Consider 2014 the year you move your business to the cloud. You've been hemming and hawing long enough, it's time to take a critical look at your business applications and processes, and explore your options for moving some (or all) of your business to Web-based providers, aka "the cloud."
Before you do anything, however, you need to prepare and fully understand what that transition means for your business, your staff and your customers.
1. The transition is inevitable. Seriously. The question isn’t if you’ll move to the cloud; it’s when. There’s one primary reason, and once you understand that reason, you’ll be both more willing and better prepared to make the change. The cloud, first and foremost, offers flexibility. If you look at the significance of flexibility for just one aspect of your business—your staff—you’ll see right away that if you opt to be rigid and require that every employee report to the office every day (whether it’s essential or not), you’ll discover that you will have trouble attracting and retaining good employees. Workers can and do require more flexibility in terms of working hours and locations, and smart employers have figured that out. If you refuse to offer staff flexible work options, you’re more likely to lose your best people to an employer who is more forward thinking.
2. Consumers demand convenience. And the cloud gives it to them. Remember when you didn’t have every answer at your fingertips? Consumers don’t want to go backward. We’ve grown accustomed to having our questions answered immediately, and we’re unwilling to compromise in terms of time or accuracy. Cloud storage of data and mobile applications lets businesses serve their customers in ways that are individually customizable to a greater degree than ever before. If you’re not providing mobile apps or instant access for clients who want them, your customers will find a provider who will.
3. Your company’s infrastructure will look different. You have a new set of filing cabinets, and your staff needs to get acquainted with them. Once you move your data storage to the Web, the new focus will be on navigation and retrieval of data rather than on the storage itself. You may find that your staff requires dual (or even more) monitors. You’re also going to find that more and more apps function best with touch screen hardware since touch screen is the focus for an increasing number of programmers. There will be a training curve as you acquaint your staff with the best ways to access and navigate your new data storage systems, and you'll need to identify and implement training solutions.
4. Sharing and securing information are the new priorities. Your company will need new policies for how to simultaneously share and safeguard sensitive data. If you share a file with a client on Google Drive, for example, it’s essential that you give them access just to the file you want them to read, rather than to all your files that contain information about how much money you’re making off that client. Compartmentalizing files and raising awareness of the need to keep your company’s data secure is essential.
5. Bandwidth is king. Once you’re running on the cloud, maintaining access to data and apps for both you and your clients is absolutely essential. Ask yourself how you’d conduct business if your Internet went down. Does the thought give you nightmares? Time to develop a backup plan. Whether it’s finding alternatives (satellite, DSL, cable) or creating contingency plans, you need a solution for the problems that will inevitably crop up. Planning for catastrophe can ensure that your business keeps running even when things go wrong and will earn you customers for life.
You may not be enthusiastic about transitioning to the cloud, and you’re smart to try to anticipate the changes you’ll need to make. Getting your staff trained and ready to handle the challenges associated with significant changes will dramatically increase your odds of success when you do finally make the leap.
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