When the concept of cloud computing was first introduced in the early 2000s, companies were unsure what to make of this new technology. Most businesses didn’t even fully understand what the cloud was.

Over the years, cloud services have evolved from primarily raw infrastructure to comprehensive services that can entirely replace on-premise infrastructure like email servers and phone switches.

As the technology continues to mature, you’re probably hearing more and more about the value of the services and solutions that comprise the cloud. Which may be why the research firm Gartner estimates that worldwide spending on public cloud services will reach $210 billion by 2016.

But while you probably want to get on board, it’s extremely likely that you’re unsure where to start. Good news: there are four easy tips that will help you transition your business into the cloud.

Tip 1 – Do your homework to find the right cloud service provider

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Once you know which services you want to move to the cloud—whether it’s your email, your phones, your file server, your web server, your accounting system, or any other software—you’ll want to identify the right cloud provider. While there are many factors to consider during the search process, it’s important to keep these three key components in mind: reliability, integration and control.

The consistent reliability of IT services is crucial for any business

The consistent reliability of IT services is crucial for any business. When your IT is down, your business can incur extremely high costs: employees can’t do their jobs, customers get angry, you lose sales and valuable IT resources are diverted to handle the crisis. Protect your business from these headaches by selecting a provider who offers a 99.999 percent uptime guarantee—which assures less than 30 seconds of unscheduled downtime per month.

Second, integration of cloud services can introduce a host of new support, billing and management complexities. Top notch providers can facilitate an integration experience that allows you to easily transfer user and device settings across multiple services without accruing unnecessary IT management costs.

Finally, controlling and managing your new cloud services should not create an additional burden on your IT team. In fact, it should make IT management more efficient. Selecting a provider with a simple yet powerful control system will help to avoid unnecessary labour costs while increasing your business’ capabilities.

Tip 2 – Audit existing IT systems before making the move

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Many companies make the leap into the cloud without thoroughly evaluating their IT infrastructure. When assessing the move from in-house to a cloud infrastructure, consider the services you already have in place. How can you build around it to maximise efficiencies?

For example—don’t jump into the cloud all at once. Instead, slowly integrate just a few services at a time, and allow time for people to get used to the changes. Also, identify which services and applications make the most sense to move to the cloud, and then start the process with the services that are easiest to integrate, such as email, file sync and share, and messaging.

 Tip 3 – Don’t forget about security!

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Security breaches can be a costly drain on time—to say nothing of the risk to your business, your customers and your competitive advantage.

That’s why you need to look beyond the price tag of a cloud provider. When it comes to protecting your business’ data and resources, features and pricing alone might only reveal a portion of the larger picture you need to make an informed decision. Make sure you demand high standards of security and protection from your cloud provider.

take the time to research the security background of the cloud provider you’re considering before signing the contract

So take the time to research the security background of the cloud provider you’re considering before signing the contract. Be sure to dive deep into the details of the security offered by the cloud providers and stick with companies that work with the best-known names in the security industry. Many providers use lesser-known security tools that provide only partial or minimal protection, so it’s important to do in-depth research of the security procedures.

Tip 4 – Plan for the future: Develop a long-term strategy for cloud success

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Cloud technology must address immediate needs, but a successful cloud strategy should be flexible enough to respond to evolving business needs.

Like other business endeavours, creating a strategic plan and roadmap will help you stay on track while working towards accomplishing your goals. Part of this process should be planning for and identifying future IT needs.

With a deliberate approach to gaining new insights into the technology, matching the right cloud solutions to your business needs, and establishing the right foundation for future growth, you can pave the way to success in the cloud.