Key Considerations for Cloud-Based IT Services
Outsourcing has come a long way over the past few years, with providers now offering much more than just offsite backups and Microsoft Office hosting. Outsourcing is now about offering complete infrastructures, which are capable of delivering layered managed services on a utility basis. You should be able to use what you need when you need it, and only pay for what you use. If you’re thinking about using cloud services, be sure to consider the following points:
Consider the business landscape
The modern business landscape is unpredictable: changes in the economy are happening at a rapid pace; IT spend is being hindered, making IT projects and long-term IT planning increasingly difficult; and the demands of businesses are bigger than ever when it comes to accessing data and applications. For these reasons IT services need to be scalable, flexible and available round the clock.
Which elements of your IT could be outsourced?
Every business has different IT requirements, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all’ cloud service. For example, if a business has invested heavily in servers to host internal emails, it would not make sense to outsource email hosting to a cloud services provider. However when archiving legacy emails for compliance or efficiency reasons, or for backing up and replicating email data offsite, a cloud service provider may be considered.
Hand it over to the experts
A critical aspect of any modern business is having access to a suite of specialised business support services. By utilising external expertise a business is able to focus on its key business activities, whilst utilising the support of a flexible service and cost stability. From an executive level the benefits lie in being able to focus on core competencies without compromise, whilst maintaining a highly efficient, scalable IT delivery mechanism.
Consider all cloud services
Cloud services go way beyond email storage and online backup. With the right provider, businesses can potentially enjoy a broad spectrum of cloud-based services, including:
Data services – colocation, virtual server hosting / IaaS, online backup, data and email archiving.
Network services – IP-VPN, Voice Qos and Firewall / IPS / IDS.
Communication services – hosted IP Telephony (hosted VoIP), hosted Microsoft Lync, hosted Microsoft Exchange, hosted Microsoft SharePoint and inbound call management.
When choosing a prospective cloud services provider, ensure they adhere to all your business compliance and legislative requirements, such as the Data Protection Act or the Sarbanes-Oxley (also now known as SOX, or the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act). Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted in 2002 following a series of high-profile accounting scandals, and is designed to hold executives and corporate officers of public companies accountable for reporting financial information. The directive mandates that personal data is stored securely and is protected against unauthorised alteration, disclosure or destruction.
You should assess a potential cloud services provider on the following:
Physical security of hosting facility
Physical data centre security
Secure provision of servers and storage
Protection and encryption of data
Consider the benefits
Cloud-based IT services and applications are typically served ‘on demand’, giving IT departments a great deal of flexibility without the need for long-term planning. Services are often deployed on a pay-as-you-use basis, which enables staff to deploy new cloud services without the need to employ expensive in-house specialists.
To start using the cloud all you need is:
A connection to the cloud network
To decide on staff access
To decide where the service is rolled out to
To set user policies.
In turn, a cloud service provider will be able to build a service based on your requirements, while providing a complete backend infrastructure, including data centres and hardware & software, complete with ongoing management, monitoring and maintenance.
The cloud is scalable, flexible, cost-effective and frees up IT departments’ time. In the hands of the right provider, cloud services can significantly reduce capital expenditure, while allowing businesses to plan IT projects with clear budget predictability. If you’re thinking of embracing cloud-based services, be sure to consider the points within this article.