Start with email, save files for later.
When small businesses look to move to the cloud there is a common misconception that they – like the Microsoft cloud motto – must be “all in” and move all their applications and data to the cloud.
This is absolutely not true and is unfortunately also a misconception purported by some IT companies who are against their customers using cloud services.
While cloud solutions like Office 365 are quite rounded and can provide SMBs with almost all business functionality they need in the cloud it may not be a complete fit for all organisations.
Take for example my company, Paradyne. Not only do we advocate and implement cloud solutions on a daily basis, we also work mostly in the cloud ourselves. However, due to intricacies I won’t go into here, our service management platform does not integrate with any cloud accounting packages – and so currently we run an on-premise virtual PC to run our finances.
This data is backed up to the cloud so we are not at risk of any data loss. And believe me – I am continually looking for ways to move our accounting to the cloud with solutions such as Xero.
SMBs who are beginning their journey to the cloud don’t need to move all their processes to the cloud in one swoop, especially for risk-averse organisations.
Moving systems like email to the cloud is a no-brainer as there is rarely a need for SMBs to retain this on-premise. Picking up the video and voice-conferencing system Lync Online (it’s part of Office 365) is also a no-brainer as SMBs generally won’t have this functionality on-premise already and it’s too cost-prohibitive to implement.
So perhaps your organisation is not ready to move your files to SharePoint Online yet, or you have a specific need to keep them on-premise. What do you do?
If your organisation is running Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (SBS) then you can use the Office 365 Connector which manages your network and cloud environment. You can keep your files in your office while making the most of the other Office 365 applications without needing to be an IT expert to do it.
For those who aren’t running SBS what are your options? Depending which plan of Office 365 you have chosen you may be able to implement Directory Synchronisation to replicate your user and group listing between your on-premise Active Directory and Office 365 environments. There are also third-party solutions to synchronise your passwords between the two environments as well.
Many of our customers use SharePoint for their intranet solution while keeping their files on a server. As I’ve said previously, SharePoint is not just a file system.
There is no reason why SMBs need to move all into the cloud if they are not comfortable yet. The option is there, but the power is in your hands to define how high you fly into the clouds.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.