Key considerations for SMEs shifting to the public cloud

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Key considerations for SMEs shifting to the public cloud
If done correctly, migrating to the cloud will optimise your infrastructure and open up new opportunities.
Photo by Pero Kalimero on Unsplash

With the pandemic exponentially accelerating digital transformation, shifting workloads to the cloud has become a key priority for many Australian organisations.

By decoupling business applications and workloads from on-premises hardware and moving to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions such as Microsoft Azure, businesses can make better use of computing resources, scale more flexibly and gain room for seamless growth. In addition, migrating to the cloud is key to facilitating remote working, improving collaboration, performance, and security.

While larger enterprises lead the move toward cloud adoption – with APAC’s public cloud services market growing 28.8% in 2021, SMEs are now also starting to eye up Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure. Azure in particular feels like a natural choice for smaller organisations that already rely heavily on Microsoft solutions. There are financial advantages to this choice, too: Organisations already using on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses can use those licenses in the Azure cloud at no additional cost.

So, for many SMEs, Azure seems to be the default option – whether they are moving their entire workload to the cloud as-is or taking a hybrid approach that consolidates some workloads to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications such as Office365 before moving the rest of their infrastructure to the cloud.

Migration factors and challenges

While the pandemic put an initial halt to many major infrastructure projects, demand for cloud migration support in Australia is now picking up fast. In fact, according to Datto’s State of the MSP 2021 report, 77% of Australian MSPs now have at least half their client base on the public cloud – the highest rate across the globe.

This shift is driven by several factors, including improved scalability, remote workforce support and controllable costs.

However, transferring data and workloads to the cloud can be daunting. Technology overwhelm is real for SMEs who have little or no internal IT expertise, while cloud contracts and cost models can be complex and difficult to understand.

Many SMEs are also unnerved by endless reports of ransomware and other cyberattacks – and question whether the cloud is secure. Keeping all applications and data in the local server room can ostensibly feel a lot safer, so moving to the cloud inevitably throws up several data protection questions.

The truth is, migrating to the cloud, if done correctly, actually improves an organisation’s data security. Cloud providers and third-party vendors alike have developed sophisticated security solutions and are constantly improving these to mitigate the latest threats. By making use of these tools and services, and with support from an experienced IT partner, SMEs can put in place a more comprehensive cyber security strategy.

Here is some advice for businesses wanting to make the move to the cloud:

Enlist the help of an expert

Firstly, and crucially, don’t tackle this transition alone. Shifting your infrastructure is a complex task, so find a trusted managed service provider (MSP) with proven experience in cloud migrations. They can help you decide on when to migrate, which parts of your infrastructure to move to the cloud and how to do it smoothly. 99% of MSPs across ANZ also provide managed security services to ensure your data is protected from threat actors. When selecting your partner, look into how they are pricing their services, too. Is the pricing transparent and predictable? Could there be fluctuations in your monthly costs?

Plan ahead

Work with your MSP to create a 3-5 year strategic IT plan. This should be informed by your current and anticipated future IT needs, in line with your business expansion plans, and include an overall timeline for strategy and investments. Determine which parts of your business could be run more effectively in the cloud, then consider each application individually and decide on the right time to modernise it.

Be ready with change management

Moving your infrastructure to the cloud can create short term challenges for end users, so communication, training and expectation management for your team is crucial. Plan your communication carefully, understand how the user experience will change and consider what training your staff will need to work efficiently within your new infrastructure. Your MSP should be able to help you navigate this process by providing user training and documentation. This is also a good time to revisit security basics and update your employee security awareness training.

Implement strong data protection measures

Work with your MSP to implement a strong security strategy. Putting a holistic business continuity and data recovery (BCDR) solution in place will protect all your workloads, regardless of whether they live on-premises or in the cloud. This will ensure all your data is recoverable in the event of a deletion, corruption or ransomware attack.

If done correctly, migrating to the cloud will optimise your infrastructure and open up new opportunities. Plan carefully, find a trusted partner to see the project through with you – and set yourself up for success.

Shaun Witherden is Senior Channel Development Manager, Datto.

Copyright © BIT (Business IT). All rights reserved.

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