A Three-step Guide to Help SMBs Migrate to the Cloud

Paul Mah
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Is Your Cloud Provider Enterprise-ready?

Ten questions that IT organizations should be asking cloud computing providers before signing on the dotted line.

Given the heightened uptime and capital expenditure reductions that SMBs can enjoy by switching to the cloud, it is no wonder that forward-looking SMBs have become early adopters of cloud services. As with any project, however, a certain amount of consideration and planning will go a long way towards ensuring the success of a cloud implementation.


On this front, Jim Lippie, president of Thrive Networks, sent along some tips to help SMBs migrate to the cloud. Thrive Networks is a Staples company, and provides IT solutions and services to small and mid-sized businesses. According to Lippie, there are three important considerations to keep in mind when adopting cloud computing.


Develop a data migration plan


It makes sense to ensure that data is properly migrated given how it is probably the most important asset of an SMB. As such, SMBs should devote some time to developing a proper data migration plan ahead of time, says Lippie. While most vendors offer self-service, template-type models designed to cover most situations, Lippie suggests that SMBs with more specialized needs work with vendors to take on a more hands-on, personalized approach. He noted that this will help prevent complications and avoid compromising the integrity of the data migration.


Identify which services can go to the cloud


The next step entails identifying which services can go to the cloud. Lippie cautioned against jumping in by moving everything to the cloud at once, but to do so one service at a time. This allows end users to get a feel of how processes have changed.


"Online data backup, email/Hosted Exchange and file services are among the most common processes businesses are comfortable moving to the cloud," observed Lippie. Indeed, I've recently written about four mature cloud services your SMB, which you can read on SmallBusinessComputing.


Choose cloud partners wisely


It goes without saying that SMBs should be cautious about the solutions provider they are partnering with. This is especially important given the many new cloud providers eager to please with cut-throat prices or improbably high guarantees of uptime - but not necessarily in possession of the requisite resources or expertise to actually deliver.


In looking to partner with a solutions provider who can facilitate and manage a move to the clouds, Lippie came up with a list of questions that SMBs should ask. I reproduced his entire list of suggestions below, with a short summary where applicable.


  • How personalized is the level of service - will your SMB be expected to follow a template-based model?
  • How well established and stable is the company you're working with?
  • Can you speak to references - allow you to bypass vendors' marketing speak to actually quantify the level of reliability.
  • What certifications does the vendor have?
  • Where is your data going to be held - is it in a proper data center environment?
  • What level of support comes with the cloud products and/or services - 24x7, 8 to 5pm, response time on weekends and public holidays?
  • How secure will your data be - minimum of 256-bit encryption for data transferred through the Internet.
  • How easily can you access and move your data?
  • What's your exit strategy - or how quickly can you get your data back if you're dissatisfied with the service?


If you have any questions for Lippie or have recently migrated to the cloud, do feel free to chip in with your questions (or experiences) in the comments section below.

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