Let me be clear: I don’t recommend moving your business to the cloud in a single day. However, if you’re in a bind, it’s possible. With a lot of planning and organisation, your business won't miss a beat.
The absolute best day to move your data to the cloud is January 1. Many accounting cycles end on December 31, so you can start the new year fresh, without the added hassles of a mid-year transition. Accounting systems are the most difficult to get up and running on the cloud, so you’re wise to make use of this natural break. In addition, there’s not a whole lot going on, aside from some hangover recovery, so you'll have a slow day to ease into your transition.
Pick a date and prepare
Your first step is to inventory all the applications and programs you use and divide them into three categories: apps you use daily, ones you use monthly, and apps that you use infrequently, or only for special purposes. These categories will help you determine how to transition your apps.
For applications you use daily — things like word processing, accounting, phone services — you’ll want to directly port your information, and if that’s not possible, you’ll want to find a full replacement. Any replacement will have differences in functionality, and you’ll want to figure out all those differences ahead of time, so you’ll know what you need to adjust. Apps you use monthly can be handled by finding a cloud-based replacement and transferring your data to it. Special use apps are likely best handled by staying local rather than spending time and money finding a cloud-based alternative. There’s no sense spending additional money transitioning to the cloud for functions that are rarely used.
Test and train
Pick your test group and start trials. Your test group should be comprised of your power users, rather than your tech team. You want to know that the people who will actually be using the technology can function, beginning with phony, test transactions and tasks before moving on to real transactions and tasks. These test users will help you identify trouble spots, either with the cloud solution or with training needs for your staff.
Roll out the apps to groups of your staff, led by a trainer from your test group. Your test group can function as part of the support staff for the folks learning the new applications.
If possible, run parallel for a few weeks. Yes, running parallel — on both the old applications and the new, cloud-based ones — will require double the work, but it will also help you transition through any difficulties you may encounter, and the old system will serve as a backup in case of any catastrophic problems.
Plan for the worst
Finally, you’ll need to anticipate and plan responses to problems and emergency situations. You might think that I’m being overly cautious here, but let me tell you, when Hurricane Sandy made both my office and my home uninhabitable, I moved into an emergency shelter, and my business didn’t miss a beat. Many of my clients never knew that I was taking phone calls and sending proposals from a cot using a laptop and a charger on a shared extension cord. They didn’t need to know that I’d tested my cloud-based components and that every member of my team knew that we could do business without an office. Expect the bumps and bruises and develop your contingency plans.
You may be thinking that of these steps sound like an awful lot of work, and you may wonder if the transition to the cloud can possibly be worth it. The answer is unequivocally yes. The cloud will offer you flexibility, portability and functionality that you’ve only dreamed of, and it won’t be long before you’re wondering how you managed to live without it. The cloud isn’t a trend. It’s not going away. Your very best bet is to make the plan and dive in.
This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, an online community providing small business owners with information and advice to help them do more business.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.