Using the Cloud in Your Business

July 29, 2013 9:30 am2 comments

cloud strategy cloud computing

Clearing the Skies on Common Cloud Confusion

A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that transitioning common software used by businesses to the cloud would save enough energy to power the city of Los Angeles. The study examined the impact of moving customer relationship management, email, and productivity software (spreadsheets and word processing, for example).

Small businesses certainly stand to benefit from a cost perspective by switching to the cloud, yet getting started with the cloud often seems confusing. Here are some basic tips and overviews to clear the skies for you a bit:

Basic Cloud Uses

Small businesses may opt to use cloud backup services as a safety net for business data or use the cloud to run applications. In the former instance, businesses back up data to the cloud. If data becomes lost due to a hardware failure or other problem, you can recover data from the cloud backup. Because small businesses often use unreliable and time-consuming methods to back up data—such as flash drives or CDs—switching to an automated cloud backup saves time and improves reliability. When used for applications, the cloud provides a cost-effective solution for common software, while allowing small businesses to automate basic tasks.

Developing a Strategy

Before you leap, analyze existing resources and determine how you want to use the cloud. You may decide to use it for backup only, for applications, or for everything. Next, analyze your existing resources and workload. Questions to consider include the following:

  • How much space do you currently take up on your server, if you have one?
  • What percentage of resources are you using on your server?
  • How many staff members will be accessing the cloud?
  • What type of data do you need to back up to the cloud?
  • Do you have to stay within the bounds of any compliance regulations to keep certain types of data on-site?
  • Do you also need to back up applications, especially those you may have downloaded and for which you don’t have installation disks?

After you have a better idea of your needs, review the services offered by different cloud providers. Consider the costs, level of customer support, ease of use, and flexibility of the providers. If using the cloud solely for backups, ask about security measures including encryption, cost of stored data per gigabyte, amount of time required to download data backups and redundancy measures that ensure your data is secure even if the data center experiences a problem. Once you’ve identified a preferred cloud provider, purchase the package that meets your existing needs.

Backups in the Cloud

After you’ve purchased and installed a cloud system, automate backups to secure your data. Manually select all of the files and folders you want to back up. Select the backup destination and the frequency of the backup in days or hours. Save your settings, then sit back and allow the system to back up to the cloud. Alter your settings any time your needs change. Switching your data to the cloud can seem time-consuming, especially for small business owners who may not be tech savvy. In reality, researching cloud providers and choosing a plan comprises the bulk of the work. After that, ensuring that you back up your data is easy and quick.

Image: iStockphoto

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Joe Baker
Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for over 10 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. In addition, he has led strategic planning and systems of implementation for six organizations, both public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses.

What this article doesn't mention, and I see this common mistake is that most consumer, and even many business grade cloud backup vendors don't provide a few key components:

Most won't backup business type data such as Exchange Server or Microsoft SQL Server and other always in-use files

Mid-size companies often have 500 gigs to terabytes of data.  Not only does it take weeks or longer to upload the initial data to the cloud, but it takes at least that long to restore it if you suffer a serious crash.  Even the few services that offer the option to send you a hard drive with your data often have turn around times of a week or longer.  Add that to the time it takes to order new server hardware and reinstall everything and a business could easily be down weeks.  That's crushing.

Check out our Hybrid Cloud solution that lets you fail over to a local hardware appliance and in the event of a disaster, the cloud.  This way you can take as much time as you need to retrieve your data, purchase replacement hardware, and restore at off hours.  It allows you to have virtually no downtime.

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