It's 2020, a new year and a new decade, so it’s time to reflect on how your financial services business can grow. It’s time to start thinking about moving to the cloud, even if your company’s IT infrastructure isn’t there yet.
According to the latest statistics, the UK is one of the largest cloud users in Europe. Yet, too many companies are wasting money buying expensive software that say they’ll improve their operations and increase productivity.
If, instead, you moved your financial services business to a cloud-based solution such as Office 365 or Microsoft Azure you can still improve operations and productivity with increased flexibility, accessibility and cybersecurity. All while reducing your costs, not spending more.
Moving your financial business to the cloud makes sense. But before you do there are some important elements to address.
In this blog, we'll cover the 15 things you need to consider before moving to the cloud.
But first, let's take a closer look at the benefits of the cloud.
What are the benefits of moving to the cloud?
In short, cloud computing is about access. Before cloud services delivered by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon, businesses required sophisticated equipment on site. This was often expensive to source, maintain and run, not to mention the specialist staff required to actually make use of the hardware. Cloud computing means SMBs can access the raw computing power needed to make the most of big data. A cloud environment allows for affordable and accessible storage of data in cloud-based servers, with the data easily retrievable when required.
Gathering the data is also a far easier task when using a cloud computing platform. Data is seamlessly and effortlessly pulled from sales, marketing and accounts departments, along with other areas of a business, such as customer services. The net result is your teams all contribute to the same system, in the same way. No more working in silo, and no more cumbersome sharing of data. The cloud makes it easy for teams to access data and share ideas, co-ordinating on the same centralised piece of work from any location.
Furthermore, cloud computing means updates and improvements to the service no longer require hardware updates on site. If your cloud provider updates their data storage or monitoring application, for example, that update is instant and company-wide. Businesses of all size and stature must recognise that leveraging big data alongside cloud computing is no longer a luxury, it’s a business necessity that provides you with a competitive edge and a tangible force to drive your business forward with streamlined processes and a targeted offering.
So, specifically, advantages of moving to the cloud include:
- Flexibility – increase or decrease the compute power of a server as the requirements dictate. This means as a business you only pay for what you need.
- Pay as you go service – pay predictive monthly costs, no need to worry about replacing your servers ever again!
- Hybrid Capability – on premise and Cloud environments work together
- Always available – Microsoft has a 99.95% SLA
- Enterprise grade security- you will be using the same technology that the big banks and Blue chip companies are using!
Now that we've covered the benefits of moving to the cloud, let's look at the 15 things you need to consider before moving to it.
1. Cloud Compatibility
It is critical that your software license is compatible with your cloud solution. Otherwise, you won’t be able to host it on a remote server. This check is even more important when creating a hybrid cloud infrastructure with legacy systems as they may not be compatible
Moving your email to the cloud brings certain advantages. It doesn’t matter if you are using a dedicated server or if a dedicated provider is hosting them.
Moving to the cloud from a dedicated email server means maintenance and support becomes the responsibility of the cloud providers support team. Freeing up your IT team so they can work on more valuable tasks instead of general support.
If your emails are hosted by a dedicated provider, you already have this. However, connecting with the same provider offers more efficiency. We would always recommend Office 365, as they are adding support for an increasing number of software providers every day.
3. Internet Connection and Bandwidth
If you move to the cloud, it’s to boost business performance and activity. But this can put strain on your systems. You need to ensure your connection and networks can handle this increase.
In particular, bandwidth, coupled with accompanying enterprise grade routers, is paramount to transmitting the maximum amount of data your connection can both send and receive.
In order to secure the best possible connection, we recommend a leased line, which provides an uncontended (dedicated) pipe to the internet. There are also other options such as FTTP (fibre to the premises) which provide similar services at a lower cost.
Uncontended lines mean that you aren’t competing for bandwidth with other paying customers. This means you don’t suffer from packet loss or latency, which would degrade the quality of your connection and therefore any cloud solutions.
4. Your Hardware Lifecycle
How old is your hardware? If you have just invested in new hardware, then financially it may not make sense to move your IT infrastructure to the cloud.
The perfect time to make the move is when your hardware is three or more years old. This is because any money you’d spend replacing the equipment would be better invested in cloud migration.
5. Service Level Agreements
It’s not uncommon for issues to arise when it comes to cloud solutions and software applications. From user confusion, to minor glitches or major outages, you will be in contact with your provider for help and advice. This is why you need to be happy with the service level agreement (SLA) they offer.
