preventing-cloud-sprawl|Photo Courtesy ofDepositphotos.com credit card statement shows a $400 charge to an unfamiliar name. Looking back through your statements, you find the same charge from a year ago. Just as you’re dialing the credit card’s fraud hotline, you start to remember signing up for an online service, sure to more than pay for itself. But after the initial enthusiasm, you stopped using it and then forgot.

It’s an all-too-familiar story. It’s easily to install cloud applications, but they’re also easily forgotten. To prevent cloud sprawl in your small business — saving you money and productivity — you should audit your cloud services and apps at least once a year. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Take inventory: Prepare a comprehensive list of your current cloud tools, including what they cost and do for you. As you’re evaluating a service, consider how the price compares to how often you use it. What is the app or service really doing for you? Is it worth the money you’re spending for it?
  2. Evaluate current needs: What’s changed for your business in the past year, and what changes seem likely in the next year? You may find you don’t need some services, or that they now overlap. You certainly don’t want to be paying for the same service twice.
  3. Shop around: With current services, look for upgrades. What’s new in the past year? If there aren’t upgrades, that’s a warning sign. Now, look at your current provider’s competitors. What are competitors offering that your current provider doesn’t?
  4. Prioritize interactions: To protect your productivity, don’t necessarily get rid of apps, but do prioritize your interactions with them. Certain apps you might use on a daily basis, while others you may only use on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Apps can be a double-edged sword for productivity, much like email. Sure, email lets everyone stay on the same page and collaborate, but when you’re getting 150 emails a day, it can just become overwhelming.

In the end, too many apps could cost too much money and hurt your productivity. By following these four steps, you can conduct an audit of your cloud services and apps. And, who knows, you might also uncover totally new services and ideas that can improve your business.

What tips do you have on preventing cloud sprawl? How often do you audit your cloud services? Let us know in the comments section below!