The cloud computing industry has demonstrated incredible growth in a relatively short period of time.   Businesses of all sizes are already benefitting from the advancements in productivity and collaboration that SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and other cloud offerings bring to the table.  Cloud technology can enable a small business to compete with much larger competition, without the costly overhead and requirements.  But, there can be problems if cloud solutions are not implemented properly.  By their very nature, most cloud services are “decentralized.”  They don’t require a hierarchical or regimented infrastructure to begin using them.  You start with one or two user accounts, and build on from there.  There is a beauty and elegance to the ease at which a company can implement SaaS platforms like Office 365, Dropbox for Business, or Google for Work.  But those same strengths can quickly turn into weaknesses as a company grows if IT management does not lay the proper groundwork.  Here are the most significant cloud migration challenges for small business:

User Security and Administration

User security and administration are points that are easily overlooked when spinning up the first few user accounts on a Cloud platform, but these aspects may be among the most difficult to implement after the fact, either several months or several hires later.  It is best to map out what kind of security blueprint your company should follow before setting up the first account.  It helps to forecast what sort of organization should be in place for an organization 3 to 5 times the size of yours.  It is also wise to consider beforehand what password policy to enforce, whether multifactor authentication ought to be used, the benefits of Single Sign-On (SSO), and the kinds of file permissions required by different groups in your organization.

Device Management

Device management is another oft overlooked concern as companies move to the cloud.  In the emerging culture of BYOD, it is easy to have a company with device sprawl, where there are as many different devices as there are people.  While most cloud platforms work hard to support all the major operating systems and mobile platforms, it won’t be so easy for the human beings involved.

Standard Procedures

Without some basic training and common procedures, you run the risk of having a cloud-enabled system resembling the Wild West.  There is a lot of power in flexibility, for sure, but users should have a basic idea of the most effective way to use an app, for example.  They should be given some guidelines on what apps are allowed, and which are liabilities to the system.  They should know any basic maintenance steps, such as leaving their laptops on overnight on the day that Windows patches are pushed out by your IT management.

Disaster Recovery

Though Cloud applications are, for the most part, much more resilient to failure or data corruption, they don’t remove the most common source of data loss – humans.  Most SaaS offerings like Google Apps, Dropbox for Business, and Office 365 have fault tolerance and backup systems in place, but they can’t protect companies from every type of loss, such as damage done by employees overwriting documents or interfering with syncing processes.  Consider a cloud backup tool like Backupify that stores archived backups in a separate cloud location.  It’s worth the peace of mind for a few dollars a month.

Following best practices at the start of a cloud solution rollout for your company will avoid major management and training headaches in the future.  As with most things in business, success starts with a good plan, and your business can greatly benefit from the power of Cloud services if they are implemented properly.