Cloud computing can involve an array of technical solutions from a series of vendors. As we've seen in our earlier blog posts, the cloud encompasses a series of cloud types - such as applications, infrastructure and platforms - across a range of operating models, including private, public, hybrid and serverless.
You might have assumed the cloud is an approach that allows your organisation to save its data online. In its simplest form, that definition isn't far from the truth. Yet it is the subtle difference in types and operating models that allow small firms to create value.
So, you'll have to make sure you have a strong awareness of how the various forms of the cloud can help your business before you start to invest. But getting started in the cloud doesn't have to be a bewildering experience. By taking an open approach to the cloud, your business can flex and change its approach as business requirements alter.
Avoiding vendor lock-in
Picking a cloud provider can be a complex process, with variations in contracts terms and conditions. The key thing to remember is that a move to the cloud must also bring flexibility. Just because you've selected a cloud provider, that shouldn't mean you're tied down forever.
Remember that your demands can quickly change, as can the fortunes of your provider. While the major names in cloud provision have already established a significant presence, you should be wary of providers that cover niche areas of provision, such as document storage, scanning and archiving solutions..
Going with a niche provider can mean your organisation develops a reliance on a provider with limited resources. So, make sure you don't lock yourself into a provider that has not established its market presence.
Taking advantage of interoperability
As a rule of thumb, make sure you pay most attention to the providers that emphasise the importance of openness to the cloud. As well as offering freedom from vendor lock-in, the open cloud should make is easier for your business to take advantage of new, innovative approaches to on-demand IT as they become available.
The cloud should be a platform for change. Your technology decisions in the past might have wedded you to specific hardware, platforms and applications. In the cloud era, it doesn't have to be like that - one of the big bonuses of the cloud should be the ability to take interoperability to a whole new level.
Your small business should be able to add new tools as requirements arise. An open cloud allows you to create services, such as via containers, and to switch those components to whatever cloud platform is most appropriate for the business. Work with a big-name provider that treats open source as an enabler of opportunity.
Spreading your risk
Create an ecosystem of providers that offer tailored expertise but who also hold clout in the marketplace. Then, if market conditions or business requirements change, you can move your data to a new provider without encountering a range of governance hurdles, particularly when it comes to getting hold of your data.
Key here will be application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs are a set of subroutine definitions, protocols and tools for building software. They provide the hooks into systems and services, allowing your small business to build on its existing work and to create iterative improvements in software developments.
Open APIs are crucial because they give your smaller firm every opportunity to take advantage of the agility associated to the cloud. By using open APIs, your business should be able to switch providers quickly and easily. Look to partner with cloud providers who are committed to openness and who support their open philosophy via membership to development communities, initiatives and frameworks.
Conclusion - Openness and the cloud go hand in hand
In many ways, a move to the cloud involves a new state of mind. Gone are the traditional constraints of enterprise IT, where information is held in unconnected stove pipes and collaboration is not the norm. With the cloud, your small business can adopt a new mindset, where openness is the accepted way of working. By adopting open APIs across platforms, your firm can avoid lock-in and move towards a flexible future.