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Moving to the cloud is easier for SMBs than large enterprises.

When should small businesses begin moving to the cloud? The sooner, the better. As companies grow, so do their technology needs, and cloud solutions grow with them.

Say you’re starting a new business. In the beginning, it’s just you and perhaps a few partners or employees. You’re in startup mode. It’s all jeans, flip-flops, and foosball tables while you work out of someone’s garage (at least in Silicon Valley). For most entrepreneurs, it’s usually more like jeans and flip-flops at the kitchen table. Either way, it’s an exciting time, and a simpler one — at least in terms of your telecom needs. Outfit everyone with a computer and a unified business phone system, and you’re up and running.

As the business takes off, you hire a few salespeople who need customer relationship management (CRM) software, and then a bookkeeper who needs accounting software, and then a marketer who implements a new email marketing platform.

These tools can be costly, and they work best when they work together. That’s the beauty of moving to the cloud, or better yet, starting out in the cloud.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are moving to the cloud. For larger companies, this can be a large undertaking. It often requires abandoning legacy systems in which they’ve made a sizable investment (which stings a little), transferring large data sets (not a picnic for IT), and overhauling business processes and workflows (not a picnic for anyone). The effort is worth it, as there are many cloud migration benefits, including scalability, reliability, increased mobility and better analytics and reporting. However, there’s no question that it’s a big job.

Smaller companies have an advantage, since they can start out where enterprises want to end up: in the cloud. Of course, more established SMBs might have already invested in traditional software, onsite servers, and communication tools that aren’t in the cloud. Still, it’s easier to make the jump sooner rather than later.

It’s like moving to a new home when you’re 25 versus when you’re 45. In your 20s, a couple friends with pickup trucks can move you and your IKEA furniture in an afternoon. By the time you hit your 40s, you’ve accumulated heavy furniture and so many keepsakes that you need a team of movers and a small fleet of semi-trucks.

The same is true for IT. The smaller and sleeker the organization, the faster it can transition to the cloud and start to reap the benefits.

Three Ways Moving to the Cloud Can Jump-Start Your Small-Business Journey

Cloud solutions help to boost productivity, lower IT costs, and build scalable infrastructures. That’s good news for any company, but especially for small businesses that want to accelerate growth.

Whether you’re running a startup or an established business with hundreds of employees, cloud technology enables you to do the following:

  1. Get Champagne Technology on a Beer Budget: Because cloud solutions don’t require hardware investments or lengthy implementations, there are fewer up-front costs than with traditional software. They require little, if any, onsite IT maintenance. And with the pay-per-use model of most cloud solutions, if you only have a dozen employees, you don’t pay the same price as large corporations with hundreds or thousands of users.
  2. Satisfy Your Inner Goldilocks: With traditional software, small businesses often have two choices: Buy enterprise-level solutions with bells and whistles they don’t need, or buy slimmed-down versions they’ll most certainly outgrow. One is too big; one is too small. Yet cloud solutions are “just right.” They’re also highly scalable, so you can add new features, users, and storage space if and when you need them. You can also scale back as your business fluctuates.
  3. Make Your Toys Play Nice Together: Cloud solutions don’t just help people communicate more effectively. Many cloud services providers design their technology to communicate with other technology. These cloud integrations can streamline workflows, improve collaboration, and provide better insights into customer and company data. For example, when you integrate your phone system and CRM, you can automatically log calls and track customer interactions. When your CRM and accounting software work together, customer data stays up-to-date in both applications. When your marketing automation platform can pull data from your e-commerce tools, marketers get better customer insights and can improve lead generation.

In a nutshell, moving to the cloud gives your team access to cutting-edge technology without breaking your budget. Your people and your technology can more easily work together and work from anywhere.

Interested in the cloud? Vonage CEO Alan Masarek recently spoke at Enterprise Connect at a panel titled, “What Role (If Any) Should Cloud Communications Play in Your Enterprise?” You can learn more here.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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Are you developing your enterprise cloud strategy? Consider these important points.

