Over the past year, many of my clients have accelerated the shift from in-house hardware and software to Cloud-based services. This has caused many changes in our daily business lives, the first of which was the shifting of IT dollars from replacement projects every 5-years, to ongoing monthly service charges. Additionally, now that computers are no longer in the office, we must grapple with how we keep the systems standardized and maintained.

Home users naturally conflate business-time and personal-time. We may also conflate business-use and personal-use.  The impact of this is that some of your company data may be located in personal Dropbox accounts, OneDrive folders, and Google Docs, and shared with who knows who?  If one of your employees leaves, how will you ensure you have all your data back? How will you ensure it doesn’t get leaked inappropriately?  In the meantime, your company has most likely started using many new services which were setup on the fly, and without any strategy or planning. Do you have a backup plan for all this ‘stuff’?

I’ll keep this brief, but I highly recommend everyone go back and do some of the planning and strategizing which may have been skipped over in the rush to enable employees to work from home last year.

1. Inventory. Take the time to do one-on-one inventory interviews with each employee to discover what you have and where.

2. Consolidate. Assemble all the inventory information and make a plan to consolidate your data and services, however you can. Standardize the way you treat each problem.  Since OneDrive, DropBox, Box, Amazon C3 and Google Drive are all doing the same thing, pick one and make it the official Cloud drive for your organization. Get your employees to distinguish company-related data held in personal accounts, and shift it over to company-owned accounts. Direct your employees to stop using personal email for business purposes.

3. Centralize. Get all the accounts with company data under your control and convert them to Team accounts, if that is possible. Setup an onsite NAS backup system with the ability to sync-down all your Cloud data. Get a company-owned and managed laptop into the hands of every employee. Consider getting company issued phones. There may be automated software plug-ins available which could consolidate accounts from multiple cloud services into one service.

4. Secure. Setup multi-factor authentication for email, and for every fiscal account, as well as every account with Personally Identifiable Information. Get a team-based password management system and train everyone how to use it.  Password management systems allow you to generate and save easy-to-use passwords for every website. The team feature will allow you to maintain the passwords which employees are using on your company’s behalf, even after an employee leaves the organization. At the same time, it will help prevent your employee’s personal passwords from falling into your own hands – which is a stickier legal issue than you might imagine at first.

5. Policies. Create written policies to govern and explain your decisions. Review these annually.

6. Training. Create a quarterly training schedule for all employees along with a certain allowance of time for individualized training to ensure that you stay on top of what is being done in your company’s name.

As always, this newsletter is for informational purposes, but I am always available for questions or to discuss any of these tasks, or your cloud strategy in general.