create_a_cloud_computingAs with many technology issues, the question that often goes unanswered is where to begin. Often, companies feel the need to jump into the middle of the latest competitively essential technologies without having a clear starting point or plan in mind. In most cases, this is not through any fault of their own; it occurs because of understaffing or budget priorities. Cloud computing falls into this category.

Virtually everywhere you go where the conversation turns to technology, the subject of cloud computing is brought up. What cloud computing is and how it can benefit your business is obvious to IT professionals. What is not so obvious is how a coherent strategy can be developed to implement it into a business given the problems of budget limitations and tech people stretched to their limits with the existing workload.

Creating a simple and practical cloud computing strategy does require some thought, but it not an unreachable goal. It does require a foundation of elements that you can use to build the future of your cloud computing strategy. Consider using the acronym SOBER to develop yours.

Security—Anything that speaks of cloud storage and data will hear the loud voice of security. With major storage providers such as AT&T, Google, and IBM having been in the mix for years, available security solutions are both inexpensive and reliable.

Open Source—This part of the total cloud solution is based on making do with restrictive IT budgets. Office applications that can do much of the in-house muscle work are open source, such as Google Apps. Not only are many solutions free, but they are also compatible with the major software vendor file formats such Microsoft Office.

Backup Strategy—The first priority of any data-critical technology is developing a viable backup and recovery plan in case of a disaster. When dealing with the cloud, two critical considerations are security and cost. Small and large companies can find cloud computing solutions that satisfy both these needs without compromising either. When considering cost, you could consider what the value of your data is in the event of a disaster.

Email—Mobile technology has created a background demand for executives and employees to have access to information 24/7. Part of this is email, which contains essential information to schedule meetings or review exchanges away from the office. Cloud computing solutions often integrate email in their service package, making it unnecessary to have a separate email application while providing the required access.

Round Tables—Also known as web conferences, the technology has been around for decades. With the cloud, the variety of services has increased, and by adding VoIP, you can maximize the use of your cloud computing services.

These are the basic considerations necessary to start honing a cloud strategy for your business. One rule of thumb you can apply is to avoid doing the opposite of jumping into the middle, which is doing nothing and hoping things will come together as time passes. As you begin to build your strategy, keep in mind that it will require tweaks and that no practical end point will ever be reached. The process is ongoing, and like any building, will require regular maintenance and care.

After getting a good start, use your industry-specific business network to find out what others are doing with cloud computing. This will give you a good sense of where you are with your cloud computing environment and where your competition stands. Then, step back to look at the big picture of your business plan and how it is supported by your cloud computing strategy.

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