Ultimately, the most important piece of an enterprise cloud migration isn’t the finished product — it’s the plan you use to construct it all. Building a businesswide plan that accommodates your current cloud usage and future desires can save budget, effort, and time, both in terms of the processes you’re trying to improve through cloud technology and the act of migration itself.

This information may not come as a surprise if your business has a solid strategy in place; however, there are still organizations that don’t have such a plan. According to the latest Right Scale survey, a lack of resources and expertise have supplanted security as the biggest challenge to cloud migration, and it shows when enterprises jump into the cloud without a cohesive strategy. Understanding your business’ relationship with technology and where you’d like the entity as a whole to be at the migration’s completion is crucial to your overall success in using the cloud.

If you’re still deciding what that plan should look like, here are a few points to consider:

Applications and Workloads to Move First

Though giving absolute advice is difficult with a tool as all-encompassing as the cloud, experts from pretty much every source imaginable emphasize the value in starting small. Diving in with both proverbial feet and moving your business-critical data/workloads/apps to the cloud straightaway can be irresponsible under the right — or wrong, as it were — circumstances.

Chances are, your current experimentation with the cloud already follows this advice. Now that you’re formalizing the rest of your enterprise cloud migration, look for apps and workloads with the following attributes:

  • Services used for development and testing, if applicable.
  • Applications without complex dependencies (read: deep operational ties to other on-premise solutions).
  • Apps that can still be used effectively when latency is a factor.
  • Apps that could benefit from greater scalability.
  • Apps that you plan to stick with for a while, and that don’t have a suitable software-as-a-service (SaaS) alternative that would make migration fraught with unnecessary effort.

Under these guidelines, anything from time-tracking apps to email to CRM solutions could be appropriate for the move. Provided the leap to managed cloud business services wouldn’t break dependencies, big data and analytic applications may be good candidates, too. Finally, nonessential tiered apps may also be parceled out, giving you the flexibility to move bits and pieces throughout different phases of your plan. Add slowly, note the results, and repeat, moving up to bigger, more complex initiatives as you go.

Problematic Apps

Identifying legacy and other critical apps that may be particularly difficult to “cloudify” can help you plan what to do with them before migration (assuming you choose to migrate them at all). This can be especially useful in determining whether a move to a public or private cloud will eventually offset the effort it takes to put the app there.

Potential issues to consider include hardware/OS compatibility and a need for premigration refactoring. Your company may be better off replacing problematic apps with suitable SaaS (Software as a Service) alternatives, particularly if the replacement can be integrated without extensive employee training or disruption of existing processes and workflows.

What Problems Are You Trying to Solve?

This one may seem obvious, but do yourself a favor and figure out why you want to make this move. Whatever you formalize will inform the questions you ask and help you answer them. The answers could range from chasing new revenue streams to cheaper long-term IT expenditure to even larger plans, like desktop virtualization — just make sure you know.

Public or Private? What About Hybrid?

Another question — largely informed by your goals and the types of applications you want to migrate in your enterprise cloud integration plan — is whether your cloud infrastructure should be public, private, or a hybrid of the two. Public services can do great things, but potential regulatory concerns and a lack of direct control over hardware may give you pause. By the same token, sticking exclusively with private cloud is naturally more complex and costly in the long term. And in either event, outright dismissing one or the other instead of leaving the door open to future exploration is nothing short of setting your IT up for failure.

Of course, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. You could take the hybrid approach, moving less-critical, less-sensitive workloads to public services, while keeping apps that enable core business competencies under your own roof. Many businesses are going hybrid for that sort of granular control — both over the migration and their larger operations when things are finished.

As an addendum, businesses with eyes on a fully or partially private cloud infrastructure may wish to pay particular attention to the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) movement. A combination of commodity hardware and virtualization can make the practice far more affordable than other takes on private cloud infrastructure, while added speed (thanks largely to use of SSDs) and smaller footprints make for enhanced agility and flexibility. Moving so close to a software-defined infrastructure may require some new skills, but with HCI becoming the standard, picking them up is more of an inevitability than anything.

