Small Businesses: How to Migrate Years' Worth of Data With Ease



  • Designating low, medium and high-risk documents can help SMBs make transferring files to the cloud more efficient
  • SMBs are discovering the significant cost and security savings associated with hybrid cloud tech

For small and medium-sized businesses, finding the right mix of data storage can ensure safety and cut costs

Sure, storing company data in the cloud sounds great. It makes collaboration easy, offers remote access to files and lowers IT costs. But it also means big time stress for a lot of small and medium-sized businesses when it comes to data security and storage options.

“The cloud is scary for a lot of people," says Jen Cohen Crompton, who relies heavily on cloud services for her Philadelphia-based marketing firm, Something Creative, and her gym, Fuel Cycle Fitness.

Small businesses worry about how to move years of documents—all those receipts, tax returns, marketing collateral, employee data, etc.—to the cloud. It's not always clear what data should go where or how to migrate it. If it's sitting out on a public cloud server, is it even safe?

Cloud fears are not unwarranted. Cyberattacks on cloud deployments jumped 45 percent last year, according to AlertLogic's 2015 Cloud Security Report. At risk? Data like health information, trade secrets and intellectual property. More recently, hackers have stung a string of hospitals across the nation with ransomware attacks, extorting thousands of dollars in exchange for removing viruses that block access to digital health records.

There's good news for SMBs that may be concerned about security, though. Cloud storage doesn't have to be an all or nothing game. Most businesses benefit from a healthy blend of storing some information in the public cloud and their most crucial data on private servers. Research firm Gartner predicts about half of all companies will use a hybrid cloud model by the end of 2017.

So what information should be stored in the public cloud and what should be private? A good rule of thumb is to categorize business data before beginning migration. Vineet Jain, CEO of cloud storage company Egnyte, suggests dividing it up like a stoplight: green, yellow and red.

Green data refers to non-sensitive information such as sales and marketing collateral that can be stored with public cloud providers. Yellow refers to information that could be stored locally with copies in the cloud. And red data is all the really sensitive information such as health records, trade secrets, financial information or social security numbers that should be kept on private servers behind your own firewall. That's especially true if a company wants to protect data in case of a network failure or, as in the case of hospitals and law firms, for regulatory compliance reasons.

“Every company, regardless of size, has their own unique mix of cloud," says Bobby Patrick, CMO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s cloud business. “No matter what public to private cloud ratio a company requires, a hybrid cloud model will, on average, save a business 30 percent in costs over traditional IT,” Patrick says.

Small businesses can now choose among a larger number of cloud services that provide hybrid options—and often include extra IT support and greater security. Instead of large capital outlays to buy more servers and hire IT staff to manage them, SMBs can press a button for more hybrid storage space.

Crompton, for one, says she spends $250 per month on a mix of public and private cloud storage. She recommends small businesses move gradually to determine what their mix should be. “You've got to do it in baby steps but once you do, a hybrid cloud model can be cost effective," she says.

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