Cloud computing: What should organizations move to the cloud?

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. We've decided to move our technology to the cloud; should we put everything in the cloud?

A. You probably shouldn't put everything in the cloud, but moving nothing to the cloud isn't the right answer either. Your best answer probably lies somewhere in between. There are basically four types of technology you should consider moving to the cloud, as follows: email, data, backups, and applications. These types of technologies are discussed below.

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Email.
Because most of us access email using multiple devices and locations, it makes sense for most of us to host IMAP-based email in the cloud. This way, 100% of our email messages, both received and sent, are always available on every device we choose to use and in each location we attempt to access our messages.

Data. It often makes a lot of sense to host your active, shared data files in the cloud, whether they are data files shared by multiple users or data files shared from multiple locations by a single user. However, this rule applies only to your current or active data files; your older, rarely accessed data files from years ago should probably be archived locally. Hosting these older data files in the cloud may create unnecessary file management efforts and may expose older, sensitive data unnecessarily.

Backups. Some terrific cloud-based backup systems are available, and using them to back up your current, active data may make sense. However, these services can be expensive; therefore, your older data files should probably be backed up and archived locally. In many cases, only your current data files, say, for the last one to two years, need to be backed up continuously.

Applications. Many of your applications, such as AutoCAD, Excel, Outlook, Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Word will run much faster when installed on your desktop computer, so running from the cloud often doesn't make much sense. In other cases, some of your applications should almost always be run from the cloud. Among them are time and billing, expense tracking, contact management, task management, and your calendar because these applications not only help you to achieve greater mobility, they also collect real-time ancillary data via the cloud to deliver you the most up-to-date information. For example, stopping to manually retype your contact's new phone numbers and addresses each time they change is not nearly as efficient as using a cloud-based contact management system that updates those data automatically. Still, in other cases, the applications you use may only come in a desktop or online edition, which means you have no choice in the matter — you can either use the supported platform or go shopping for an alternative product. Suffice it to say that the decision to move your applications to the cloud should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Also, keep in mind as you move to the cloud that you never replace technology, you simply add to your technology. So, your servers and backup devices should remain in place after you've upgraded from those devices, to help streamline the transition to your new devices and as a fallback just in case. In many cases, it may be wise to decommission old technology after it hasn't been used for several years.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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