So, you’ve decided that the cloud is the best route to take your company’s IT strategy. But have you decided exactly what it is you need and which service provider is best placed to deliver? Many small business owners will undoubtedly look towards the plethora of generic ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions offering affordable, easy-to-adopt services.
And why not?
An off-the-shelf solution may well be perfectly adequate for your business needs. And there are plenty of well-known names out there offering a degree of familiarity when it comes to cloud solutions. Of course, as with any new innovation or product you introduce to your business, understanding potential limitations will ensure you strike the right balance between price and added value.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential pitfalls to be aware of when considering an out-of-the-box cloud service for your business:
1. Customer Support Levels
The level of support you receive is paramount to the effectiveness and reliability of any I.T. system and none more so than with your cloud provider. The reality is that, no matter how good and robust your system may be, there will inevitably come a time when assistance – perhaps even some data recovery – will be required. While many reputable cloud providers will offer a good level of customer support in relation to their system, one of the key areas in which vendors are able to keep costs lower is in the support quality that you receive, which is less likely to be personalised to your own business.
In the UK alone in 2014, costs of £10.5 billion were attributed to downtime and data loss, proof enough that such issues are an expensive problem. So the speed in which you get back online is a crucial factor when evaluating the service levels on offer. This is perhaps an area in which a bespoke solution can save time and money, providing a quick reaction and resolution.
Out-of-the-box systems can offer significant benefits in terms of cost and versatility and will regularly be recommended as core to your business needs by I.T. providers. However, working with a consultant who can deliver these products alongside appropriate and responsive customer support can produce savings in the long-term, whilst offering day-to-day peace of mind for your cloud and your business.
2. Data Protection
The cloud is generally a secure environment, with the most well-known brands providing safeguards that are robust and trustworthy, when it comes to online safety. Nevertheless, the fact remains that when you use these cloud servers you are sending data into a public, vendor controlled realm rather than in-house. Which is something you need to be aware of when it comes to sensitive data
For the most part, data communication in your business may well be of a relatively low-risk nature, in which case the public cloud will suffice and provide a level of security perfectly adequate to your needs. However, there may be instances where there’s a need for higher levels of privacy with certain pieces of data; the type of which you would receive from a more bespoke cloud solution.
Again, it comes to working with a cloud provider who will best understand the nuances of your business in order to deliver the service which best suits your circumstances.
3. Capacity Issues
One issue that might have implications for the effectiveness of your service is the strain placed upon the server’s bandwidth at crucial times; potentially affecting the speed in which you can retrieve or backup data. A generic server may have demands on its overall capacity for a wide range of purposes simultaneously from a large number of sources.
A potential result of this could be a slowing of the system at busy times, when large numbers of users are accessing the same server.
This is perhaps where the bespoke approach can work to a greater, potentially more productive degree. Tailoring your cloud services to the exact needs of your business through a mix of their own servers and the versatility of the big cloud providers, your IT consultant should be well placed to deliver a service with the required capacity at all times.
4. Matching Products to Need and Budget
Something to consider when working with an I.T. provider is the reasoning behind their recommendation of a particular out-of-the-box solution. Now, it might be because it fits the needs of your business. However, be aware that in certain cases there may be ulterior motives behind their suggestion. Does the provider have some incentive to promote a particular product or brand or, indeed, is that brand the only offering they actually have available?
In other words, is the recommendation more suited to the provider’s needs and profits than yours?
Cloud solutions such as Office365 and similar offer exceptional benefits that can add value to a small or medium sized business. A reason why most I.T. providers would recommend their use. However, they need to be tailored and managed correctly so that they sufficiently meet your needs and match your budget. This is why we would always advise business owners and decision-makers to look at I.T. consultants who offer a varied range of products as well as bespoke and hybrid solutions.
It’s quite likely that they will incorporate a brand such as Office365 or Google into your cloud package, but you will have the assurance that it’s part of a wider solution, tailored to match the day to day tasks of your work and environment.
So called ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions can provide the ideal solution for many small or start-up businesses; inexpensive in start-up and easily scalable. However, it’s important to understand the potential issues which exist in order to get the best results and optimum value at all times. Which is where working with an expert with access to the full spectrum of cloud options can provide peace of mind and a robust, cost-effective solution in the long-term.