The cloud FAQ for mid-sized businesses

It’s happening. Businesses are moving more and more of their IT systems to the cloud – and out of their on-site server rooms.

For businesses with 500-5,000 people—the meat of the economy—the move is even more urgent.  You’re being squeezed from below by disruptive start-ups and from above by the giant enterprises.

For more and more IT departments in mid-size companies, the answer is the cloud.

And for good reason—the cloud helps you work in more agile ways, serve your users better, free your IT staff to innovate, and protect your business with enterprise-grade security. It’s all about doing more and paying less.

But despite all of these well-known benefits, the cloud also raises a lot of questions for mid-sized businesses. (We know. We work with thousands of them).

With that in mind, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about the cloud that mid-sized businesses have asked us. Read them to find the answers that you need to get your ‘journey to the cloud’ right.

Let’s dive in.

The basics

The basics

If you’re new to the cloud and its role in business, start here.

The cloud’ is internet-based computing. It replaces your on-site IT systems –servers, storage, security, applications and more – with remotely hosted resources.

There are three broad categories of cloud computing. The first is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which represents the largest cloud market. With SaaS, your applications are managed via a third-party vendor (like Salesforce.com), eliminating the need to install and run applications on individual devices.

The second cloud model is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). It’s a step up from SaaS, as it offers a framework for developing and customizing your applications.

The third model is the most advanced, called Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This is a self-service model for accessing, monitoring and managing remote data center infrastructures.

Regardless of which model you choose, instead of installing apps and desktops on each and every personal computer, you simply (and securely) deliver them from the cloud to any device.

That’s a big deal because it means all of the heavy lifting (like storage and security) is done for you.

The cloud includes remote access to all of your files, apps and data. And cloud services are deployed quickly, and are easily consumed through a monthly subscription model.

In a million different ways.

Most mid-sized businesses are heavily invested in the cloud already (whether they know it or not).

Accounting firms use it to share files and data with clients in a secure, collaborative way.
Retail chains use it to back up point-of-sale systems.
Construction companies use it for project management.
The cloud is making a real impact on every size company in every industry.

And an increasing number of mid-sized businesses are transitioning their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud. Instead of owning and maintaining their own servers, they’re focusing their IT talent on innovation instead of ‘keeping the lights on’.

If you’re a company using web-based software (or ‘Software-as-a-Service’) for timesheets, expenses or HR processes, you’re already using cloud apps.

The same goes if you’ve got things like Gmail, Salesforce CRM, Office 365 or other software services that are run by the vendor. So your apps are there when you need them and your data is stored, secured and backed-up remotely.

Glad you asked. Here are the big ones:

  • Tighter security – You benefit from enterprise-level security for everything from full encryption and firewalls to instant updates, patches and 24x7x365 monitoring.
  • Higher availability – Your cloud provider is bound by an SLA, meaning they have to pull out all the stops to minimize downtime.
  • Less IT admin – Cloud IT is easier and faster to deploy and the management and maintenance are taken care of.
  • Greater IT and business agility – You can spin up new services as needed and close them down when they’re not – much more flexible than traditional locked-in licensing. Even better, you’re only paying for what you use.
  • Enhanced mobility – Cloud-based data, apps and desktops are always available to everyone in your business, no matter where they are or what device they’re using.
  • Built-in future-proofing – Cloud providers manage software updates, patches and upgrades, so you’re always on the latest version.

Not a bad list for something that also gets you out of the low-value parts of IT, and focus on the things that really drive business success.

The short answer is all kinds. On one extreme, you’ve got companies like Uber and Netflix that were born in the cloud.

On the other extreme, you’ve got large enterprises that are transitioning one chunk at a time. In between are the mid-sized companies that are taking their own step-by-step journey to the cloud.

Businesses in highly regulated, data-sensitive industries like healthcare and financial services are among the most eager to move to the cloud since it’s so much more secure than anything they can do themselves.  

Cloud file sharing lets your staff store documents, files and videos in a central location so they can share them with others and synchronize them across a range of devices. Instead of Stan having one version of a spreadsheet and Barbara having another, your entire team can work on the same projects at once without overwhelming email trails or version-clash. Meanwhile, all those files – and versions – are being managed and stored securely.

Because it’s so easy to deploy – and touches every part of the business – cloud file sharing plays an important role in most company’s journey to the cloud.

