Are Cloud Services Right for Your Business?

As companies run out of storage space for their ever-growing company data, more and more are considering a move to “The Cloud” as a good option versus investing in new data storage hardware. Companies depend heavily on their ‘data centers’ to store, organize, process and disseminate large amounts of data. This component of a business is essentially the brain of your company, so pretty important stuff!

‘The Cloud’ or cloud computing makes storage and computing power available on demand, and is a term generally used to describe data centers available to many users over the Internet. Space in these data centers is reserved for exclusive use by customers who pay for this virtual storage space. In other words, you are renting space for your data to live.

Reducing your business’ dependency on internal hardware and the necessary maintenance of a data center sounds great, but there are several important considerations before moving your data storage to a Cloud service:

Will Cloud services work for you?

Taking time to plan is necessary before moving to the cloud. You need to start thinking about your existing data and future needs:

  • How do you need to segment your data and how it is used and accessed?
  • How do you see your data needs changing in the future?
  • Will you move all your current data to the cloud or leave existing data as “legacy data” internally, moving only new data for a fresh start?
  • How will you access the cloud and who will need access?
  • What are the limits or safeguards you require around data access?
  • Will cloud services meet your regulatory and compliance requirements?

It is important to have a good understanding of why you are transferring to the cloud, and if it will actually save you time and make you more productive. Getting a clear understanding of your current and future data needs will help you both determine if cloud storage is right for you, and what service provider will be best for your needs.

For example, cloud storage is not a great idea for engineering firms who are storing and accessing very large files of data. When their drawings and companion files are not stored locally, accessing them via cloud storage can be too slow.

Choosing your cloud provider

Many companies provide cloud storage services. Microsoft, Google and Amazon have come into the market, along with many technology companies. Some companies are even investing in building their own cloud. Different cloud services have limitations to what they can provide with regards to security, data backup, and data mapping.

Pricing models for cloud computing companies vary. Because this virtual server has to perform the same functions as your current data center, they are primarily based on operating systems, network, memory, and disk space requirements.

Compliance, Regulation and Security

If your organization has compliance requirements or regulatory bodies you answer to, your cloud service must meet those requirements. Issues include not only how secure your data in the cloud is, but the security of that data during transmission, transfer and sharing. You need to consider who needs to have access to your data internally, as well as how it is shared outside the business. The same safeguards that are set up for an internal data center must exist in a cloud service.

When you are using a virtual cloud service, data could conceivably be shared via a link, and this opens up serious security concerns. When you have designated login access to files it can be monitored, tracked, and reviewed. Just as you would have secure login for data access locally, you need these same security protocols for cloud storage.

Just as you would determine on a local data center who has access, your cloud service must have the same security measures. Additionally, there needs to be clear guidelines about who can make changes, or set preferences or other setting updates. If someone deletes data accidentally, is it gone forever or can it be recovered?

Do you transfer files or start fresh?

For some businesses with large amounts of existing data, essentially freezing that data and storing it locally as “legacy data” makes sense. For some companies, their proprietary software’s data mapping is not compatible with the data mapping provided by the cloud service. You of course need to consider how easily your data can be extracted, and migrated back and forth, from the cloud once it is transferred. Some commercial sales software programs and versions of QuickBooks aren’t compatible for Cloud transfer.

Organizing your Cloud

Just like you organize your files on your computer, you can’t just dump data into your Cloud – it needs to be organized into what is commonly called “sites” (similar to the Folder structure of Windows). Once it is transferred to the cloud, ongoing organization must be in place. When multiple people have access and are making changes to data, there needs to be a clear plan to maintain organization. Planning and implementation in the beginning, then there’s ongoing maintenance to maintain that structure.

Information Systems of Maine can help!

Once a decision is made to switch to the cloud services, who is going to interface with your current technology and needs, help with the transition, and provide ongoing maintenance of your new virtual data center? Your needs for IT support are ongoing, even when you move your data. While your cloud service provider can help with some of the tasks, they will not have the capacity to oversee the data transfers and set up ongoing data security and maintenance as carefully as someone who works for you.

Information Systems of Maine will work with you to assess your current data needs, what you hope to achieve with cloud storage, and where your future of data needs are heading. Moving to the Cloud is NOT a way to be able to stop worrying about your data, or doing backups. It’s really just a shift of where your data lives, but data management issues are still the same.

Some of the specific services we provide our cloud clients include:

Assessment – What are your data needs? Is a cloud service right for you? What cloud provider is right for your company?

Data Transmission – Taking your data in it’s current form and move it over into the new Cloud storage safely and effectively.

Data Organization – Setting up a structure so users can find and access data easily, add or edit data appropriately, and maintain the organization.

Ongoing Maintenance & Assessment – Making sure adequate security and backup is in place and working properly. Ensuring users are following data policies and procedures, data sharing is secure, settings (those boxes that get checked and unchecked) and structure of data is correct and retrievable.

Let us know if you would benefit from a FREE assessment of your data storage needs – we’d love to help you!

Posted in Business IT, Cloud Services, IT Services

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