7 Factors for SMBs Planning Their Switch to the Cloud
Many small businesses have heard about the cloud, and may even acknowledge that there are benefits to moving their locally based records and applications to the cloud.
However, there are a number of perceived drawbacks that may keep SMBs from embracing the cloud wholeheartedly. Once those fears can be put to rest, the benefits of making the move will become readily apparent.
Here are seven areas you should consider if your small business is contemplating a switch to the cloud.
1. Security Issues
One of the main advantages of using a cloud-based system is that you are fully protected from thieves who may break into your offices and steal your machines, hoping to gain access to your data. Since company data is not stored on your local laptops or hard drives, there is nothing for them to steal.
On the other hand, virtual storage transfers the responsibility for your data security to your cloud provider. This means that you need to be 100 percent confident in your provider’s policies, so be sure to ask the following questions when evaluating cloud providers:
- Is your data secure as you send it to the cloud? Is it encrypted when it is transmitted via the Internet?
- Is the data stored on servers that are physically protected and secure against theft?
- Is the data encrypted again when it is stored at your provider’s facility? (For example, Google provides auto-encryption as it writes data to its servers.)
2. Training and Support
It’s quite possible that your existing software programs will not be compatible with your new cloud protocols, and you may have to learn how to use new systems. If you or your employees expect to spend hours on training, it may not be worthwhile for your small business to start using cloud-based software.
Training may not be too problematic, however, as most cloud-based applications are easy to learn if you have already worked with similar non-cloud-based systems. Cloud providers also generally offer quite thorough demos and training so that you and your employees can quickly get up to speed.
When considering providers, examine their training and support options to ensure you’ll be satisfied with the back-end assistance available.
3. Customer Impact
You don’t want anything to interfere with your communications to your customers, not even for a minute. From marketing email programs to invoicing, be sure that your new cloud-based applications provide a seamless transition.
If you must change software to move to the cloud, make sure you have time to prepare the new programs so that you can make the switch instantaneously, with no downtime. You may need to run two systems simultaneously while you convert your existing designs and setup to the new platform, but the end result will be a transition that allows your business to run more smoothly without impacting customer interactions.
4. Organizational Impact
Examine how a switch to cloud-based systems will impact your employees. For example, if you had someone running data backups every night, this will no longer be a necessary function. Manual payroll processing will also become unnecessary if you move to an automated system.
The ideal cloud setup will help streamline less-critical business functions, freeing up time for you and your employees to pursue more important, revenue-generating work.
Another advantage to cloud-based systems is that you and your employees can access your business data from anywhere that has an Internet connection. This accessibility would permit work-from-home scenarios, or provide a solution if your workspace were ever unavailable for some reason.
5. Regulations and Compliance
Storing personal information on your local drives about your employees or your customers’ credit card data leaves the data vulnerable to access by someone who may not be authorized. Once you move your data off-premise, it is less likely that you will run afoul of regulatory issues regarding the protection of that kind of sensitive information. However, you will want to make sure that any solution you choose is fully compliant with all of your company’s regulations.
Cloud-based providers can provide end-to-end accounting solutions that allow you to streamline and combine all of your financial information into one system. Your accountant will also be able to more quickly and easily manipulate the data and provide you with the financial reports you require.
There are many cloud-based accounting software options that can fulfill your business needs, including totally free options such as Wave, GnuCash and ZipBooks.
To ensure there are no interruptions in your employees’ paychecks, you may need to run one payroll cycle manually as you make the change over to the cloud. This should be a minor inconvenience.
The beauty of cloud-based payroll solutions versus local software solutions is that the cloud providers will automatically update their systems every year to cover all new changes in tax laws, and you will never have to think about adjusting tax brackets or manually calculating sales tax.
The cloud offers a host of advantages over locally provided systems. Yet with a number of cloud providers available, you will have to carefully examine each one’s offerings to determine the best fit for your small business.
Ready for your small business to make the switch? Be sure to check out our database of handy — and FREE — software vendor comparison reports! We cover the leading vendors in all of the top software segments, from CRM and marketing to ERP and accounting.
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