It’s a great place to start, and an important thing to upgrade if you’re still using consumer-grade services.

Business-class cloud file sharing and content collaboration solutions can offer much richer, more effective collaboration, as well as deeper data security and protection.

Cloud apps come in two forms: cloud-native apps and virtual apps.

Software-as-a-Service is cloud-native. It’s what you get when you buy software on a subscription basis and it gets delivered through your users’ browsers.

Virtual apps are traditional applications that you move to the cloud so that you can deliver them to your team as a service – just like cloud-native apps.

For example, your staff might use Skype at work. But if your IT team needs to update Skype (so you don’t get hacked), they’ll probably have to go to everyone’s desktop and update them one at a time. If they ‘virtualized’ Skype instead, IT could just manage it centrally and deliver it to everyone’s devices remotely.

Any apps you developed in-house can also be virtualized in this way.

The benefit is that you get to keep the apps you’re familiar with, but you also get central management, so applications no longer have to be installed on devices one-by-one. Plus you get mobile access, added security and performance benefits.

A cloud desktop moves all the things that load when your users turn on their computers (including operating system, applications and data) into the cloud. Users get the same set-up they had before, but it’s available on any device they happen to be using.

Cloud desktops centralize and simplify all the steps needed to get a new desktop up and running. The entire desktop is deployed, managed and monitored in the cloud.

Cloud desktops also drive down IT costs because you’re not buying new hardware as often and you’re not spending time securing and updating software and operating systems.

Every user gets an up-to-date desktop without a lot of heavy lifting. You give your teams secure access from anywhere in the world. And if a computer is lost, a cloud desktop can be ready in minutes with an identical set-up (don’t worry, the lost one gets completely locked out – there’s nothing locally installed, so no sensitive data to lose).

The benefits

The benefits

What the cloud has to offer your organization.

The major benefits of cloud-based IT are well-understood and no longer really debated:

  • Tighter security: you get enterprise-grade security that you couldn’t afford to replicate in house.
  • Less admin: IT management is much easier in the cloud – it’s faster to deploy and maintenance is taken care of.
  • Greater agility: cloud-based IT is super flexible – you can spin up new services and close them down easily, without being locked into licensing commitments. What’s more, you only pay for what you use.
  • Easier mobility: cloud-based IT also makes apps more accessible and your staff more mobile, so services are available to everyone on the team – wherever they are.
  • Continual updates: cloud providers manage software updates, patches and upgrades, effectively future-proofing your investment.
  • Guaranteed availability: It’s on your cloud provider to deliver the uptime promised in your SLA.

A subscription model is advantageous for three reasons. First, you don’t have a large initial capital outlay – you use operating expense instead. Second, you never need to over-provision: you pay as you go. Third, an ongoing subscription means you’ll always have up-to-date services and never have to face large-scale upgrades or deal with software patching.

If you choose a business-grade service, absolutely – that’s why large, regulated enterprises (like banks and hospitals) use the cloud so much. For a start, the cloud is safer because your data is secured and backed-up off-site and you get automatic updates whenever a new security feature is released. Plus, cloud providers can invest the time and money needed to get the highest levels of security – with robust hardware and physical security as well as the latest encryption standards. Your business probably couldn’t afford this level of security, but cloud providers can (and must!).  

As much as you want. Only you determine the administration of your services – you choose who’s in control, and who can access what. You’re also free to veto or revoke responsibilities as you wish.

When it comes to apps and desktops, you’re still in complete control. You set the policies. You decide on deployment and provisioning. You control upgrades, moves and changes

The major benefits of cloud-based IT are well-understood and no longer really debated:

  • Tighter security: you get enterprise-grade security that you couldn’t afford to replicate in house.
  • Less admin: IT management is much easier in the cloud – it’s faster to deploy and maintenance is taken care of.
  • Greater agility: cloud-based IT is super flexible – you can spin up new services and close them down easily, without being locked into licensing commitments. What’s more, you only pay for what you use.
  • Easier mobility: cloud-based IT also makes apps more accessible and your staff more mobile, so services are available to everyone on the team – wherever they are.
  • Continual updates: cloud providers manage software updates, patches and upgrades, effectively future-proofing your investment.
  • Guaranteed availability: It’s on your cloud provider to deliver the uptime promised in your SLA.

As long as they have an internet connection and valid login details, your staff can access their files, apps and desktops from any location or device, with the same user experience and layout.

