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Business owners: Thinking about your cloud strategy? Here’s your 3 main choices…

Article By James Mills | | Accounting & Tax, Business Consulting, Technology Consulting

Cloud computing is far from new… but are you aware of the huge potential benefits of a well-defined cloud strategy for small business?

Improved operational efficiency, agility, and visibility are just a few of the benefits that it can bring. The trouble is: not all small businesses are currently taking advantage of them.

Below we help you make the key decisions so that you can start tapping into the benefits…

The fundamentals of cloud strategy for small business

Developing the right cloud strategy for your business is primarily about defining your goals and motivations behind adopting cloud computing.

Is it primarily to:

  • Increase efficiency?
  • Gain better returns on your technological investments?
  • Add new capabilities for growth?
  • Gain a competitive advantage?
  • Improve redundancy and continuity of critical business systems?

Once your goals are identified, focus should turn to your specific requirements.

Aligning both business and technical requirements across all business areas is critical to the success of your cloud strategy for your small business.

Unfortunately, too many business owners plunge headfirst into the latest and greatest cloud offering before they have defined their business outcomes and confirmed how each piece fits into their overall strategy.

Depending upon those documented requirements, there are essentially three clear paths available to start experiencing the benefits:

  • Public cloud
  • Private cloud
  • Hybrid cloud

These are explored in some detail below.

Public cloud explained

Often the quickest to implement, the public cloud path is simply utilising pre-built applications written for specific business purposes that are ready for you to configure and go.

Cloud accounting systems such as Xero or QuickBooks Online are good examples of public cloud infrastructure suitable for business.

These applications allow you to get up and running quickly with a proven platform. However, you do relinquish control over where your data is stored and how it’s backed up. They also put you at the mercy of their ongoing support and technical expertise.

Because of these considerations, some businesses with more complex requirements find that the public cloud path does not suit them.

In summary:

Private cloud explained

The term ‘private cloud’ has different definitions.

However, in this context, it essentially means utilising a cloud service provider such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services to host your infrastructure in a virtual environment.

This effectively eliminates the need for server hardware in your premises and, instead, uses the provider’s online servers and applications in a secure environment that provides access to only those you allow.

While this can take longer to successfully implement (and usually comes at a price premium over public cloud), the results can be far more efficient. This is because it seamlessly transfers your existing on-premises systems to an external data centre, negating the need to train users on new systems.

Your business can start to benefit from the scalability that the cloud provides: you can upgrade your server systems and applications side-by-side with your production systems – without purchasing new hardware.

With larger cloud service providers, you can also maintain control over where your data is stored. This is important for both governance and increased performance when data is geographically located nearer to end users.

Backups and data retention are also under your complete control and, with your systems already in the cloud, storing backup tapes and drives becomes redundant.

In summary:

Hybrid cloud explained

Even with the ease of entry into the public cloud and all the benefits of private cloud, for some businesses neither of these strategies alone meet all of their business requirements.

The best approach may be a path that includes the best of both worlds – otherwise known as ‘hybrid cloud’.

Hybrid cloud brings together applications hosted via the public cloud with your own systems – either running in a private cloud or on-premises within your business.

For some businesses, this may be the only option due to budget/internet/legislative limitations; others prefer it because it allows them to continue to use their local systems until they no longer meet their requirements – or something better comes along.

Underpinning the success of a hybrid cloud deployment, however, is the ability to give enough attention to the many integrations between the various systems across all platforms. You must make certain that whatever can be automated is automated and whatever cannot be automated is carried out in the most efficient way possible.

In summary:

Not sure you are on the right path with your cloud strategy? Speak to us and we can help you find a more effective cloud path for your small business.