Transitioning to the Cloud

What if you lost your company’s computers, servers and phone system?

The culprit could be hackers, natural disaster or technology breakdown, but the end result is the same: You lose nearly everything of importance to your business for an unspecified length of time. And some of your sensitive data you may not ever get back.

Your business is at a standstill until you hire an army of IT specialists to get you up and running again. They’ll get right to it — or at least as soon as they can fit your company into their busy schedule, especially if the breakdown is due to a natural disaster that has wiped out the capabilities of numerous other clients.

I know, because it happened to us. Like a lot of companies that had their telephone systems in a bricks-and-mortar environment, Hurricane Sandy knocked us out of operation, while companies with phone systems in the cloud were uninterrupted. That made a powerful argument for transitioning to the cloud, and that’s where we are today.

The cloud refers to off-premise data operation and storage. Instead of keeping your critical data internally, you operate some or all of your files, programs, servers, email — perhaps even your phone systems — in an outside environment, where someone else’s army of IT specialists maintains responsibility for its privacy and safekeeping. The cloud has multiple built-in redundancies and failover systems to protect your data under virtually any set of events.

The starting point for successfully moving your vulnerable systems to the cloud is to find a trusted project management team. Choose someone who can work quickly and seamlessly to help you with the move, without interruptions to your existing systems.

Levels of protection

There are several levels of service protection to consider when moving to the cloud.

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) – Your data stays on your premises, but it’s backed up and copies are kept offsite so you can seamlessly switch to a cloud environment in an emergency.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – Software is offered in the cloud by a vendor, so even if your computers, phones or other hardware are physically destroyed, your company will have uninterrupted access to the software and data.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – On this level, all of your servers (physical or virtual) and other infrastructure are held and maintained off-site at a hosted datacenter.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – This cloud computing service provides a platform that typically  includes an operating system, programming language execution environment, database, or web server that allows businesses to develop, run and manage web applications without having to build and maintain the infrastructure typically associated with that degree of technical sophistication.

Maybe you’re still not convinced. After all, what good is the ability to work in a cloud environment if your Internet goes down in a disaster and you can’t reach your cloud?

There are steps you can take to overcome even that minimal risk. For example, you can run your systems on redundant Internet lines from different providers, all bonded together or separate for single failover depending on your implementation. If one Internet line drops off, you still have another one running.

This may be more protection than you’ll ever need but events such as Hurricane Sandy or an Internet line outage do occur and can put you out of business.

Cost and timing

While many cloud services are premium and the cost varies depending on the volume and complexity of your changeover, the transition could be a cost savings or be cost-neutral. Your company is likely to save on labor and lost productivity involved with maintaining and upgrading your internal systems, as pricey servers must generally be replaced every five or six years. For example, at Wiss, by transitioning our telephone system to the cloud, we estimate we save about $12,000 a year in phone service.

As for timing, it could take from a few days to a few weeks to transition, and if you hire an experienced, tech-savvy company, the transition should be seamless.

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