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Our general manager, Noah Boudreaux, shared his tips on how to think about the cloud for business as we move into 2021. His article was featured in Forbes, the first of many as he’s a contributing member to the Forbes Technology Council, and we’d also like to share the article with you here. Here it is in its entirety:

As we evolve our expectations regarding our current-day tech culture, “the cloud” is a term used by tech and nontech communities alike. Hearing the boomer and Gen Z generations both speak fluently about a concept that felt far-reaching not so long ago is a true testament to the accelerated pace our technology sector is experiencing. In the eyes of the consumer, the ability to back up to and access the cloud has become a must-have add-on to any of our gadgets. Storing pictures, music and documents has become the norm.

As we observe explosive cloud growth, I remain intrigued by business leaders who are still uncomfortable with the concept of cloud-based storage for their organizations. I think this mostly occurs when the options for cloud usage become overwhelming, intimidating or both.

To demystify the cloud, I’ll share my thoughts on four major mindset changes needed for cloud adoption.

1. Flexibility

The dynamic and scalable nature of a cloud system is undoubtedly one of its key value propositions. Organizations can drastically reduce the amount of time and capital spent on infrastructure planning.

Another popular way of looking at modern cloud-based storage is as an extension of the infrastructure. Perhaps certain applications warrant staying out of the cloud. That doesn’t mean your business shouldn’t consider adopting a hybrid approach, leveraging both on-premises and cloud systems simultaneously. In fact, the options to scale applications to various cloud-based solutions, data centers and on-premises facilities are broad enough to accommodate the most stringent of requirements.

Additionally, organizations are increasingly using cloud systems as a replacement strategy for legacy or unsupported hardware. Avoiding capex cycles by migrating one or more systems from on-premises to cloud-based is an excellent example of a phased cloud strategy. It’s never an all-or-nothing scenario with cloud — it’s a right-fit, right-time solution.

2. The Network

It starts and stops with the network. While running infrastructure on-premises, the network topology outside an organization’s four walls is less pressing. When moving to the cloud, these aspects are critical to ensure performance, stability and availability of business applications. The options in today’s network ecosystem are flexible and affordable. These are the criteria to evaluate:

• Redundancy: Ensure each location that requires access to the infrastructure has multiple paths to get there, duplicating providers and circuit types for maximum resilience. For instance, an internet provider and point-to-point circuit can provide both performance and redundant connection options to allow an always-on network path to your data.

• Security: Be sure the entry points to and from any of your locations are secured with proper firewalls to block unwanted traffic. Build VPN tunnels to encrypt your data in transit and leverage two-factor authentication.

• Latency: Network performance issues can kill an otherwise solid cloud deployment. It’s critical to manage the latency of the network with a few key items.

• Ensure cloud data is as close to your users as possible. In a cloud environment, that data’s location could be in the next city or another state, so avoid costly internet hops between multiple carriers to get from point A to point B.

• Leverage “thin client” solutions such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. These solutions minimize the data that needs to travel across the network by keeping most of the user interface in the cloud.

• Understand how business applications communicate. If your line of business application integrates with another local system as a point of integration, you’ll need to consider that when you port it over to the cloud. Not doing so will force the application to constantly reach across the network to send and receive data. This can result in subpar performance and user experience.

3. Cybersecurity And Compliance

If there is one common theme that every business is aware of nowadays, it’s the pressure of an always-looming cybersecurity breach. The interesting part about this from a business perspective is that many stakeholders believe their data to be safer if they keep it out of the cloud. The reality is quite the contrary. Not to say that cloud systems are bulletproof, but mature cloud providers commonly go to great lengths to protect the data they store. Cloud security systems are scalable and can offer advanced protection at an affordable cost.

Just as important, if not more so, are the cybersecurity experts who monitor cloud environments 24/7. While a technical defense can go a long way, the know-how that teams bring to the table to actively and intelligently deal with any issues that arise is a vital part of the equation. Those talent resources are scarce to most small to midsize businesses. Cloud providers typically staff these resources to act as an extension of their customer’s cyber team.

Cybersecurity has become a primary component of most compliance frameworks. For businesses that operate under compliance policies, cloud-based solutions often have the upper hand. If your business needs agility and speed to adopt new technical compliance requirements, you may be closer to needing the cloud than you think.

4. Total Costs Of Ownership (TCO)

Ultimately, cloud usability comes down to economics — with the actual cost and net new value realized by the capabilities the technology can offer. For many companies, it’s a no-brainer when you factor in the additional capital and support burdens that accompany a traditional infrastructure.

While the cloud’s TCO can get complicated, one area proving to be a good indicator of potential cloud success is the organizational culture. A culture can separate adopters from advocates. A cloud culture will invest the time needed to adapt to the change and embrace the flexibility and power current cloud-based capabilities offer.

In the journey of business, choices are made to address short-term needs and long-term goals. Vast options in the world of technology will continue to broaden and leave businesses with even more choices and complexities. Using these techniques when evaluating cloud-based options for your business will get you closer to making a sound choice.

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