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Up In The Cloud: Selecting A Corporate Cloud Service
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Up In The Cloud: Selecting A Corporate Cloud Service - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Selecting A Corporate Cloud Service

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Selecting A Corporate Cloud Service

The proliferation of corporate cloud services can make it intimidating to make the move to the cloud. On the other hand, companies who have not yet made the move may feel a bit of stress about being behind the wave while competitors take advantage of the cloud’s benefits. Even five years ago, pundits were talking about how being in the cloud was no longer a competitive advantage but a competitive necessity. Yet all these years later, many more options have opened up, offering more choices—not to mention the wisdom from others’ mistakes—for the organization making this delayed leap cloudward. And while there’s no doubt that the move could be disruptive for your employees and their workflows, once you’re convinced that the cloud is right for your business, you can do a lot to alleviate some of the complications such a decision will create.

Obviously you have to have your IT people on board, and they’re going to be your primary consultants. If you’re not a tech-head yourself, here’s where a lot of intimidation comes into play. Ask your IT team to explain every decision to you, no matter how complicated it is, so that you can cosign on “must haves” and “good-to-haves.” You’ll probably have to accept a lot of their recommendations on the faith and trust you have in your team, but tell them it’s their responsibility to explain every variable to you so that you understand at least the gist of every issue, which will likely include the level of control your own IT managers will have on the implementation and structure of your cloud system, how thorough your move to the cloud will be (certain tech needs, or the whole thing?), whether the APIs (application programming interfaces) are reasonable enough for your team’s specific needs, and what kind of support there is for running any proprietary software your firm is running.

Moving to the cloud isn’t merely a concern for your IT team. You’ll have to pay for this service, and pricing structures vary from one to another. While your IT team will be able to give you a fair picture of what your usage is going to cost, your business office may need to be involved with budgeting, billing, and other fiscal matters, especially if you’re spreading your cloud presence out, using different storage and processing options (something called “cloud sprawl,” which you’re kind of familiar with if your personal cloud storage is spread out among several free, space-limited options). As your needs fluctuate, your pricing may fluctuate as well. Make sure your business office is prepared to handle these variations, and seek their advice on your firm’s best options.

Sometimes, a move to the cloud is practically invisible to most of your users, but there may be complications that disrupt the work of your rank-and-file. Once you’ve decided on where your computing is going and how much of your structure is going there, select some of the power users from your team, which may include a secretary, a database manager, a web content manager, an accountant, a graphics person, a trainer, or anyone else from deeper into the org chart. Explain what the changes are going to look like, and ask them for input on how best to prepare individual teams for these changes. The horrible thing about massive tech decisions in many organizations is that they are often made without considering how they are going to affect every person’s job, and this can crush morale and productivity. Tech people seldom think like data entry clerks, and executives seldom think like appointment setters. These are the people who make your company function on a day-to-day basis, the ones who have their hands directly on the user-end technology, and they deserve to have a voice in the decision, even if it’s just to give the heads-up to their colleagues.

There used to be concerns with uptime vs. downtime, but nowadays the big-time cloud providers have infrastructure in place to deal with anything but the most determined malicious attacks on service. You may have to ask about downtime if you’re considering an upstart service (which isn’t entirely a bad idea, since they’re often most willing to offer concessions on pricing or services), but generally this is a quick question on the checklist and not something that needs keen examination.

Your biggest concern remains security, and it will remain so for as long as you have a cloud service in your employ. You do not want to compromise your security needs, so ask your potential providers for some kind of certification from a third-party agency such as offered by the Cloud Security Alliance. Standards for cloud security are still kind of new and nebulous, so CSA’s standards aren’t necessarily the only way to go. Ask each provider for an explanation of its security measures, and if it hasn’t sought validation from an outside organization, demand to know why. Some of the biggest names in the field are in the process of being certified, while others have decided they have different, better standards than are offered by third party certifiers. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that you and your organization are responsible for the security of your data, and it’s imperative that you have confidence in your cloud provider—however you wish to arrive at that confidence.

 

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Up In The Cloud: Selecting A Corporate Cloud Service - Executive Leadership Articles

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