My company is quite well travelled.  Since setting up in Reading back in 2002 the head office has re-located to Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, taking in a couple of stops at each of these locations.  Most recently we moved from Basepoint Business Centre in Tewkesbury to another location close to junction 9 of the M5.  The reason for this was a requirement for more space (we were holding significant stock for one customer in particular) but we wanted to keep costs in check.  Fast forward a year and a half and the space requirement is not, well, required.  Plus staff wise we are one lighter-  meaning we could take a smaller unit.  So we have moved back to Basepoint and are very happy with the set up.

The reason this is important (or relevant even) results from the fact that a consideration every time we move is the limited access we have to files throughout the period.  Couple this with the risk in moving computer equipment and you can see why having significant onsite infrastructure can be a problem!  Add to this the fact that running servers locally costs money (electricity, support overhead), we made a decision to to take the move as an opportunity for a  final push and transferred the last data we have held locally server to the cloud.

If you have seen my previous post around Web 2.0 in business, you will have seen some of the benefits we have already gained through using the cloud as a platform for many facets of our business; and you can see that full migration was an obvious path for us to consider.

The information we still held locally was either within our corporate wiki or legacy documentation.  We set up Google sites and devised a system for data transfer from the onsite wiki into that platform with minimal effort.  We then utilised some storage services (S3 from Amazon, Livedrive, SkyDrive and Dropbox) to store our legacy data securely, for access should it be required in the future.  Of course, we still hold a local backup of all critical information that can be accessed should it be required – backups should always be kept, it’s just with the way we use the cloud it makes more sense for our backups to be onsite! 

The results have been tremendous.  Our office is now quiet, more eco-friendly and a generally happier place as a result of having no onsite IT services to maintain!  We have even greater flexibility with regards to data access, are more comfortable that the services we have chosen do a better job of keeping our data available and protected than we ever did internally (any other SMB’s will surely relate to this!)

Obviously there are a number of issues to consider, particularly regarding data security.  But as a company focusing on providing advice and a strategy for adopting cloud computing services to other businesses, we were as well positioned as anyone to use the experience and knowledge we have built up to go the “whole 9 yards”.  Also, we’re keen to practise what we preach as we fully understand the benefits through the work we have done.  We were able to find services that matched our requirements and needs, and were able to deliver suitable mechanisms to effect the transition with minimal pain to the business.

I appreciate that this won’t be the case for all businesses and that, even with appropriate consultation and advice, only certain elements of cloud computing will be appropriate.  But our experience offers a good example of how it can be done, slowly at first, introducing more elements as they are appropriate.  We made small changes initially to test the services and gain a number of benefits.  Subsequently we were able to put things in place to effect a complete migration as the timing became right and services were available to meet our needs. 

I think, as cloud computing evolves, the timing will be right for more and more businesses.  And in all honesty many (if not all) have the opportunity to test the water as we did with certain processes within their businesses.  In particular, start-up businesses, with no legacy to worry about, have the perfect opportunity to gain a competitive edge straight out of the blocks.  No need to make large investments (cost and time) in local infrastructure and it’s support.  Plus the cloud affords the ability to scale as and when the business dictates in often much smaller increments.  And a flexible approach from the start that is vital for any start-up. 

And our hope is to bring some light on the often badly lit path to cloud computing.  I hope I’ve shown it is well worth a look, so who wants to follow our lead?!

Posted by SheldonW

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