Director of Content at www.SaaSMarkets.com
Cloud computing has fundamentally changed how business is done. From specialized, industry-specific applications to more routine business apps, the impact of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry has been incredible. In fact, Forrester recently forecasted that the SaaS market is slated to grow 25 percent this year to $59 billion, and by 2014, it’s expected to reach $75 billion. Yet, some businesses still ponder the question, “how do I migrate my company’s data to the cloud?”
Today, businesses of all sizes are flocking to the SaaS apps /. Driven by an increased demand for flexibility, predictable costs and outsourced solutions for their computing needs, companies have realized that web-based apps can increase their operational power, while reducing their bottom line. At first glance, the cloud may seem intimidating, but the truth is, your business has probably already used a cloud-based app without even realizing it. Services such as Gmail , YouSendIt and Constant Contact are cloud-based, SaaS applications. These apps perform specific functions, and the data that they transmit is stored on servers that you can access whenever you want (as long as there is an Internet connection).
Employees now expect their business apps to be available on any device, anywhere and at any time, with a consistent user experience across all devices. They want to experience the same ease-of-use and access to data in their professional lives, as they have come to expect in their personal lives. Answering this need using legacy, installed business software has simply fallen out of favor, and in many cases, cloud-based software alternatives are much more cost-effective.
Migrating your data to the cloud to take advantage of web-based solutions should be a no-brainer for most companies. Whether you’re ready to move the majority of your business operations to the cloud, or you just want to dip your toe in the cloud’s vapor, employing SaaS apps will offer your company significant benefits.
Without further ado, here are SaaS Markets’ tips for migrating your company’s data to the cloud.
1. Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean—Find the SaaS App(s) That Are Right for Your Company
Some of the most popular cloud-based apps perform multiple functions. Because of their multi-tasking functionality, these apps tend to be very attractive and at the top of the list for many businesses seeking to migrate their data to the cloud. However, this doesn’t always mean that they’re the best solution for your company, so don’t try to boil the ocean.
SaaS Markets does not recommend an immediate, “all-in” approach for your company as it approaches the cloud. Rather, start small at first, put your business software into the appropriate buckets, and decide how cloud-based apps can best serve your team. Businesses (particularly small and medium-sized businesses) should identify their exact business challenges, and discern what successful cloud-based solutions will look like. Then, they can discover the best SaaS app(s) for them.
Multifunctional apps—such as invoicing software that also supports sales forecasting and accounting software—tend to be a bit more costly and challenging to implement. Instead of instinctively jumping to multifunctional apps, you should also consider a cost-effective app that effectively solves your core business need, such as invoicing, if that’s the case.
2. Do Your Homework—The Devil is In the Details
One of my first bosses, Maura (Winson) Mann , always used to say to me, “Jay, the devil is in the details—plan, plan, plan.” Creating a transitional plan for the migration of your data to the cloud is key. Don’t try to migrate everything all at once.
Rather, create a plan that can be seamlessly executed, and be sure you do it in measurable pieces so that the changes are easy to digest for your clients, employees, partners and everyone else involved. You should not simply copy and paste your files from your local devices into the cloud.
If you are moving your data, take the time to plan out, and possibly reorganize, the structure of that data. Consider who will be using what and what levels of permissions are required to access certain files. If you review which employees will need access to particular files, your cloud solution(s) will be far more effective. This approach will also give you the opportunity to test the water before taking a plunge into cloud computing.
3. Get Server Savvy
Using cloud-based servers and storage can be a tremendous help for effectively scaling your company, but remember, this approach is not necessarily a cure-all. If you don’t have proper systems in place, your servers could still fall short of their intended use and ultimately your expectations of them.
Make sure that you, or members of your IT team, understand how to best utilize the capabilities of cloud computing. Take the time to learn the benefits of cloud-based servers and how to avoid costly outages. When doing your research, find a cloud with a server capacity that will grow with your business. For example, check out RackSpace and Amazon Web Services (AWS) . RackSpace has a sliding scale offering that will automatically bump your company up to the next level of service when you need it.
4. Moving Your Company’s Email and Documents to the Cloud
Should your email live in the cloud? If you’ve posed that question to your company, you’re not alone. By now, there is no reason why your email should not be cloud-based. Web-based email, such as Gmail, is seemingly ubiquitous these days, and the opportunity to access your email from any device that is connected to a browser is tremendous.
With an array of inexpensive solutions that you can access at any time, it just makes sense to host your email in the cloud.
Dropbox , a file hosting service, offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and software that allows users to create a special folder on each of their devices. This Dropbox folder then synchronizes, so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which computer, tablet or smartphone is used to view it. This SaaS app allows your team to collaborate on documents and presentations with automatic backup functionality and version control.
5. You’ve Heard It Before—Always Back It Up
Migrating data can sometimes be messy, and you should always make sure you that you have critical files saved elsewhere in case something goes wrong with your data migration. [With proper planning, however, this should be a non-issue; yet, as the old saying goes, “always back it up.’]
It’s understandable that some businesses will find it difficult to trust the cloud initially. What makes my team sleep better at night is having a redundant backup on a ReadyNAS, which is a small hard drive server that backups up my critical files in real time. This way, I always have two copies of my files at all times—one in the cloud and one on my server.
6. Scrub-a-Dub-Dub—Keep Your Cloud Clean
Obviously, moving your data to the cloud is no small undertaking, so you will want to make sure that you move the right information and scrub the data prior to migration. This may entail ensuring that the formatting of your data is correct, updating customer account information, and taking the time to update your document naming/labeling convention. This will make the move easier, and it will ultimately make the data more useful and user friendly.
7. Choose Apps that ‘Play Nice Together’
Today, many applications offer the ability to pull data from one app and send it to another. This type of data exchange, known as integration, enables apps to work together to provide even greater functionality.
Ultimately, most businesses will seek apps that can work together to synchronize their data and cloud-computing endeavors. This means, for example, that the output of one app (i.e. a billing application) could function as the input of another (i.e. an accounting application). Another example could be if your helpdesk software and email marketing app share information with your CRM; thus, resulting in an enhanced customer support experience for your audience.
You can often find integration capabilities listed on an app’s product information page. SaaS apps that offer these capabilities provide a potentially invaluable resource for your business, so this sort of connectivity should be considered when deciding which cloud-based apps to employ.
Saas apps have become critical business tools and their use in operations will only grow in coming years. Employees have become accustomed to cloud-based apps that can work across many different devices, wherever they happen to be. Indeed, the cloud is a game-changing technological medium that is revolutionizing how business gets done and the results that companies are able to achieve. When formulating your company’s cloud migration strategy, we hope you take heed of the tips above. Although you don’t want to be latecomer to this game-changing technology, it’s also important that you make a move to the cloud with a sound strategy.
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