“The cloud” has become a vague buzzword. A lot of business owners aren’t exactly sure what the cloud is or how it works, which leads to mistakes being made when it comes time to migrate from onsite servers over to the cloud.
According to a recent survey, 52% of small businesses in the US now use the cloud for their data storage needs, and 46% of small businesses migrated in the last four years. Many more businesses are sure to follow in the next four years, as Forbes predicts that 78% of small businesses will have migrated to the cloud by 2020.
If you run one of those businesses that will move to the cloud in the next four years, here are some tips on how to avoid making the most common mistakes made before, during, and just after migration:
The Mistake: Thinking all cloud providers are the same
Tech journalists that cover the cloud have a tendency to refer to every cloud service provider (CSP) as a singular whole—“the cloud,” as it were.
Referring to the cloud in this way can leave the impression that all cloud providers are basically the same. This isn’t true, not in the slightest. Each CSP, from the top services like Google Drive and Dropbox to smaller CSPs like Egnyte and CrashPlan have distinct differences that might make any given CSP a better or worse option for your specific needs.
When choosing your cloud provider, you need to evaluate each option to see if they have what you’re looking for.
For example, one thing to consider is where your data will be stored.
If absolute privacy is a goal of yours, then storing your data on servers based in the United States isn’t a wise choice, as the NSA and other security agencies have a lot of power over CSPs. You’ll find that CSPs with datacenters in countries like Iceland, Norway, and Spain are better for protecting private data.
Related Article: 3 Things Your Business Should Know About the Cloud
Level of security is also an important differentiator. Another example – let’s say you run a healthcare organization that must comply with HIPAA. In that case, you have to find a CSP that meets the standards established in the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) HIPAA Audit Control guidelines, and not every CSP does.
The Fix: Understanding that not all cloud providers are equal and vetting each vendor to make sure they meet your specific needs.
The Mistake: Only backing up data offsite
One of the advantages of the cloud is that it provides you with an extra layer of security, allowing you to keep your data safe even if your office is hit by a fire, flood, or some other calamity that destroys onsite data storage equipment.
But that doesn’t mean that using the cloud for data storage makes you 100% safe. Disasters happen everywhere. Even though CSP datacenters have many more security measures in place than the average office (24/7 monitoring, biometric scanning, video surveillance, etc.), things can still go wrong, as it did in August 2015 when a series of lightning strikes destroyed some disks at one of Google’s European datacenters.
The Fix: Back up data both onsite and offsite
The Mistake: Throwing away old IT hardware or paying someone else to get rid of it
There are a couple points we want to make regarding your old IT hardware:
- You might not want to get rid of all your onsite equipment at first. Many small businesses figure that when they migrate to the cloud, they might as well just throw all their onsite equipment in the trash. But the best move for your budget might be to ease your way into the cloud and slowly replace onsite equipment rather than going all-in at first.
- There are people willing to pay for your used IT equipment! You shouldn’t throw it away or, worse yet, pay for someone to “take it off your hands”. There are plenty of organizations that will compensate you. All it takes is a little research to find how much you can get for your old IT equipment at places like repowerIT and Elarasys.
The Fix: Rather than throwing your old IT equipment away, you can sell it for a few hundred or thousand dollars.
The Mistake: Using weak passwords
This piece of advice isn’t exclusive to the cloud, but it’s still important. Whether you’re dealing with the cloud or onsite servers or anything else, don’t use simple passwords.
Cybercriminals have many ways of making their way into password-protected accounts: they might use a dictionary attack (an automated program that tries different words at random), a brute force attack (an automated program that tries different combinations of characters at random), or they may simply try to guess their way in.
The more complex your password is, the better your chances are of preventing such unauthorized access.
The Fix: Use complex passwords (eight or more characters, different cases, some numbers, and other special character for good measure)
The Mistake: Not having a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place
Pre-contract promises are one thing. Standards set in service level agreements are entirely another.
In other words, for legal reasons, you want your CSP to agree in an official document to what they’re expected to do.
For instance, are they willing to guarantee 99% uptime, or 99.99% uptime? Those couple extra nines might not seem like a big deal, but it actually does make a huge difference, as 99% uptime (1% downtime) means over 3.5 days out of the year of not having access to the data you need to conduct business is acceptable, while 99.99% (0.01% downtime) means just a couple hours of no access.
Defining the exact amount of uptime expected is just one of the many factors you have to fight for in your SLA to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
The Fix: Negotiate (or have your lawyer negotiate) a SLA with your CSP that clearly defines what you can expect from the service
Author: Alex Miller is an Analyst at Clutch, a Washington, DC based B2B ratings and reviews website that highlights leading software and professional services firms. Clutch’s research helps start-ups, mid-market and large enterprises find partners that meet their needs, whether for a one-off project or a long term relationship. Alex heads the cloud research segment at Clutch.