Plus, most apps offer high-level functionality when offline. In some cases, work can be completed without a connection, then uploaded and saved as soon as one becomes available.

The considerations

The considerations

Nervous about the cloud? Here are some things to look out for.

There are a lot of concerns about security in the cloud, but as we discussed in the previous section, many cloud providers actually have far better security than their customers do. Aside from that, your biggest worry will be losing connection, in which case you won’t have to wait too long to get up and running again*. And since offline functionality is an option, you can usually carry on working as before – once you’re reconnected, your work will upload and save automatically.

* https://www.cloudcomputing-news.net/news/2016/dec/22/how-keep-downtime-minimum-right-cloud-computing-support/

If a device goes missing, it’s not a big deal. Access details can be changed in minutes to let people log back into the apps they were using from new devices. And saved files will stay exactly where you left them – safe in the cloud. Plus if you opt for cloud desktops you can have entire desktop configurations recreated instantly, so even if a laptop disappears, you’ll miss nothing but the hardware – and likely avoid a data breach scenario. 

That’s okay. Remember that the cloud is a journey – you don’t just transition everything all at once. Most businesses start with new cloud services before transitioning their existing infrastructure over time. The idea is to plan a sensible journey so you can make the most of your current set-up and avoid ripping out things that still deliver value.

It’s important not to stray outside your comfort zone. The cloud doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Think of it as a journey and go at your own pace. If you want to start small, start small – try moving a few files to the cloud and see how it helps your team.

The journey

The journey

Let’s talk about making the first move...

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some companies like to jump right into desktop transition, but you might like to start with something as simple as cloud file sharing and content collaboration. Think about what you want to achieve, align all your stakeholders and flag any early concerns so that you’re transitioning at the right pace.

The cloud has made it a lot easier to develop new solutions, so it’s a great place for developers who like DIY. But you can go much further (and more securely!) working with a cloud expert – like us. We can help you design a path to the cloud that works for you and your staff.

No two cloud journeys are the same, but many mid-sized businesses start with files and data. That way, your files become more available, and your work is streamlined with minimal disruption. Existing applications are usually moved next to better support core business processes. Desktops are moved in the later stages, to eliminate the need to install and manage systems on computers one-by-one. But whatever the first step, the progression is flexible, and it’s up to you.

Show them that it works. Find case studies from big players like banks and healthcare businesses that demonstrate the benefits of the cloud. And use examples from companies like yours (there will be plenty). Check out citrix.com/cloud. We’re here to help!

How Citrix Cloud services can help, whatever your cloud adoption stage

Every organization starts their cloud journey at a different point, facing different considerations. If you’re relatively fresh to the cloud, there’s the danger of over-committing a single vendor, roadmap or timeframe. If you have one foot in the cloud already, however, you’ll want to know how to embrace more cloud services, without embracing greater complexity and risk, and fragmenting user experience.

Citrix Cloud services eliminate such concerns, by letting you start where you are, and go as far as you want – while keeping management simple. It lets you host and execute the services you want – virtual apps and desktops, mobility, secure access control or EFSS – on the infrastructure you want, whether that’s cloud, on-premises, or hybrid. Even better, you manage of all this through a single, cloud-based management plane.

Citrix Cloud services give you complete freedom to mix on-premises and cloud services, and progressively move data, apps and desktops to the cloud depending on your transition strategy. It will also:

  • Help you do more with less: with pre-integration, and nothing to update – because we’ll do it for you.
  • Keep you in control of data security: with full power over where data, apps, and desktop workloads are deployed.
  • Safeguard business continuity: with services run on a highly available and globally distributed platform, eliminating single-point-of-failure risk.

Accelerating your journey to the cloud

Embracing the cloud doesn’t mean you have to drastically change the way that you support the business with IT.
It might just mean virtualizing some of your on-premises apps so that you can use them the same way that you use Skype and Gmail. Or it might mean virtualizing your desktops in the cloud so that you can manage everything through one interface while your staff access the solutions they need on the devices they prefer. In fact, you can move as much infrastructure as you like, at your pace – the journey is surprisingly easy.

That doesn’t mean you won’t need a guide.

The eBook below, “Your company’s journey to the cloud: A roadmap for mid-sized businesses,” will help you map and accelerate your journey to the cloud.  

Fill out the form below to get the eBook and start planning your roadmap.

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