How to get to the cloud: 5 easy steps

Earlier this month, I delivered a keynote at Gartner's annual symposium and published a blog post about the rapidly evolving landscape of business technology. The rise of cloud computing and ubiquitous, powerful mobile devices means that organizations can reduce their IT bills significantly while boosting employees' productivity and collaboration. Moving to the cloud is no longer a questionable proposition -- it's inevitable.

This led some of the organizations I work with to ask: "That all makes sense, but how do we actually get started?"

Good question. Here are five concrete steps you can take to get started:

  1. Start by setting up a Google Apps account for your organization. This will allow you to move your standard productivity and communications work to the cloud: you'll use Gmail for your email (with your own domain, like joe@joescoffeeshop.com); Google Calendar for your calendars; Google Drive to store files; Google Docs to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations; and Hangouts to send instant messages and hold video calls. This will free your staff from spending time maintaining servers and installing upgrades. Google Apps is free to schools and non-profits, and costs $50/person per year for businesses and government agencies.
  2. Move your other standard business applications to cloud-based equivalents. Popular apps include Workday (HR), Salesforce (CRM), Zendesk (customer service), Netsuite (Financials), and Wix or Weebly (websites). More companies are creating and launching cloud-based business applications every day -- check out the Chrome Web Store for more.
  3. Move your custom applications to a cloud infrastructure. Many organizations have built their own custom applications or need to be able to do very specialized programming. Most people use Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. Choose between the first two.
  4. Standardize on a modern browser, ideally Chrome. Chrome is built for speed, simplicity and security -- and of course it’s free. To make sure that you're protected from the latest threats, Chrome automatically updates whenever a new version of the browser is available. You can also use Chrome on all the major desktop and mobile platforms, including Android and iOS, and sync your tabs and bookmarks between different devices. Chrome for Business includes a cloud-based management console, which lets you customize policies and preferences for your employees easily from the web, including which apps and extensions they receive, across their devices.
  5. For hardware, you can now move to a flexible, "bring your own device" policy. Without servers, the only real hardware you need are computers and phones — and a true cloud architecture works well with any operating system: Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, iOS. People can choose the device that suits them, and you can then reimburse their purchases and/or their own personal cell phone and internet bills. If you do decide to supply your staff with computers, consider Chromebooks: they boot up in seconds, have built-in virus protection and are dead simple to deploy and manage.

Lots of companies have already moved to the cloud successfully, from local coffee shops to major corporations with 200,000 employees. For small and mid-size companies, the transition can be made in a matter of days or weeks. For larger companies, who often have custom legacy systems built over many years, the migration may take a few months. In these cases, consider working with experts that specialize in helping companies move to the cloud using all the tools I've mentioned.

The world is moving to the cloud. Now's the time for you to move, too.

This post was originally published on the Google Enterprise blog and is republished with Google's permission.

Eric Schmidt is Executive Chairman of Google.

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