Reasons to Switch to Cloud Services

Definitions:

Cloud Services are online services that fulfill a business need. All maintenance of the Cloud Service is taken care of by the company providing the service. Examples of Cloud Services are:

  • Google G Suite: email, calendar, file storage & sharing
  • Xero: Accounting package similar to Sage, but online
  • Salesforce: Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

Benefits:

1. Simplified IT Infrastructure

Having a simplified infrastructure (no local servers or in-house networks) means that your system is less error prone. Fewer moving parts means fewer points of failure. All you need are individual computers, web browsers, and the internet.

2. Not Maintaining Your Own IT Saves Time

By using Cloud Services, you no longer maintain your own IT (e.g. health checks for servers, connectivity, security and virus prevention, updating physical machines, etc). The Cloud Service takes care of everything. All you have to worry about is doing your own job — e.g. buying/production/selling/accounts. This saves valuable time and money that would otherwise be spent trying to get your local IT to work the way you want it to.

3. Increased Uptime, Much Fewer IT Issues

Cloud Services have large teams of the world’s best engineers constantly monitoring every single health, speed, and security metric. As a result, established and reputable Cloud Services have very little downtime, and generally run extremely fast.

4. Increased security

Ransomware hacks and similar attacks will have much less effect, since no data will be stored locally at your place of work.

5. Safe Data Storage and Efficient Disaster Recovery

All data stored in the Cloud is backed up to 3 separate physical locations. This means that it is highly unlikely that your data will be corrupted or lost. When data is stored at your place of work, all it takes is a robbery or destruction of the computers (e.g. coffee spilled on machine) for you to lose significant data and IT capabilities.

6. Faster Recovery from Attack

If a work computer is stolen, hacked, lost (e.g. laptop), or broken, all it would take to recover using Cloud Services would be to buy another machine. Since no data or computer programs are stored locally, a new machine would be up and running as soon as it was turned on and configured. This means that personal computers become irrelevant — all you need is a machine that acts as a window to the internet.

7. Fine-Grained Access Control

Cloud Services usually provide a special type of functionality called RBAC (Role Based Access Control), which allows you to decide what permissions, rights, and access each employee receives. Using RBAC and similar tools, you can dictate exactly what files and folders each employee can read or write to, as well as what actions they are allowed to take.

For example, one employee may be able to only read and create invoices inside you accounting package, while another may have full access to payroll as well as invoices.

Another example would be if you were collaborating with senior management on a sensitive project such as downsizing, and for obvious reasons you wouldn’t want this information publicly available. Using G Suite, you could restrict access to this folder to only the people you wanted.

NOTE: Special care must be taken when granting permissions. If you grant a person access by accidentally adding their name to the list, they truly will have access, so permissions must be double-checked if there is sensitive data involved.

Google’s G-Suite, Xero, and Salesforce can supply most IT needs for your business.

Drawbacks:

1. Increased security protocols

Because your username and password now represent the “master key” to your data and accounts in the cloud, they must be protected more carefully. Strong passwords as well as Multi-Factor Authentication (getting a code sent to your mobile phone/authenticator app when you log-in on a new computer) must be employed on all user accounts.

2. Training Staff and Establishing Good Behavior

All staff must be trained on new Cloud Services, as well as on new security protocols. Good security behavior (strong passwords, Multi-Factor Authentication, safe password storage) leads to less incidents. An initial training session would likely need to be followed up by refresher classes.

3. Migrating Old Data to the Cloud

Significant planning and work would need to be invested to move old data to Cloud Services, although some services exist to help with this. E.g. there is a company called MoveMyBooks which takes care of converting Sage to Xero, and they are endorsed by Xero themselves. https://www.xero.com/blog/2012/07/movemybooks-converts-sage-to-xero/

Cost Estimate for Cloud Services

(Small business — 8 users)

Google Suite — Email, File Sharing, Excel, Word, etc:

$34 per month per user. 8 users = $272 per month.

Xero — Accounting:

$70 per month base plus $10 per user. 8 users = $150 per month.

Salesforce — CRM:

$20 per user per month.

Totals:

Total Monthly Cost: $442

Total Yearly Cost: $5,304

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