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Clear the Fog on Cloud Migration for Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Cloud migration – essentially, moving your company’s data, computer applications or other business elements from onsite infrastructure to a server someone else owns and operates – helps you save money, improve your security and compliance and increase employee productivity.

You can move anything from email services and word processing to managing customer data and payroll information to the cloud, reducing your need for some on-premises infrastructure. However, businesses need to carefully consider how much they should rely on the cloud.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. A small retail store has needs different than a large manufacturer, which in turn has needs that differ from a law firm. To help clients determine the best solution, information technology (IT) consultants talk through needs, both for the business and data. The questions asked often relate to the services needed, budget and how secure your data are compared to how secure those that data should be.

“You have to spend time figuring out how a business operates and what they need to make a recommendation,” says Robert Merva, president of Avrem Technologies in Canfield. “Anybody that tries to go 100% to the cloud because it’s trendy will have problems. And anybody that tries to go 100% in-house because it’s what they’re used to will have problems.”

In “Critical Application and Business KPIs for Successful Cloud Migration,” a whitepaper International Data Corp. published last August, it’s estimated that more than 85% of worldwide enterprises are either “implementing or planning to implement multicloud strategies.”

Of the 600 enterprises International Data interviewed, nearly half (45.9%) said they had already transferred some custom-developed, browser-based applications to the cloud, with 38.7% planning to do so within two years.

Among the more frequently recommended cloud-based services is Microsoft’s Office 365. The platform incorporates programs that include email, Skype and file storage alongside the usual suite of Office services such as Word and Excel.

“Five years ago, even two years ago, we were making a push for people to control their own email because they have more control and you can tie it into workflows. Now, Office365 has become affordable and more reliable,” Merva says.

Other services – bookkeeping, for example – are also quickly moving to the cloud through options such as QuickBooks and Australia-based Xero.

On the security end, consultants note that compliance with regulations such as HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability – are in the hands of the cloud providers, as is protection from hackers.

“You have to look at what they’re doing. If you have [records covered by HIPAA], you have to have a HIPAA-compliant source. You have to have the right cloud,” says Mark Robertson, president of Eagle Point Technology Solutions.

But that doesn’t mean end-users are off the hook when it comes to security. The more points there are for users to access data, the more opportunities for hackers and other bad actors to sneak in.

To combat this, IT consultants point to the same basic security measures used on computers: Don’t share passwords, avoid phishing emails and stay away from sites loaded with malware.

“On your side, you have to prevent access to your points of contact. Whether it’s on the cloud or on-premise, the same security concepts apply,” says Jason Wurst, vice president of Tele-Solutions Inc. “I have to protect my machine that’s accessing the cloud application. If my machine has something that shouldn’t be there, it’ll have access to the data in the cloud.”

A key factor in helping a business decide what services to move to the cloud, consultants agree, is the quality of internet access. For businesses that are constantly uploading and downloading data, fast and reliable service is a must.

“If you’re in Pittsburgh, you have a few more choices for internet speed than you do in Sharpsville,” Robertson says. “If you’re in the cloud, you have to have the speed to do things over the internet. If you don’t have the speed, it can be brutal to run your business.”

And then, of course, there’s the cost of doing business in the cloud. Running cloud-based programs might be cheaper than one-time installations, but the cost of upgrading your internet could very well offset that.

“Moving to a cloud-based service is usually a per-person, per-month, per-year cost,” says Rick Zitkovic, sales manager for Tele-Solutions. “It’s an operating cost that becomes fixed. Accountants enjoy that operating cost because it’s the same each month whereas the capital expense can pop up.”

Pictured: Robert Merva, president of Avrem Technologies in Canfield.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.