TElogotype3_TE_horiz_fullThis week’s post is a guest post from Brent Roye. Roye is the Co-Owner of TechEdge Services, a Custom IT Services company based out of The Woodlands, TX. He has over 10 years of IT experience across many different industries. Follow TechEdge Services on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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The Cloud is something we associate with storing our movies, music, photos, and more to free up space and to quickly locate.

But what does it really mean for a business to use the Cloud?

The Cloud was built with business in mind and it can be whatever a business needs it to be. More and more companies today are turning to the Cloud to solve their problems—from SaaS solutions, virtual infrastructures, hosted email, hosted phone systems or simple file backup and syncing for small businesses. The Cloud is changing the way businesses are looking at technology and using it to their advantage instead of considering it a cost center.

The fleet industry is an interesting business model because it is always changing regulations, types of service or simply growing internally. Fleet operators constantly rely on bulky, old systems that were not built to keep up with industry changes. Today, we see more companies in the fleet industry considering Cloud solutions to keep up with the growing industry and comply with ever-changing regulations.

When it comes to the Cloud, keep these four things in mind before implementing a solution.

  1. Security – The main concern companies have about the Cloud is security. Your files and company data are on another company’s computer system. I am often asked: “What if my Cloud provider gets hacked; how is my data safe?” Cloud vendors must abide by strict information technology compliance regulations. PCI, SOX, and HIPPA are a couple of the larger compliance models Cloud providers follow, and most data is encrypted with at least AES 256 encryption, or the Advanced Encryption Standard established in 2001 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. The standards protect your data from being read while in transit to your Cloud provider. Putting data in the Cloud should not be a feared change, simply one you should understand.

  2. Cost – There’s always a cost associated with new solutions. Think about every system, standard, and piece of equipment plus the time and resources needed to implement your in-house systems: it is a large upfront cost.

    In contrast, a SaaS Solution will have a monthly cost, but without the upfront investment. The system can be brought up in a couple of hours to days and have the same compliance standards as stated above. SaaS solutions are also Internet-based, so not only can you be anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, you can access that same system on any device (mobile, tablets, etc.). You will also have a secure connection for your employees to upload data from anywhere they have Internet access and on any device without having to complicate their lives accessing the internal network over VPN.

    Some SaaS solutions for the Fleet industry include GPS fleet management. Bringing this solution to the Cloud allows companies a greater range of keeping track their fleet, drivers, and products from anywhere in the world. It also cuts down on the amount of time, resources, and infrastructure needed to be able to run a system of this size from on-site. Field service management is another system that is being migrated to the Cloud within the fleet industry. Along with the GPS management, aspects of your field services can be integrated into the Cloud: All scheduling, dispatching, invoicing/quotes, and in some instances accounting integration. This one-two combo can give you the reporting you need in a cheaper, more efficient package right out of the box and in a fraction of the time.

  3. Mobile Access – Mobile access into company data is a growing trend among companies that have employees in the field. Employees want an easy way to access their workload for the day, or just simply check their work email. Companies, on the other hand, want to make sure that their data is safe. As BYOD (bring your own device) grows, so do the concerns with malware and viruses from mobile devices.

    How do companies secure a device that isn’t theirs?

    Companies are turning to MDM (Mobile Device Management) to help on this front. MDM allows a company to separate corporate data from personal data on an employee’s device. It secures and encrypts what the company wants encrypted and leaves the rest of the phone alone. MDM software allows a company to get as granular as they would like by allowing only approved apps, like a secure browser, document sharing and email security. It’s a gray line, but one that needs to be in place if businesses are to allow employees to bring their own devices.

  4. Outages – If your company faces an outage and your equipment and software is on-site, you are down. Did you know that the average downtime cost is around $5,600 per minute, according to a recent study by the Gartner Network? Access to your files and software during a disruption is key to a business’s success. A question I ask clients is: “How long can you operate during an outage?” While Cloud providers have a 99.999% uptime availability, things do happen and they can go down, too. The difference, though, is that Cloud datacenters are everywhere. If one goes down, they direct you to another site that has all of your updated data and software services, as if nothing happened, and with only a minor interruption to you and your customers.

For some processes, the Cloud is great, but certain systems and services should always be on-site. Having a good mix of Cloud services and in-house systems easily balances the dependence on one area. You do not want your business to rely 100% on in-house or Cloud equipment/services. Research and understanding is the key to choosing the best route for your business. ROI and cost are great, but neither should be at the forefront of a decision of moving to the Cloud or not. Security, SLA, and Customer Service are the three items to look for in a Cloud vendor.