By now, many small and midmarket businesses have moved some of their IT services to the cloud (even if they don’t define it as a cloud service).  Whether that service was presented to you as a cloud service, a hosted solution, or an off-site system, your business may already be experiencing improvements in system reliability, mobile user access, and the speed at which you can perform transactions and get work done.  If so, this article may be old news to you.  But, if you’re still skeptical about cloud services for your business, read on.

There is still a lot of fear about putting business services in the cloud.  Some of that fear has merit, but in my experience, most of it is misplaced.  For example, many business leaders look at the data breaches at Target and Home Depot as incidents where cloud security fell on its face.  However, if we’re to be more accurate, those breaches ought to be defined as “enterprise” rather than “cloud.” Why? Because although the data was accessed from an attacker outside the enterprise network, the data stolen resided within the confines of those respective companies’ internal corporate networks.  The data did not exist in a cloud service like Office 365, Citrix ShareFile or Dropbox for Business.  Of course, all networks, cloud-based or otherwise, should maintain extremely high standards of security and intrusion detection and prevention.  This is more a function of good IT management than where the data is stored.

There are two cloud IT services that are a no-brainer to move to the cloud for small businesses and midsized businesses.  The two services outlined below have far surpassed their “traditional” or on-premise style competition, for reasons I’ll expand on below.

Hosted Email and Collaboration

The days of on-premise Exchange servers for small businesses are over, and Microsoft says so, in so many words.  Their Small Business Server product has been retired and replaced with Windows 2012 R2 Essentials, which integrates their on-premise server architecture with email and other services from their Office 365 cloud offerings.  If this isn’t enough to convince you, then consider these points.

Microsoft Exchange Server costs for on-premise installations (both the licensing and labor to maintain it) may exceed the cost of hosting in the cloud

It is labor-intensive to adequately secure an on-premise email server, and usually requires add-ons like spam filtering and antivirus which add to its cost; cloud services like Office 365 have those security features built-in

An on-premise email server requires a skilled IT manager that most smaller companies simply don’t have on staff

If your Internet connection is down or power is out at your office, you can’t use email.  If your email is hosted in a secure cloud, you can get to it from wherever you are, even your mobile device, home, or the coffee shop down the street.

In addition, Microsoft Office 365 does not require hardware or software upgrades.  Cloud services perform updates on a rolling basis, so you can avoid the headaches and downtime associated with major server upgrades for email.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

No one likes carting external hard drives or (gasp) backup tapes back and forth from the office.  In fact, if you’re still doing this, you’re probably forgetting to grab that tape on some nights.  This understandable human error could leave your business in dire straits, however, if you can’t restore from the latest backup.  Even more frightening is the fact that some businesses don’t check their backups or do any type of backup at all.  A backup is only as good as its last successful restore attempt, but most businesses don’t ever test their backups to make sure they work.

Using a cloud-based or hybrid cloud backup and disaster recovery service is the way to go for any and all small to midsize businesses.  When comparing traditional backups to hybrid cloud backups, it’s not even a contest.

hybrid cloud backups store backup data both on-premise and in a secure cloud, which protects you from all forms of data loss: from the employee clobbering a single file to your building burning down

a good cloud backup will perform testing on the backup data periodically to make sure it is not corrupted or incomplete, alleviating the threat of finding useless bad backups on the day you really need them

most cloud backups will allow you to encrypt your backup data and you can keep the encryption key yourself.  That means in the event the cloud service provider is breached, your data still cannot be read by anyone without the key.
Hosting email with Office 365 and protecting your data with hybrid cloud disaster recovery systems are two solid cloud services that far outperform their traditional on-premise competition.  You can browse the following links for more information.

More about Office 365

More about hybrid DR / Backup

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