Cloud computing has seen incredible steps forward in the last 10 years – and unsurprisingly, that means the adoption rates within small to medium sized industries has soared.

However, like all aspects of IT, cloud computing doesn’t stand-still – and understanding how to leverage the technology for maximum effect is often outside the knowledge based of company owners and decision makers whose expertise lays predominantly in other fields.

We’ll take you through 6 of the most important tips that small businesses should consider when implementing and working with cloud-based IT tech, from security and backups to collaboration and recruitment…

Encourage collaboration

Cloud networking has had a fascinating impact on people’s ability to truly collaborate with one another.

Here’s an interesting fact:

Large companies report that the effectiveness and productivity that comes as a result of collaborating over the cloud far surpasses anything that was seen when workers sat at desks close to one another and shared documents in a more rudimentary fashion. If you’ve been in a workplace that duplicates spreadsheets before adding to them, renaming them then recirculating them, you’ll know exactly how frustrating this can be!

So, the teamwork is strong when you’re not sitting with your team it would appear.

With this in mind, you should be encouraging your team to fully buy-in to these new collaboration tools. Whether you’re simply file-sharing using an service like DropBox, Google’s G-Suite or Microsoft’s 365 range of products – or working hand-in-hand on complex projects in specialist software, it turns out that we get more done when we’re digitally together.

Always be thinking about security

The cloud offers a huge array of benefits – but security isn’t touted as being one of those things. That’s not to say that the cloud is a big risk – the companies who are providing the services are huge and highly reputable in most cases, but be careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

In many instances, technology isn’t to blame when things go wrong with the cloud – for every genuine ‘hack’ there’s likely to be 1,000 instances of human error – whether that’s lost files, poor passwords or other risky online behaviour.

As such, you should start by implementing strong policies and procedures around your employees access to cloud based resources.

Of course, data security isn’t just limited to protecting against those with malicious intent – there are countless more instances of file loss or file corruption that don’t get the same kind of coverage that a ‘hack’ does – so you also need to think about backing up.

Backing up cloud-based services and data might seem counterintuitive, after all, isn’t that what the cloud is really?

Well, no. Although some applications allow for it, the cloud isn’t a back-up service – and as such, you should be in the habit of backing up anything that’s mission critical to a robust storage server that’s maintained in accordance with the value of the data that’s on there.

Make sure your network is designed with cloud in mind

If you’re accessing one or more cloud-based applications then you’ll realise your business’s ability to perform now depends on a service that’s delivered over your network. If things get slow, so does productivity.

Taking an existing network and adding in a couple of services that are delivered via the cloud just isn’t prudent.

Your network should be configured so important cloud-based applications see priority over less mission-critical services. Proper network design means that crucial applications can be prioritised over lower priority systems.

There are a variety of networking solutions that will help you to achieve this – but be careful when navigating the world of SD WAN and MPLS technology – what’s right for you is going to depend on the network infrastructure you currently have and what you’re hoping to achieve from your cloud-based systems.

Be careful with BYOD

There’s a fashion at the moment that sees businesses letting staff members bring their own devices to work on in the office, from laptops to smartphones and tablets.

While this obviously has some cost benefits for you – you need to be certain that anything joining your network meets with the appropriate security levels for your business – as security is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

Make it absolutely clear that personal devices must have your network security measures in place.

You should also be aware of the fact that these machines leave your building every night – potentially carrying sensitive data with them when they do. When they arrive home, they’re plugged join less secure networks – thus exposing you again. You should have robust policies in place that ensure nothing sensitive leaves your workplace.

Look for international talent

Cloud-based networking technology gives you an incredible opportunity to expand your team with a global scope.

Looking locally for a team member who’s going to pull up a chair in your office might product some excellent candidates – but unless you’re city based – you might well draw a blank.

Some of the biggest tech companies in the world employ people from the four corners of the globe on a work-from-home basis – and with proven increases in productivity (and, as we know already know, collaboration) it makes sense to cast your net more widely.

If your people bring their own devices to work – there’s no reason why your network couldn’t extend internationally to allow people to do the same on the other side of the planet if they’ve got the skills you’re looking for.

Limit access where needed

Cloud storage is convenient and versatile – but adopting ‘the cloud’ doesn’t mean you have to provide a free pass for everyone in your organisation to access your files.

In fact, it’s important that you don’t, from day 1.

Configuring your cloud-based applications so information is access only as and when needed prevents exposure to human error, vulnerability to misuse. Fortunately, the majority of cloud-based applications allow you to do this simply, sharing your information with just the people who you need to work alongside you on the project.