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Switching to a Cloud-Based System

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SHOP STATS: Rod's Japanese Auto Care  Location: Bellingham, Wash.  Operator: Rod Schindler  Average Monthly Car Count: 150  Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 6,000 sq. ft. Annual Revenue: $1.5 million  

It’s the 21st century—if you aren’t online, you might have a problem. For the modern day business owner, this means going digital with your business. Not only is going digital the standard, but storing the information in a place other than your hard drive is essential for working smarter in your business. 

It’s not a little-known fact that computer hard drives aren’t the most reliable. It’s not uncommon to hear the horror story of a college student working on a 10-page paper, only for their computer to crash and, ironically, forgetting to press the save button. The solution? Backing up your documents into “the cloud.” 

    No, “the cloud” doesn’t reference the fluffy objects floating in the sky. The cloud actually refers to software and services that run via the Internet.

Examples of cloud services include Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox. Even Netflix is considered a cloud platform—it stores all of your data, allowing you access on any device with an internet connection.

    “It’s the future now—businesses run in the cloud,” Roberto Baires, an IT consultant and managing partner at Micro Tech Resources, says. “From your local burger joint to your church and all the way to large enterprises, like GE, Microsoft, and Google.”

Back in 2017, Rod Schindler, owner of Rod’s Japanese Auto Care in Bellingham, Wash., decided to play it safe and make the switch to a cloud-based platform after dealing with computers crashing constantly.

“One day, Google Drive came along and I said, ‘Why don’t we use this instead?’” Schindler says.

Ratchet+Wrench spoke with Schindler and Baires, who answer common questions about switching over to the cloud and provide expert tips for setting it up. 

“Why should I use the cloud?”

Whether it’s Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive, all of these applications have one thing in common: you can access them anytime, and from anywhere. Say you want to get some work done from the comfort of your home. These applications allow you to do that. Have a file you need to access on-the-go? Whip out your phone and pull up the information that way. All of the information is accessible at your fingertips.

Not only can you access it from virtually anywhere, but you can also trust your information is safe there. When a computer crashes, there’s no need to worry—just pick up where you left off on a new device. 

For Schindler, he chose Google Drive because he likes Google products in general—the way it looks and the way of organizing things, mainly. He also likes the convenience of having an email account with the same platform that all of his documents are in—everything is located in one place.

    And with a lot of these platforms, you can still work on a project without the Internet. With Google Drive, for example, just go to ‘File’, and click ‘Make Available Offline.’ And when an internet connection is finally established, it will automatically sync into your drive.

Expert Tip

Remember, the cloud needs to be backed up, too. If you have data in a cloud solution, you must make sure the cloud solution is backed up to another location in case of outages, accidental deletion, or simply the service provider goes out of business, Baires says.

 

“How do I set it up?”

It depends on what platform you decide to go with, but here’s a basic overview:

1) Pick your platform.

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to different platforms. The best way to find the right one is to do a trial run of each—all of them have different features. For example, Dropbox syncs with Microsoft Office files to automatically update content as you go, all while still having it on your computer’s drive. Google Drive syncs with Google Docs, Sheets, and other Google applications to create a project within the application. And OneDrive syncs best with Microsoft Office products, while also offering 15 GB of free storage if you have a lot of files to stow. 

2) Set up a separate work email account.

When setting up a cloud platform, make sure to create an email associated with your work versus using your personal email. This is one thing Schindler wishes he would have done from the start. He set up his Google Drive account with his home email, where his personal files started getting mixed in with his work ones. And with the Google platform, creating a gmail account—or having an existing account already in place—is required in order to use the applications.

3) Upload the files.

Once you have set up your account, it’s time to upload your files. In Google Drive, you can create folders and place the documents that correspond with each. You can even upload an entire folder, or multiple folders at one time. Just click ‘New’ once in the Drive, then ‘Folder Upload.’ From there, select one or multiple folders to upload. Schindler says it’s been the easiest thing to do.

4) Set your permissions.

The beauty of the cloud platforms is that you can choose who has access to what documents. Sharing privileges allows the owner of the content to give access to any of their employees. For Schindler, he gives different permissions depending on their role. For example, he won’t give access to technicians into the service advisor’s folders. And, for business account information, you can easily create a folder that only you can access. This is also true for employees, who can store their own work information without the owner even being able to see. And if you let someone go, owners can easily turn off their privileges to access the information at the click of a button.

Expert Tip

Moving your personal data to the cloud is as simple as finding a reputable provider to connect and begin uploading your data. Some of those businesses are Google Drive, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft OneDrive, Baires says.

 

“What should I upload?”

Baires says all documents you keep are important, and all documents that matter should be stored in the cloud. For Schindler, he does just this, uploading everything and anything to the cloud. When making the switch, it did take him time to transfer the files—he manually transferred the files himself—but now he simply works out of a Google Doc, where it is automatically synced into the cloud.

The cloud platform especially comes in handy with standards operating procedures (SOPs). If you aren’t familiar, the SOPs provide employees a guide into anything and everything that takes place in the business. If a new member comes in or an employee needs a little refresher, for example, a simple document takes them through the process step-by-step without having to ask someone else for help.

Expert Tip

The sooner you get your data to the cloud with a backup solution, the better. Local data is much less secure and is easier to get compromised. Make sure that devices being used to connect are secured. Browsers need to be clean and free of tracking plugins. Computers used need to be clean and protected by antivirus, malware, and DNS filtering, Baires says.

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