4 Steps to getting started on the cloud

Switching to the cloud often gets put in the ‘too hard box’, but each step you take is one more towards transforming your business.

Everyone is talking about the cloud, but the idea of adopting a new technology may seem a little daunting, especially if you’re busy just running the day to day…

But when the benefits include upping productivity, reducing IT downtime and making your business scalable and mobile, every day you aren’t on the cloud could be costing you.

While you certainly aren’t alone if you’re unsure what the cloud is (in a survey of 1000 small business owners by Inuit Inc, 98 per cent thought they weren’t using the cloud, but were), the key is to not be intimidated by new tech.

“You’re probably already using the cloud in your personal life,” explains Telstra cloud specialist, Tony Antmann. “For example, Facebook or webmail – and it’s not a painful experience.”

Fellow specialist Chris Smith agrees: “People get fixated on ‘the cloud’ but really it is just about hosting and services that can be delivered through it.”

So, if you’ve been considering switching but haven’t been sure how to go about it, here are four steps to help you get your head in the cloud:

1. Take small steps

You don’t have to migrate your entire business to the cloud on day one. “You can take small steps and break out services you want on the cloud one by one,” says Antmann. One decision will help you get to the next. “You can make the choice to put your email in the cloud, and that will open up the possibility of using Microsoft Office 365 services such as instant messaging” he adds. Then you can move on to more collaborative tools such as SharePoint.

2. Do some research

You won’t become an expert, but you will get a better understanding of what the cloud can do for you. “Have a look at some white papers, go on customer forums and ask questions and perhaps ask a provider for a free demo – most applications have one” suggests Smith. The more you know the more you will see how the cloud can benefit your particular business.

3. Ask an expert

“It’s worth spending the money or time upfront to get it done right,” Antmann points out. However, he warns against assuming your regular IT provider has the expertise or a good reason to recommend services that might lose him business. Finding an independent source of advice, such as a Telstra recommended cloud partner, might be a better option. “You need a specialist who understands the cloud, but also understands the needs of your particular business,” Smith adds.

4. Choose a provider that is an all rounder

“If you are serious about using the cloud for your business, you need to go for a serious provider,” Antmann says. Enterprise-grade products are very different from just using a cloud-based service such as Gmail. “You’re looking for breadth and accountability,” says Smith. “You want a provider who has the applications and infrastructure your business will need… who will have the accountability and SLAs (service level agreements) your business relies on for business continuity. Also having it all on one single bill makes life a lot easier as well.” It’s another reason finding an expert to help you with the cloud is essential.