Change is hard, especially related to potential business disruption. Researchers predict 80% of organizations will migrate to the cloud by 2025. Company leaders hesitant to move from on-site servers to cloud-based systems cite cost, compliance, control and security along with disruption. What does moving to the cloud really mean? Is it really disruptive?

The term cloud is a ubiquitous. It’s tossed around a lot in today’s tech world. What is it really? The cloud is a type of a server, which is typically in a remote data center (so not up in the sky where we all point when talking about it). Users rent space and access is via the Internet. A traditional local server is hardware a company buys and owns. Accountants put it in the books as a capital expense.

An in-house server can cost thousands of dollars along with the cost of electricity to keep the server running 24/7. It requires a physical space, and as some business owners are unfortunately discovering, is an IT infrastructure with security vulnerabilities. These are the reasons why business owners are thinking about migrating business information to cloud-based servers.

Among the hesitancies we often hear from owners is that they expect downtime and a laborious process to move data. Business owners can see their IT server in their office, and it gives them a sense of comfort. Yet when asked the last time that server was updated or backed up data, owners often aren’t sure.

When migration is done right, yes it takes a project team’s focus, but there’s minimal downtime for staff. Here’s an example. Let’s say a mid-sized business has 50 employees. The company server is long past it’s life. And it’s time to consider buying and installing another server or moving business data and software to the cloud. How would that happen?

Consult. A reputable cloud-based managed IT services business starts by listening and learning during your vetting process. The team should ask about how your business and employees work. You should get a chance to share your wish list and of course answer a lot of questions: how are software systems used, how drives are mapped, how much data is stored and know how employees’ computer desktops are arranged for daily work.

Checks and balances: Next the team will look at those computer laptops, desktops and other hardware used during the regular workday to double check what’s been documented before starting any sort of data transfer.

Transfer to the cloud: Once all checks and balances are completed, the data transfer to the new cloud-based server will begin during the build phase. The cloud service will connect to the hardware server to import the company data and set up. This does not affect a business team’s daily work. All staff continue business as usual during the data transfer. How long it takes to transfer information depends on how much data a company has stored. A recent client data import took eight days. Normally it’s just a day or two.

Builds for staff: With all data transferred to the cloud-based server, the IT team reviews user set ups (in our case for all 50 employees) checks all software licensing, reviews proof of concept for all software tools and continues to test and retest to ensure drives and data are all mapped based on how each staff person works – all while all 50 employees continue to work.

Launch date: Once all data is transferred and systems are validated, a launch date is set. That’s when the team stops working—for a few hours. In our case of the mid-sized business, a team would stop work at the end of a business day so that day’s data can be imported to the cloud-based server with backups performed for the launch day. When staff go to work the next day, instead of using a desktop to link to the on-site server, they simply click a cloud-launch icon, and login to the cloud. Their computer desktop pops up. And it looks and works exactly the same as it did at 5 p.m. the day before. Back to work.

Launch support: The learning curve for IT-based systems is click, login and go to work. Still, expect an IT services firm to stay onsite launch day to help employees with sign on glitches and answer questions. On occasion a device might need help talking to the cloud. Usually by lunch time, staff is set.

Seeing and touching an onsite server feels safe. Yet moving the cloud really means minimal disruption, no capital expenditures with continued compliance and control. So, it makes sense why eight out of 10 businesses will make the shift in the next few years.

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