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Top Five Reasons to Use the Cloud (and Four Things for SMBs to Consider)

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Cloud solutions provide significant benefits to companies of all sizes, but a recent study shows that less than 10 percent of organizations believe their existing IT infrastructure is fully prepared to address the proliferation of cloud computing, mobile devices, social media and data analytics. In the past, responsibility was with the IT department. Now business decision makers feel the cloud is critical to their businesses’ success for a number of reasons. Here are five of them:

1. Cloud offers better insight. In a world awash in structured and, increasingly, unstructured data, 54% of leading organizations are using analytics to derive insights from big data, which helps them target customers and product opportunities more effectively.

2. Cloud helps collaboration. Cloud allows work to be accessed from multiple devices and from anywhere, which in turns makes it much easier for teams to collaborate on shared data.

3. Cloud drives better engagement. As we see the focus of business decision makers shift from cost efficiencies in their back-office systems to improvements in their systems of engagement, cloud is often seen as the most effective means of forging a tighter link with the customer.

4. Speed! Fifty-two percent of leading organizations are turning to the cloud to drive more rapid innovation in products and services.

For example, Kuma Games is a leading developer of episodic video games, serving up immersive 3-D experiences — with narratives ripped from news headlines and cable TV — to millions of users each week. Since 2007, Kuma has worked with IBM to achieve the flexibility, reliability and scalability required for such immersive and dynamic gaming. A cloud solution helps Kuma Games offer a consistent high-performance, graphically attractive and seamless experience to gamers all over the world, no matter how many users are playing simultaneously. 5. Cloud benefits are measurable and pay for themselves. From efficiency gains to improved employee mobility, leading organizations are able to measure significant benefits from their cloud investments, but equally importantly, can pace their investments so they avoid big up-front capital expenses and pay monthly as their business scales.

What Should a Small- or Mid-Size Company Consider Before Moving to the Cloud?

While many of these benefits are achievable with minimal up-front investment, companies should not rush to migrate entire businesses to cloud immediately. Here are some tips for rolling out both internal and external cloud solutions:

1. Set clear objectives. It may sound obvious, but many IT projects begin without clear and measurable business objectives. Any cloud solution should start with agreement between the business sponsor and the implementation team regarding the scope, timing, phases and expected results of the project.

2. Consider when (and whether) to integrate existing data and systems. Cloud solutions offer simplicity and the speed of implementation. Particularly with “green field” projects, but less so as businesses try to integrate legacy systems. Take care to understand the risks involved with migrating an existing core business system to the cloud. Look instead to focus initially on new projects with a direct impact on customer engagement. Also, remember that a cloud solution is only as good as the data it provides, so take care not to underestimate the importance of data cleansing for any system of engagement.

3. Research solutions online and start for free. Various studies have shown that about three quarters of leading companies start their search for cloud solutions online, before even contacting a vendor. What’s more, most cloud solution providers today offer free trials to help you assess their solutions and compare them to alternatives in your environment. Because it’s “in the cloud” by definition, there is no cost other than time for this simple evaluation, which is time that will be recovered easily when you identify the best solution for your project.

4. Consider all costs, not just initial purchase price. Some vendors, particularly in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market, make a big deal about how much they have reduced the price of their cloud services. While this may work as part of a broader marketing strategy for the vendor, it’s not the whole story. What is often not spelled out are the lifetime costs, particularly when a project or service begins to scale. In-network communication costs, for example, are charged as a separate expense by some vendors, but not by others. This can represent up to half of the total service cost, so be sure to get the full picture before deciding.

In today’s world of mobile, social, cloud and big data analytics, speed is of the essence. While it’s still important to have a plan, with clear objectives and implementation milestones, it’s equally important to move quickly and learn as you go. For many IT professionals, this feels uncomfortable. The reality is that detailed implementation plans can be out of date before they are completed, so it’s important to start somewhere, experiment, fail quickly and learn as you start to scale up.

These are just a few of the reasons to consider cloud solutions and a few guiding principles as you start your cloud journey.

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