This helps manage expectations when it comes to responsiveness, reliability, procedures and monitoring ensuring there is no disenchantment down the line.
Last year, UK businesses lost almost 60 million hours of working time to downtime. If you don’t want to become part of this year’s statistic you need to plan for the worst.
To combat downtime, you need applications with offline syncing. This means, if you suffer downtime you can keep working, safe in the knowledge that your updated files will sync to the cloud automatically once the issue is resolved. Our recommended software for offline syncing is OneDrive.
7. Disaster Recovery
When it comes to downtime, data breaches or any other security issue, every financial business should have a prevention plan. But this is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to focus on disaster recovery if the worst were to happen.
Many cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure offer an additional back-up service, such as Azure Site Recovery, a separate service that keeps your data safe and recoverable, should a disaster occur.
8. Location of Data
You are responsible for both your client’s and your own valuable, confidential data. You need to know where it is and that it is always safe. For certain industries, such as the legal sector and finance sector, the need for stringent data security is paramount.
Sp, ensure that you are aware of data locations and which laws govern your data. You also need to be aware of relevant data regulations and if your data is subject to government surveillance.
Any cloud solution worth its salt will offer ultimate flexibility when scaling to your business requirements. It should adapt when you need it to, without you needing to be forward-thinking and have too many plans.
So, when adopting the cloud, think on seasonal trends or any other activity that means your usage and traffic will increase. For example, you may require extra capacity on the lead up to the new tax year as clients worry about their payments.
When moving to the cloud, consider your processes. Often, there are many that you can automate to increase productivity. For example, you can schedule automatic updates across your software, so you don’t have to worry about slower operation times.
Automation of low value, yet vital, administrative tasks can save your business hours in productivity. Allowing you to increase focus on more revenue generating tasks.
A big advantage of migrating to the cloud is the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Your team would be able to access documents anytime, anywhere leading to massive productivity increases.
Think about the best tools for your needs. We would recommend Microsoft 365, which allows users across the globe to collaborate using apps like Excel, Word or PowerPoint which let them make live updates and provides a consistently clear view of any project.
The environment is a hot button issue these days, with businesses under pressure to do their bit.
If your finance business has sustainable business goals, the cloud can help you.
An increasing number of cloud providers are releasing detailed information on how their solution is eco-friendly and can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint. For example, Microsoft have put together multiple reports on how migrating to the cloud is beneficial to our planet. And, to top that off, they’ve also committed to being carbon negative by 2030.
If you want to help save the planet, take this into account when choosing your provider.
If your competitors are migrating, and you’re not, you will soon find yourself left behind. Monitor their social media, website and product offerings for hints as to whether they still use in-house hardware or are in the cloud.
If you’re sure they are in the cloud, try and figure out if it would be a beneficial business move for you. Is your competitor doing better since adoption? Or has it not worked for them?
Without sufficient back up, if something is lost or breached you may lose that information forever. When you migrate to the cloud, you get the benefit of best in class backup capabilities.
Consider this, all too common, example:
Your employee is heading home on a Friday, they’re taking their laptop home to do some work over the weekend. They bump into some friends and end up going to the local bar for a drink. They go to the bathroom, leaving their bag at the table, but once they get back, it’s gone. And nobody saw anything. The laptop is gone.
With a hardware only set-up, you lose everything on that laptop. However, if you are in the cloud not only do you still have all the data on that machine, but you can remotely lock the laptop down and remove confidential information. So, once you migrate be sure to activate these features.
15. Cloud Service Management
While some small businesses do manage their own cloud migration it can often become a time-consuming headache. If you want to make the move, have a look at what’s best for you. If you have the time and it doesn’t seem like a massive job, then maybe it is best you do it yourself.
But if it’s a massive infrastructure migration you may want to consider hiring an extra team member. Using a cloud migration service can lift a huge weight off your shoulders and ensure your time is spent dealing with the important things such as, growth and productivity.
Cloud adoption: more than just moving data
A common mistake when adopting cloud technology is thinking you just take what you have and move it into the cloud. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As we’ve shown, there’s a lot to think about.
With any cloud migration, you need a bespoke approach, assessing your unique business needs and usage.
Then you, or a trusted partner, can optimise and re-architect your data, providing a prescribed, personalised cloud solution.
Editor's note: This blog post has been updated with new content as of 18/8/2020