No doubt you have been reading a lot about the Cloud Computing revolution. The advance of the Cloud is certainly changing the way that businesses, both large and small, are approaching their data storage and IT needs. The Cloud offers many advantages for the small, and not so small, business owner. Not only is it cost efficient, but it delivers the flexibility and scalability that businesses need to compete in an ever changing marketplace.
So, assuming you’ve been following the trends in cloud computing, and have come to the decision that it is the right move for your company, what should you do next? Simple, find a cloud service provider. But not all public cloud service providers are created equal, and to reap the full benefits of cloud computing you need to choose the right service. So, we’ve put together a short checklist of the important questions business owners need to ask when shopping for a public cloud service provider. These questions should help you find the cloud service that bests suits our budget, and you company’s needs.
How Secure is Your Cloud?
You might be tempted to think that the first question you should as a potential cloud provider is cost. But security interests should trump any pricing structure concerns you may have. Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘good deal’ on a bad service. When considering a cloud service provider, as about their security protocols. Find out who within the company will have access to your data, and whether or not they have undergone a full background check. Also, be sure to ask about firewall protections, anti-virus detection, and data encryption measures. You should also inquire about recent security audits, and their results.
What Cloud Services are Available?
Again, no two cloud service providers are alike, and each will offer different service packages with different pricing structures. Choosing the best cloud service for your business begins with understanding your company’s IT needs. Are you only in the market for a software based cloud service, which provides basic document and file storage? Or does your company require something more substantial, that can deliver a full IT infrastructure with round the clock access to a virtual server? Knowing your business’ needs, quiz your potential service provider about what types of services they offer, and decide for yourself how closely they match your computing needs.
What Kind of Customer Support is Offered?
A good cloud service provider should offer technical support around the clock, including weekends and holidays. Ask if about the provider’s average response time to technical issues, and make sure that if you need assistance you will have access to an IT consultant and not just a customer service rep.
Where is the Provider’s Data Center?
This is a question that many business owners neglect when shopping for a cloud service provider, but it is an important one. You want to be sure that the provider you choose is offering a solid service, and is not a fly by night operator trying to get by with a few old servers in an industrial park. Look for a full service facility, with proper cooling and maintenance procedures in place. If the provider’s data center looks old and disused, chances are the service will be sub par.
What Data Recovery Protocols are in Place?
Accidents do happen, and data can be lost whether it is stored on a dedicated server or in the cloud. Potential cloud providers should have adequate redundancy measures in place to mitigate against any loss of data. When considering a cloud service provider, ask about their data protection protocols, and if they have had any issues concerning data loss in the past. Also be sure to ask how they intend to compensate you and your company if a catastrophic data loss does occur.
Can the Provider Keep Up With Your Business’ Needs?
Scalability is an important factor when choosing a pubic cloud service provider. Before signing any contracts, make sure the provider you are considering can offer you the additional storage capacity and IT features your company will need as it continues to grow.
What is the Cost?
Finally, we come to cost and pricing structures. Obviously, one of the benefits of cloud computing is savings. That being said, you want to balance cost against services offered. For smaller businesses, a pay as you go option is often the most suitable. This allows you to keep an eye on costs, and to add services as needed. Larger businesses may be better suited to a long term contract scenario, but even there it depends on how you intend to exploit your cloud computing services. Check with the provider, and review the pricing structures being offered.
Cloud computing can be a definite boon for the independent business owner, but it is important to ask the right questions of your cloud service provider. If you are considering moving to the public cloud, the questions we’ve outline here should help you decide which service best suits your business’ needs.