Integrated Cloud Solutions

Businesses in virtually every industry need to constantly seek leaner and faster solutions in order to succeed. Integrated cloud solutions are at the forefront of the evolution of data and applications, offering benefits such as increased flexibility, better scalability and improved access to information.

integrated Because cloud integration breaks down data silos and bolsters connectivity, it’s easier to share data across various applications or unify data from disparate sources into a single location. It’s clear that implementing integrated cloud solutions can be a great boon, but how do you begin the process? Here’s what you should know if you’re interested in achieving cloud integration within your company.

Main Types of Cloud Integration

There are two main types of cloud integration: data integration and application integration. Or, you could employ some combination of the two. Let’s take a look at the options:

  • Data Integration: Here, the goal is to share or unify data across various repositories where data is stored. The data integration process allows you to transport and transform data in order to unearth valuable business insights using Predictive Analytics (PA). Cloud data integration gives companies more options in terms of how to leverage their data since businesses can access data from their various teams in one place.
  • Application Integration: This involves connecting two or more applications and allowing them to share their functionalities and operations. Unlike data integration, application integration issues requests and commands that lead to improved business processes. In application integration, a company can combine its supply chain management tools with its customer relationship management systems in order to streamline operations. Application integration makes it easy for businesses to share data with the goal of automating processes.

Companies that offer logistics and delivery services may be better suited for cloud data integration to determine how to get a product from one location to another with the least amount of hassle. Financial and education companies may benefit more from cloud application integration to more easily unify various tools for managing client or student accounts.

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Benefits of Integrated Cloud Solutions

Cloud integration offers a slew of benefits to businesses that choose to take the plunge, including:

  • Keeping Company Information Up-to-Date: Moving applications to the cloud allows them to synchronize with each other, making sure that users can always find the most recent data. If a user makes a change on one application or dataset, this change is reflected in other applications or datasets immediately.
  • Automating Operations: Cloud integration automates a number of manual operations while increasing their accuracy. For example, cloud integration could automate the process of integrating new employee payrolls, updating tax records and creating new email accounts. This saves time for employees and increases the efficiency of interactions between datasets or applications.
  • Cutting Costs: With cloud integration, businesses can cut costs and focus on more customer-centric work. Most companies spend a fortune to keep their operations running smoothly with a team of workers tasked with ensuring that all software runs smoothly. However, cloud integration tightly integrates a company’s processes so it takes less middleware and talent to manage it.
  • Scalability:  Cloud integration makes it easy to scale up or down, depending on a company’s requirements. This means a company can buy as much or as little cloud bandwidth based on customer demand and easily make adjustments as needed.

By leveraging integrated cloud solutions, your business will be able to keep up with the competition or even surpass competitors who have failed to upgrade their systems.

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The Cloud Integration Process

The cloud integration process varies from business to business, as the right development team will tailor the process to your specific needs. However, there are various requirements that the cloud integration process typically includes.

First, your company will have to find the right connectivity protocols and techniques to fit your business requirements. This means you will need to find a way to connect applications and data in a fast and easy manner that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Talk about this with your developer, as they can help you find the best solution for your goals.

It is also necessary for your business to transform the format of its data and applications into one that fits that of the cloud environment you will be implementing. For example, when you migrate customer information, it’s important to know whether a customer ID number is numeric or has alpha characters. Once you know this, you can properly determine how to transform the ID number in a way that is consistent across various applications.

You will also need to create a service-level agreement (SLA) that supports the new, combined environment. Such an SLA should consider security, governance, performance and management of your cloud environment.

Implementing good information governance

Information governance is much more than compliance and should not be used interchangeably. It is the strategy behind the entire information lifecycle, including effective management of information’s authority, control, accessibility, and visibility. Furthermore, information governance can bring much greater value to organisations as it has the potential to uncover business opportunities and protect them from security threats. Businesses should see compliance as the end goal and information governance as the way to achieve it.

governance

Answering these simple questions helps you on your path to good information governance:

  • Do you know how your employees are working and what applications they use?
    • Do you know where your business’ information is being stored?
    • Do you know if you have full control of your business information?

How would you answer that last question? Unfortunately, most organisations would answer ‘no’. A recent Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) study found two-thirds of organisations had some level of information governance policy in place but nearly one-third admitted that their inferior electronic records kept causing problems with regulators and auditors. So what are the hurdles and how can they be overcome?

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There are common pitfalls

Poor information governance varies from the unfortunate to the catastrophic. At worst, hackers get a hold of sensitive information. At best, out-of-date information may be used and then commitments have to be honoured based on this inaccurate information. While in between is a range of incidents of information mismanagement and examples of employees using unsanctioned tools, all of which can be prevented.

One great example is email. Its very nature puts valuable information at risk on an hourly basis. Potentially confidential information contained within an email is frighteningly susceptible to interception and vulnerable to security threats. Yet countless employees use email as a method for sharing sensitive information. But worse still employees use both approved work email accounts and unsanctioned private email accounts. A recent Alfresco survey found that over half (54 per cent) of end users have turned to their private email for work, most likely due to the limitation of enterprise email.

Many knowledge workers have turned to consumer solutions to provide collaboration and access capabilities not enabled within the enterprise. None of these applications are approved or controlled by corporate IT. These ‘Shadow IT’ solutions can pose a serious security risk for organisations, leading to information leaks from unsecure practices and the failure of compliance regulations.

Another critical challenge is implementing policies for the use of other tools such as instant messaging and social media. This is born out by the results of a recent AIIM study that highlighted that less than 15 per cent of organisations included social postings in their information governance policies. While some conversations are essential to business growth, 37 per cent of respondents agreed that there are important social interactions that are not being saved or archived due to a lack of information governance.

Rather than being a one off catch up activity done at year end, information governance should be an on-going, critical initiative that runs throughout the year

Good information governance can be achieved

A lot of organisations have a focus on compliance, management, and security controls in place, but what is really required is information governance. Here are some simple steps organisations can take:

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Audit

Understand the range of information you have and how it needs to be managed and where it is currently being stored.

Prioritise

Rank your information and the associated processes to assess the level of risk: compliance risk, regulatory risk, and reputational risk. For ease consolidate this to a minimum.

Define

Policies need to be decided. What needs to be kept, for what purpose, which employees need access, and for how long? The information should be stored where it can be most effectively used, while also addressing business objectives and risks.

Clean

Once these protocols are set, there should be regular checks of what information is maintained. Archiving or deleting content once it has outlived its useful life should be encouraged. Pruning old data will reduce storage costs and the associated management costs.

Control

Keep Shadow IT in check. Where you can restrict access to unsanctioned tools and stop employees using personal accounts for business.

Create

Most importantly, develop an information management system with people at the heart of it. Implementing tools to support your employees – ones they find easy to use – so that they will, indeed, use them.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Organisations may focus on compliance, management, and security controls, when information governance is needed”]

Following these steps will enable organisations to take information in any format; analyse what needs to be preserved and protected, and delete what is unwanted. Content can now be easily sorted and managed, access and monitoring controls can be easily implemented where needed. Being able to say you know how your employees are working, where your information is being stored and that you have full control of that information will lead to a boost in efficiency and productivity.