As small and midsize businesses (SMBs), most of us have cloud strategies centered around productivity suites for email, calendars, chat, and file services. Beyond Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, we need cloud strategies for small businesses that differ from those used by larger organizations. Although our goals and objectives may be similar, we differ in the scope of our IT services, how we acquire and use IT services, and our budgets.
Understanding these differences, we need appropriate strategies to guide our plans and decisions. We need to focus on getting the most value from our current systems and new, managed cloud services.
What is a Cloud Strategy?
Cloud strategy refers to a comprehensive plan and approach that an organization adopts to leverage cloud computing technology effectively. It involves determining how to utilize cloud services, platforms, and infrastructure to achieve specific business objectives, optimize operations, enhance agility, and drive innovation.
A typical cloud strategy includes several key components:
- Cloud Adoption
- Cloud Service Models
- Cloud Provider Selection
- Data Management and Security
- Cost Optimization
- Integration and Interoperability
- Governance and Compliance
- Training and Skills Development
- Performance Monitoring and Optimization
Evolving Business Strategy into the Cloud
Historically, we ran our applications and databases on local workstations, servers, and networks. Evolving markets, business models, and hybrid work patterns drive change. The on-premise architecture no longer meets our needs. Remote access to on-premise systems is cumbersome, more difficult to secure, and likely to be slower.
From a cost perspective, most of us have outgrown the on-premise model as well. Servers, storage, and related infrastructure represent significant capital expenditures and fixed configurations. Infrastructure and services add hardware, software, and service costs. If you have a managed service provider, or MSP, you pay monthly per-server monitoring and management fees.
Our Big Cloud Challenge
Most cloud services are designed for larger entities that will rebuild systems, applications, and databases to use specific cloud services. As small businesses, we use the cloud differently. We rely on software packages rather than custom-built applications or highly customized systems.
Moving our applications and systems into the cloud is challenging for a few key reasons:
- Our software vendor may not offer a SaaS version
- The SaaS version of our software may be missing key features we need, or does not support our customizations
- Integrations may not be available for the applications and systems we use and need.
If we want to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, we need better strategic services for the cloud.
Selective Cloud Services
We define selective cloud services as point solutions for a specific need, often in support of other cloud or on-premise services. You can leverage cloud solutions to meet specific business and IT service needs.
Server to Service
Simply stated, the Server to Service strategy replaces your servers – on-premise or hosted – with managed cloud services. Replacing your file servers with managed cloud file services is the best example of the Server to Service strategy. File servers come with the added burdens of backup/restore services, hardware maintenance and upgrades, and with most managed service contracts, per-device fees for monitoring and management.
Lift and Shift
As noted above, many small business software packages lack a cloud version comparable with the traditional version. In these situations, you can still move into the cloud using the “Lift and Shift” strategy. With “Lift and Shift”, you move your applications and systems from their existing on-premise servers (physical or virtual), to cloud-based servers. You access the applications over a secure VPN or using remote desktop services.
Remote Desktop / VDI
As the name ‘remote desktop’ implies, your actual desktop is running remotely in a cloud environment. You access your desktop via a thin client application running locally on your PC, Laptop, or mobile device, or through a web browser. Using Remote Desktop / Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) services gives you a complete, secure environment in which you have your private network, servers, and clients. Using Remote Desktop / VDI enhances Lift and Shift solutions.
Final Thoughts on Cloud Strategy for a Small Business
These cloud strategies are NOT mutually exclusive. With proper analysis and planning, you can match the services to your business and technology needs. More information is available in our eBook, Cloud Strategies for Small and Midsize Businesses.
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About the Author
Christopher Caldwell is the COO and a co-founder of Cumulus Global. Chris is a successful Information Services executive with 40 years experience in information services operations, application development, management, and leadership. His expertise includes corporate information technology and service management; program and project management; strategic and project-specific business requirements analysis; system requirements analysis and specification; system, application, and database design; software engineering and development, data center management, network and systems administration, network and system security, and end-user technical support.