers offering a complete and tightly-integrated suite of services, including mobile.
Most businesses are ready to transition to the cloud, but the real challenge is selecting a provider that can meet the demands of today’s SMB. Streamlining all of a business’ cloud services, such as email, voice, security, backup and file sharing helps provide easy access for employees and helps set SMBs up with the same IT as Fortune 50 companies at a fraction of the price. As businesses evaluate their current cloud providers, or evaluate moving more services to the cloud, they need to be sure their cloud services are truly business grade.