Princeton, N.J./New York, N.Y./Philadelphia – For businesses large and small contemplating an IT infrastructure move to the cloud, the professionals with the Microsoft Solutions & Services Group at WithumSmith+Brown (Withum), PC suggest a “look before you leap” approach to weighing the benefits of this productivity tool and content management solution. The Microsoft Solutions & Services team provides a full range of services that span the digital workplace adoption life cycle, from strategic planning, roadmap and design to migration and integration.

“In today’s digital workplace, seamless, real-time collaboration is essential when considering a cloud-based solution,” said Daniel Cohen-Dumani, partner and Microsoft Cloud Solutions market leader. “Be mindful there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Organizations of different sizes and within various industry sectors have to consider several different factors before adopting the most appropriate tools that will help employees share information and collaborate effectively, regardless of geographical location.”

Withum urges businesses to consider the following five points associated with a move to the cloud:

1. Increased agility and speed

In a competitive environment, timing is everything, and the cloud offers an edge. When using on-premise resources, one of the first priorities is provisioning hardware, which is often costly, disruptive and time-consuming. The cloud, however, offers more rapid, flexible implementations. For example, if the focus is on development, use of the Azure platform could quickly spin up servers and provide access to the development team. Or, if Office 365 and SharePoint Online are being used for content management, new SharePoint sites can be spinned up without worrying about hardware requirements and other internal capabilities.

2. Reduced hardware costs

One of the most obvious advantages of the cloud over on-premises infrastructure is the way it cuts down the expense of purchasing and maintaining hardware, such as physical servers. When assessing the value of a cloud migration, make sure to factor in the hardware savings that result from moving these IT capabilities and resources.

3. Tailored software licensing

Moving to the cloud may offer opportunities for software licensing consolidation or a reduction in licensing costs in other ways. In the past, once an on-premises enterprise software solution was purchased, the vendor did not necessarily have a big stake in whether or not it was actually being used. The cloud software model allows for more tailored licensing, with vendors now pricing based on a per-user basis. With a platform like Office 365, organizations have considerable flexibility to scale up or scale down the number of user licenses and change plans, depending on how much the technology is utilized. An interesting side effect of this licensing model is that cloud vendors have a clear interest in providing the best experience possible in order to boost user adoption and sell more licenses. As a result, this high-user adoption rate is fundamental to improving collaboration and communication within an organization.

4. Moving personnel to higher-value tasks

With cloud solutions, low-level routine tasks and maintenance are being pushed out of an organization’s IT department and back to the vendor. Be mindful this does not necessarily mean an organization saves money by reducing its headcount. Instead, greater value is realized by reallocating personnel to more strategic tasks that increase productivity. By removing the burden of server maintenance, IT staff is freed up to pursue projects that create real business value, such as building internal applications or focusing on user adoption.

5. Access to new capabilities and updates

When moving to the cloud, one goal may be to simply obtain equivalent capabilities at a cost savings. However, with the cloud-based model, these capabilities may expand quickly beyond the on-premises system. While software vendors once had three-year product cycles, now they typically roll out new features every few months, and many of those updates focus on improving the user experience. The cloud model facilitates real-time user feedback, which then drives enhancements in usability. Over time, this feedback loop creates a virtuous cycle in the cloud that improves user adoption, helping an organization yield more from its software solutions.

The Microsoft Solutions & Services Group is part of Withum’s Business Advisory Services, which specializes in advising entrepreneurial businesses in the areas of management consulting, risk advisory, SOC audits and transactions. Established in 1974, Withum is committed to providing quality services and innovative solutions to businesses, non-profits, individuals and communities. As one of the nation’s 30 largest accounting and consulting firms, the firm also is a member of HLB International, a worldwide network of independent professional accounting firms and business advisors committed to assisting clients build and expand globally.