Cloud computing for SMEs

1. Cloud computing is 100 per cent reliant on an internet connection, so you should always have a plan of what to do when your main connection fails. A cost effective method for smaller companies is to buy a 3G capable router and pay around £10 per month for a broadband dongle. For larger organisations, always have more than one internet connection.

2. Make sure you’re certain that all your company applications and software will work in the new cloud environment. Moving most of your IT into the cloud and then spending £8,000 on a new onsite server, because one of your applications doesn’t work, is a waste of time, money and effort.

3. Most people don’t know that cloud computing can be delivered using several different pieces of technology. These products have different pros and cons but more importantly, different pricing. SMEs can be more at risk of being talked into paying over the odds for wonderful technology that won’t be used. Make sure you receive clear and understandable advice on what’s best for your organisation.

4. More often than not, you will be charged per gigabyte of data that you host in the cloud. It is always best to cleanse your data before you migrate. You will probably find data that isn’t needed anymore or can be archived onto different media. As an entrepreneur, you might blur the boundaries between your company and home sometimes, but is your business’s server really the right place for your wedding video?

5. Cloud computing becomes a utility similar to your electricity and you pay for what you use. If you have ten users, you pay for ten users. Make sure you understand exactly what your tariff consists of. How much are you paying per gigabyte of data? You don’t want any nasty surprises at the month end.

6. If your current IT company lets you down, then you can hire another one. It’s not as easy in the cloud. Your provider holds all your data. Make sure you ask them how long it takes for them to respond to any problems and ask if they have an uptime guarantee. It should be 99 per cent. Anything less reliable could be crippling for a small business.

7. Six months after you’ve bought a new server for the office and replaced all your PCs isn’t the right time to make a move into the cloud. Consider cloud when your hardware and software are ageing and a refresh is needed.

8. Google and Microsoft are big cloud providers; but where is your data being kept? Somewhere in Europe or somewhere in the world is the best answer you’ll get. SMEs might consider opting for a cloud provider who can tell you exactly where your valuable company data is kept and even take you to the data centre if needed.

9. Cloud computing is a service. Don’t be forced into long contracts. There is absolutely no reason why you should be signing a three or five-year contract with your provider. You should be able to leave freely with a month’s notice.

10. Many cloud providers don’t provide IT support. As an SME, there will still inevitably be times when you need help with IT issues like printers or the internet connection in your office. Make sure you try and chose a provider who includes this in your monthly fees.