Service Level

OK, that’s not exactly a question. It is an important consideration for companies considering public cloud services, however. If you or a team member have experience crafting and negotiating desired service levels during this phase of planning, the experience will be invaluable. If not, heavy research (and perhaps paid consultation) is in order.

Wired’s guide to negotiating service-level agreements (SLAs) might be helpful as you decide what factors to negotiate when vendor-picking time comes. Per-app uptime requirements are one obvious point of concern, as are formalized escalation procedures in case of disagreements or unsatisfactory responses to concerns you have. And those are just the start. Like with your overall plan, understanding your business’s needs and wants with public providers prior to having to express them can be highly useful.

Your company wouldn’t create a new product or service without planning the development process, would it? Something as critical and all-encompassing as enterprise cloud migration requires a plan as well, and considering the finer points of your strategy will serve you well in the long run.

Are you ready to move to the world of cloud business? Let Vonage Business help you with the finer points of integration.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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Moving to the cloud saves IT valuable time.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of IT projects, especially when you’re handling everything on-site. From server maintenance to end user troubleshooting to VoIP or PBX systems oversight, technology experts are long on tasks and short on time to get everything done.

However, for many organizations, moving to the cloud changes the game. With more tedious tasks handled automatically or by trusted third parties, in-house IT leaders find themselves with an unexpected luxury: the ability to slow down for a minute and consider their next move. Given that it’s such an unfamiliar sensation, you’d be forgiven for coming up blank on ideas for new tasks or long-term goals. Thankfully, you can get started with these six tips to help you tap the time-saving benefit of cloud tech.

1. Get Strategic

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, transitioning to cloud technology often shifts IT workers into business analyst and architect roles. While this comes with growing pains — IT experts are the best at what they do by virtue of specificity — it also offers big advantages. For example, moving to the cloud provides the ideal framework for implementing big data solutions to help manage and evaluate the huge volume of information generated by your organization every day. Less time spent on tedious tasks yields the ability to consider best-fit big data solutions.

2. More Time? Teach!

How much do front-line staff and executives know about new cloud workflows? Are they struggling with large conceptual issues or specific app-based tasks? With a break from typical IT maintenance and break-fix issues, IT can consider initiating a cloud learning program that helps end users discover how to maximize performance by leveraging cloud services and how to avoid potential issues posed by anytime, anywhere access.

3. Change the Conversation

What services has your business already moved to the cloud? What else is worth switching? For example, it’s often worthwhile to consider upgrading your existing VoIP or PBX system to a cloud-based alternative after you’ve established a foothold in the cloud. Not only does this dovetail with many cloud-first mandates, but hosted VoIP solutions also let you easily connect mobile, desktop, and remote devices, in turn making more time for IT to focus on other line-of-business (LoB) objectives.

4. Get Schooled

Do you know everything there is to know about the cloud? Are you familiar with up-and-coming industry trends like software-defined networking (SDN), containerization, and hyperconvergence? With less chance of your internal IT environment crashing and burning at a moment’s notice, this might be the ideal time to consider going back to tech school and picking up some new skills. That time provided by moving to the cloud offers the chance for IT pros to ramp up both organizational and total career value with training.

5. Go Big

According to Computerworld, the advent of reliable and ubiquitous cloud technologies has prompted a shake-up in many businesses. For example, The Weather Company — parent organization of The Weather Channel, Weather.com and Weather Underground — has tossed out the name “IT department” in favor of simply “technology.” IT experts are encouraged to think like a next-gen startup rather than a legacy division. Instead of simply “aligning” with business goals, the idea here is to think big and discover ways to empower new business objectives and devise long-term strategies. It’s part of the larger impact of moving to the cloud; the nature of IT is shifting away from a complete technology focus to include strategy and innovation.

6. Connect Everything

Of course, more time also means a chance to streamline existing processes and adopt new solutions that make your company more agile, robust, and adaptable. Here, it’s worth considering business cloud services such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which provides the ability to use any application on any device at any time, or cloud backup services that ensure your critical data is never in danger, even in the event of a disaster. Another option? Take things all the way with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and leave the hardware management to someone else.

