Next Stop: The Cloud serves as a trusted guide on the journey to cloud computing.


Companies of all sizes are expanding their use of cloud computing to realize greater agility and efficiencies. Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) in particular find that cloud services enable them to reduce costs, become more productive and gain better access to information.

The move to the cloud would suggest that SMBs no longer have to worry about their IT infrastructure or technology strategy. That could not be further from the truth, however. The cloud can be a beneficial addition to the IT environment but it has to be approached strategically.

There are a lot of misconceptions associated with cloud computing. It is not some sort of silver bullet. Despite industry hype and promises, cloud services can be fraught with pitfalls and drawbacks for those who don’t do their homework.

From a technology perspective, organizations need to look at service levels, performance, data access, security and flexibility. Cost is another consideration — because cloud services generally are priced on a per-user, per-month structure, organizations must be comfortable with moving IT services from the capital budget to an operational budget. Licensing, tax implications, data migration, IT skills sets and a host of other issues also come into play.

Furthermore, not every IT function is suitable for the cloud. SMBs need sound advice in developing a cloud strategy and selecting the appropriate cloud solutions to execute that strategy. This can help organizations avoid moving mission-critical applications to cloud services that are not up to the task, and otherwise maximize the benefits of the cloud without the downsides.

In-House IT Still Matters

There is a tendency to overlook the internal IT environment when considering a move to the cloud. The in-house IT infrastructure does not go away with cloud computing, however. The cloud merely shifts the emphasis from one area to another.

For example, when applications are hosted in-house, IT staff are often focused on keeping those applications up and running and protecting the associated data. If those applications are moved to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, network performance and availability become paramount.

“With SaaS, the network becomes the lifeline to applications and data,” said Krystal Triumph, IT and Telecom Advisor, “Because employees connect to a cloud application via the Internet, any network bottlenecks are amplified. It is important to ensure that the network is operating optimally and that there is failover to a secondary Internet provider in case of an outage.

“ has skilled network engineers who can help organizations increase the performance of their LANs, WANs and wireless networks, thereby boosting the productivity of SaaS users. We also provide managed services that can help ensure the network remains available.”

Even if applications are running in the cloud, organizations still need skilled technicians to ensure that in-house equipment and the network stay up and running. proactively monitors the network using remote support software. All critical events are identified within minutes and resolved as quickly as possible so that access to the cloud is not interrupted.

In addition, an technology consultant meets periodically with each customer in a “virtual CIO” format to discuss network performance and ways to improve IT operations. This offers a golden opportunity to discuss the impact of cloud services on the business.

Bringing IT All Together

Cloud-based applications generally are faster to deploy, easier to use and have a lower upfront cost than traditional enterprise applications. But not every application can move to the cloud.

“We have seen a lot of success moving clients to cloud-based email, collaboration, backup and disaster recovery, customer relationship management, and office productivity tools,” said Michael Stenger, IT Director, “But core business applications that require high network performance may not be suitable because access via the Internet isn’t going to be as fast as access via your local network. You may also have some legacy or custom-developed applications you don’t want to update, or an application that is specific to your industry that requires a specialized infrastructure.”

An often-overlooked aspect of cloud computing is software integration. Cloud applications by nature exist outside the IT infrastructure and, as a consequence, outside of the general flow of data among business processes. Application “silos” impact productivity and limit the return on the software investment. Because most organizations wind up with a hybrid environment, the integration of SaaS with traditional applications and data sources becomes imperative.

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting the most from your technology investment, whether that’s a cloud service or traditional on-premises solution,” said Triumph. “The cloud is an attractive option for smaller organizations — it helps to level the playing field by giving them cost-effective access to enterprise-class tools, and enables them to adapt more quickly to changing business requirements. But proper planning and management of the IT environment remain very relevant. can help customers move to the cloud in a thoughtful, beneficial way.”