3 best practices for SMBs embracing the cloud

There are more cloud options than ever before for SMBs. Here are a few best practices to adhere to if you want to get the most out of your cloud deployment for your small business.

Image: iStockphoto/Melpomenem

When most people think of business value in the cloud, they're probably imagining a massive IaaS or PaaS play across an enormous organization. But, more than ever, SMBs are looking to the cloud to power their business.

Forrester Research's Tim Harmon said that there are three top benefits that SMBs cite as their reasons for moving to the cloud:

  1. Less administrative burden, which can translate to lower cost
  2. Speed of implementation
  3. Security, as their cloud provider has more resources to invest in security than they do

There are some obvious advantages to embracing the cloud as an SMB, but that doesn't mean that business owners should dive in uninformed. Here are three best practices to follow to better prepare your business for the cloud.

Beware the patchwork quilt

One of the major issues facing SMBs as they begin investing in any new technology is the patchwork quilt of solutions they have built up over time.

"The typical SMB makes a software or technology decision on the basis of what they have, [if it] is growing old or it's just not working anymore," Harmon said.

Making decisions about one solution at a time can lay the foundation for problems as you begin your cloud deployment. Poor integration can end up becoming a roadblock or a nightmare for your SMB as you begin your cloud journey, and a new cloud tool won't necessarily always work well with your other tech suite.

If you're dealing with a patchwork quilt of IT solutions, do your best to straighten out your portfolio, Harmon said. Then, try to get a better understanding of what will, and won't, work well with your new cloud tools and adjust accordingly.

Own your security

As mentioned earlier, the cloud provides SMBs the opportunity to engage new security tools through their cloud provider that may have been previously unavailable to them.

"Cloud enables SMBs to abstract the complexity of advanced security solutions, allowing for capabilities traditionally only available to large enterprise," said Intel Security CTO Steve Grobman.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that your cloud suite won't bring with it new risks and vulnerabilities. SMB leaders need to clearly understand what processes and data is affected by these tools, account for any newly presented risks, and develop a contingency plan to deal with a potential breach.

"When it comes to ensuring your data in the cloud is secure, you should have a very clear understanding of the security risks that must be protected against, the company security regulations that need to be followed and the compliance certifications that must be achieved on a workload-by-workload basis," said Gerardo Dada of SolarWinds.

Sweat the details

If your business is new to the cloud, one of the first things you need to realize is that the cloud is not the right answer for every application in your organization, Dada said. Take time to consider each workload--its resources, security, app interplay, performance, etc.--before deciding whether or not you feel it's a good fit for the cloud or if it should remain on-premise.

Just as you monitor your on-premise deployments, it is important to monitor your cloud tools to make sure they are performing as they should.

"Bad performance can result in over provisioning, which can result in large incremental costs," Dada said.

In addition to monitoring the service, IT must become more involved in vendor management as well, making sure that both the organization and the vendor are on the same page in terms of technical specifications and finances.

"IT pros must become comfortable with managing budget since it's easy to get started in the cloud, but that simplicity can quickly lead to an expensive habit," Dada said.

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