Are you moving to the cloud? Consider streamlining your tech environment and implementing new upgrades. Your calendar just might thank you.

Need a little help? Connect with a Vonage Business consultant today and make the most of your time.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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A hybrid approach can give your cloud communications the best of both worlds.

Cloud computing is no longer an outlier: According to Beta News, 95 percent of survey respondents said they’re using some form of the cloud. However, it’s worth noting that while 18 percent of companies rely on public services alone and just six percent use all-private solutions, the lion’s share — 71 percent — prefer hybrid cloud communications environments.

What’s the real deal with going hybrid? Do you end up with the best of both worlds — a centaur with strength of draft horses combined with human cognitive capacity, or some kind of cobbled-together creation that amounts to a wobbly horse head driven by tiny human stick legs? Here’s what you need to know:

Crashing the Party: Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds

Public clouds are typically used for public-facing applications that need room to stretch in response to resource or traffic demands. They’re also ideal for smaller companies that don’t have the on-hand capital to spend on local hardware or those that love jumping on tech bandwagons to get their “I’m with cloud” T-shirt.

Private clouds, meanwhile, are excellent for consumer or corporate data privacy, while also giving IT professionals total control over their computing environment. Think of private clouds as the hipsters of up-and-coming tech — they’re solidly put together, but require a lot of upkeep and maintenance to keep running.

Hybrid promises both the sizzle and the steak — public scaling and private control — to provide a combination of flexibility and firm network boundaries. It’s also a middle ground between the cost scale of public vs. private options. Ultimately, hybrid looks to balance the benefits of outsourcing and in-house talent to create an adaptable best fit for organizations.

Do Me a Flavor…

While there’s no single way to use the hybrid cloud, a number of popular “flavors” have emerged, including the following:

  • Adaptable Apps: This is one of the most popular hybrid types. Organizations keep critical data close to their chest on private clouds but use public clouds to build out and scale up customer-facing apps.
  • Do-It-Yourself Duplication: Another hybrid cloud option sees IT departments creating duplicates of private stacks on public clouds and then linking the two with a secure connection.
  • Moving to Multicloud: Hybrid deployments also support the move to multicloud architecture, which has emerged as companies look to tap multiple public providers for specific services. Private clouds keep critical data grounded and provide a central link for various cloud services.
  • On-Premises Public Performance: Large-scale cloud providers are also looking for ways to move the public cloud into the private space by offering on-premises versions of public cloud offerings. The advantage here? Total control over scalability and performance. The downside? Big bucks to buy in.

Managing Migration

What’s the biggest barrier to cloud adoption? The easy answer is worry over granular control of data, but according to ZDNet, it’s more than that. Ultimately, the task of integrating and migrating legacy systems becomes a huge headache for many companies that try to tap into cloud communications or leverage scalable environments.

It’s here that hybrid cloud solutions really shine: By linking private stacks with third-party offerings, it’s possible to keep many legacy systems in place and link them to public services only where it makes sense. In effect, going hybrid lets incompatible legacy solutions age out in place, rather than trying to shoehorn them into cloud deployments or retire them before the business can fully absorb their loss.

It’s worth noting, however, that even hybrid migrations don’t happen in a vacuum. Companies must be prepared to tackle the gap between public and private services — the potentially confusing interplay along the edge of multiple service types, where apps may not work as intended and performance may be hard to measure. Overcoming this challenge means enlisting the help of an experienced cloud provider with a track record of providing reliable public services while also respecting the bounds of private networks.

This type of cloud migration partnership is especially important for companies making their first foray into the cloud. The right partner can not only provide necessary hardware and diverse service catalogs but also act as an IT consultant to suggest ideal migration strategies and ways to minimize the impact of new systems on existing architecture.

The bottom line? Hybrid clouds are on the rise as a way to tap the flexibility of public models and the control of private stacks. However, with multiple flavors and the need to integrate legacy apps while simultaneously leveraging new services, finding the right combination of variety and vendor is ideal to maximize hybrid cloud communication benefits.

Are you ready for the hybrid cloud advantage? Talk to a Vonage Business specialist today!

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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