The cloud has opened new opportunities for small businesses to improve communications and boost productivity without the upfront costs of buying software suites or making capital investments in new equipment.
While the cloud offers many benefits, implementation can come with challenges. For starters, just the idea of moving private information to an invisible space can be intimidating. Yet IT experts say small businesses can find incremental ways to move their business functions to the cloud.
Here are four common challenges that small businesses face when implementing cloud applications.
Leaving behind familiar systems
Challenge: You may be reluctant to leave behind legacy systems that have been serving you well for years. Melodye Mueller, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategic Alliances at CloudHealth Technologies, says that while people are still hesitant about not being able to physically see their systems, old familiar infrastructure can put you at a disadvantage as it becomes obsolete.
As cloud adoption continues, software providers and large companies will ultimately force the market to adopt. Gartner says that as more technology providers move to “cloud-only” delivery models, more leading-edge IT capabilities will be available only in the cloud. For example, many of the latest CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, Insightly and HubSpot, are now hosted exclusively in the cloud. Business owners who fear adopting SaaS (software as a service) solutions may be limiting their own growth.
How to overcome: A report by McKinsey says most small businesses can start with an “anchor” system and then adopt new solutions over time. McKinsey says nearly half of organizations typically start their cloud journey with a cloud-based email service or a backup service because they are simple to implement. Organizations can use these in sync with your existing systems and then expand with cloud-based “satellite” services.
Lack of staff with IT expertise
Challenge: The cloud can be a confusing space for anyone who may be tech averse. There are now hundreds of cloud-based SaaS solutions on the market. These range from storage options like Google Cloud and Dropbox to accounting solutions such as QuickBooks Online and FreshBooks. There are also SaaS solutions for sales, communications, marketing, operations and personnel management.
Having so many options can feel so overwhelming that it’s tempting to maintain your legacy system. Unlike old systems that remain static for years, the cloud is constantly evolving and can require a different skillset not only for IT managers, but for business end users.
How to overcome: Businesses can also experiment with incremental adoption of cloud-based solutions, starting with those that are familiar and easy to deploy. Those that don’t have the knowledge or skills required for selection and implementation should consider an IT consultant to help create a cloud infrastructure.
Nearly half of organizations typically start their cloud journey with a cloud-based email service or a backup service. Organizations can use these in sync with legacy systems and then expand with cloud-based “satellite” services.
“Do an assessment of what you’re trying to accomplish and set goals. It can help identify where to start,” says Mueller.
Measuring return on investment
Challenge: Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, says cloud-based solutions typically offer lower costs, flexibility, improved efficiencies and greater collaboration. Cloud applications don’t require large upfront capital investments, but the monthly subscription fees can add up in the long run. Ideally, the benefits of improved efficiency and regular updates should outweigh the added costs of upgrading and updating your software over the years.
How to overcome: Moving operations to the cloud means shifting from a capital expenditure to operating expenditure. Gartner recommends considering the total cost of ownership over time.
Kaplan says it’s also easy to get carried away with solutions that are “too complicated and sophisticated” and exceed the business’ needs. “Look for services that are simple and easy to use and adopt, and are priced to meet your specific business needs,” says Kaplan.
Challenge: An Accenture report says there’s a significant gap between the perception and the reality of cloud security. In actuality, your small business can attain a higher level of security by migrating to the cloud.
Because cloud-based solutions offer oversight from security professionals and force automatic updates on hosted software, the user eliminates the risk of not staying updated.
How to overcome: As the main challenge here is perception, Kaplan says businesses can overcome the issue by learning more about cloud applications. He points out that failure to install updates with the latest security patches can leave businesses highly vulnerable to cyberattack and data loss. Because cloud-based solutions offer oversight from security professionals and force automatic updates on hosted software, the user eliminates the risk of not staying updated.
You can also check with your internet service provider about the cloud backup and security options available to you. Spectrum Business, for example, offers cloud services with more security features than many on-location networks.
“In many cases, turning to a proven cloud provider can be a better strategy to ensure the security of your applications than doing something else,” says Kaplan.
Mueller says the challenges of cloud implementation are easier to overcome than the challenges of not adopting to new technologies. “
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