Is SMB ready for the Cloud?

2015 will be a big year for Microsoft and for the small-and-medium businesses who rely on their products. Back in July, 2012, Microsoft announced the end of development of their hugely popular Small Business Server, much to the chagrin of many of the SMB faithful who relied on this stalwart that has long-dominated in companies with fewer than 100 employees.

This year, Windows Server 2003 will be end-of-life, meaning that Microsoft will discontinue support for the platform, leaving behind tech support and security updates. This has left IT managers and Value Added Resellers (VARs) scrambling for solutions to modernize, and do it quickly. However, the array of options can be a confusing mess for a market segment that has yet to make the leap to the cloud for many of its key services.

Microsoft Office 365, the heir apparent for Microsoft loyalists, will likely win over small businesses looking to introduce as little change as possible in the user experience. For those businesses who prioritize user comfort, Office 365 will offer an easy transition provided that SMB doesn’t balk at paying for SaaS (software as a service) subscriptions.

But Microsoft is far from the only game in town. Many SMBs are moving to Google Apps, which offers a competitive suite that many users are now familiar with thanks to the prevalence of Gmail, starting with personal accounts. While the end-user experience is not as polished, Google Apps provide a cost-effective, viable alternative to what’s coming out of Redmond, Washington these days.

Whether your organization is looking at Microsoft, Google or another cloud provider, there are some questions to consider when deciding what to do next.

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Are you ready for the cloud?

While this may sound like a philosophical question, it’s really not. There are some very concrete things to consider before making the leap to cloud services. Here are the top 3 things to consider:

  1. Can your Internet connection handle it? If you’re not already doing so, start monitoring your network to watch for traffic spikes and find bottlenecks. These issues will only be exacerbated once you start relying on offsite resources. You should also consider a backup Internet connection with WAN failover or balancing to make sure you have uninterrupted access in the event of an outage.
  2. Can your firewall, routers and switches handle it? If you’re running ancient products at the gateway, you open your users and your network up to security headaches in addition to performance roadblocks. Now’s the time to take inventory. It might also be a good time to look at upgrading your use of VPNs for remote workers or offering wifi via a captive portal for any mobile users.
  3. Can your users handle it? This question may surprise you, but it’s important to consider. If you’ve had an environment where Internet access has been very limited for your users, you’ll need to put network policy changes in place to give your users the access they need to get work done in the cloud. But how do you keep employees from running amok? You’ll need newer, tighter controls about who can access what when on the Internet to keep your network safe from inappropriate content, malware, illegal downloads, time-wasting distractions and productivity drains.

Untangle’s NG Firewall is specifically designed for the needs of SMB and can help ensure that your cloud strategy is complete. NG Firewall is a single-appliance solution for ensuring the network security, data privacy and bandwidth management that are mandatory for a successful cloud deployment. Contact us today for more information.

– Amy