Without question, the cloud is today’s hottest topic in business IT and communications. Most businesses are ready to make the move into the cloud – the hard part is deciding which provider can meet the demands of the modern small and medium sized business (SMB). What’s more, SMBs often don’t know how to take a strategic approach to maximizing the cloud’s value for their businesses. Michael Gold, president of Intermedia, shares five key ideas for SMBs that will help make a transition to the cloud seamless and impactful to their bottom line.

1) Recognize That All Clouds Are Not Created Equal. Most people are familiar with the personal cloud, like Gmail or Apple’s iCloud. These are great services offered for free that are designed to meet the specific needs of individual consumer users. SMBs, too, are significant users of cloud services, and they gain a highly efficient and cost effective way to access the technologies and services that are critical to running a successful business in today’s global environment. When evaluating the various cloud options, it’s important for businesses to understand that all clouds are not created equal. While most clouds are built to optimize costs, not all are built to deliver the specific requirements of businesses.

Five factors that are critical to the success of a business as they move their IT services into the cloud are:

  • Smooth, hassle-free migration
  • Best-in-class security and control
  • Always-on and highly-reliable environment
  • High-quality, 24×7 support
  • A complete and fully-integrated suite of services that can be controlled from a central control panel and work seamlessly with each other

2) Focus on Value, Not on Price. When it comes to business communication and collaboration tools, it is becoming clear that companies get what they pay for. Continued price reductions signal to the business customer that the provider believes that price is all that matters, and service levels and offerings are often indistinguishable; however, that simply should not be the case with cloud-based IT services for business.

With lower prices, businesses inevitably sacrifice important services, such as support, reliability, control and integration. While the quick, cheap and easy approach might seem appealing, it’s not what businesses expect from service providers and not how most would choose to operate their own companies. Also, consider that not all businesses have the same needs and requirements. Rather than a one-size-fits-all commodity solution, SMBs should choose a cloud services provider that is capable of delivering a full suite of professional-grade IT services packaged with the support, integration and reliability businesses expect.

3) Consolidate Vendors for Success. Most businesses are ready to make the move into the cloud – recent IDC cloud research shows that worldwide revenue from public IT cloud will reach $73 billion in 2015. The hard part is deciding which provider can meet the demands of the modern SMB. Dealing with multiple vendors is difficult – support is more challenging, paying multiple bills is a pain, and integrating the services requires extra work if it is even possible. Consolidating all of a business’ cloud services, such as e-mail, messaging, voice, security, back-up and file sharing helps provide easy access not only for employees, but also for remote workers and IT professionals. It’s much easier to work with a single service provider who delivers a one-stop shop for 24×7 support, tightly-integrated services, and easy-to-use, centralized tools to manage services. As businesses evaluate their current cloud providers, or consider moving more services to the cloud, they should ensure their chosen vendor can provide most or all of the business-grade services they need.

4) Strive for Seamless Migration. Selecting a cloud services provider that can handle the migration of business data is critical to an SMB’s initial success. Unlike the consumer cloud, the business cloud relies on the ability of a service provider to move data from its current environment to the cloud. Business services are notoriously complex, and good cloud services providers often have teams of experts who specialize in this process. Small businesses certainly can’t afford to have hiccups in their business critical services (such as email), so carefully choose a provider that specializes in data migration.

5) Keep an Eye on the Future. It’s important to think about the future needs of a business when transitioning to the cloud.. The cloud will play a significant role in accelerating the productivity of tomorrow’s mobile workforce. Innovation and computing power in mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, will only continue to increase year over year. By using the cloud, businesses gain the ability to be at the forefront of this innovation, so it is critical to ensure they select a service provider offering a complete and integrated suite of services, including mobile.

Whether it is email, applications like CRM and accounting, backup, file sharing, development environments, calendars, conferencing and more, the cloud is transforming IT for SMBs. By fully understanding these key ideas, SMBs can successfully make the transition to the cloud and be equipped to handle the business demands of their customers.

Michael Gold is president of Intermedia, leading the organization with a focus on profitably growing the company through an increasingly broader set of cloud services – and a superior experience for customers and partners.