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10 Questions to Think About When Choosing a Cloud Provider

When moving your business operations like email and document storage to the cloud it can cut costs and streamline your workflow while eliminating the need for in-house IT personnel and hardware. The cloud can also make it easier for remote employees to access key information and collaborate online.

However the biggest benefit for small companies is the ability to concentrate on the business at hand and let the cloud service provider handle IT responsibilities like security, maintenance, backup and support.

While many companies offer an ever-evolving list of cloud services and solutions, choosing one can be challenging. Here are 10 fundamental questions to ask as you screen potential providers to select the right one for your particular needs:

Q: Which cloud services do you provide?

A: Knowing what your cloud computing needs are will dictate the type of service or services you choose. If you need more than basic data storage, several vendors offer a range of general-purpose cloud computing services, including IT networking infrastructure with on-demand access to virtual servers, applications and software.

Q: What is your pricing structure?

A: Only pay for what you use. Also, be wary of large upfront costs, which aren’t the norm for reputable cloud vendors. The pricing scheme should be pay-as-you go from the outset, with the ability to add services as needed. Fees can typically be charged hourly, monthly, semi-annually or annually, depending on the vendor. Pricing for cloud computing services can vary significantly, depending on a company’s needs.

Q: How secure is your cloud?

A: Security should be a major consideration when it comes to storing your company’s critical data in the cloud. Security measures to look for include firewalls, anti-virus detection, multifactor user authentication and data encryption, and routine security audits. It’s also important to ask who at the cloud company will have access to your data and whether the cloud provider does employee background checks to weed out potential cybercriminals or identity thieves.

Q: Where is your data center and how safe is it?

A: The location and security of the data centers and servers where your company’s information will be stored are as important as online security. Ask how a potential cloud vendor protects its data center from natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes and storms.

Q: What happens if I lose my data?

A: On the off chance your precious data is accidentally deleted or lost, you need to know how a cloud provider will rectify the problem. Be sure to ask: What provisions are in the company’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) that address potential data losses? Will the provider compensate you for losses? It’s also important to ask if the company has experienced any significant issues resulting from the loss of customer data.

Q: What customer support services do you offer?

A: Without exception, technical support should be available to you online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day, including holidays. You should also question the average response and resolution time, and whether you’ll be interacting with knowledgeable engineers or customer service reps when you call the customer help line or use a live chat feature.

Q: Can your cloud scale up to meet my business needs?

A: As your business grows, so will your cloud storage needs. To ensure that you’re choosing a flexible cloud provider, find out what additional storage capacity and other services can be offered over time and for how much. If you plan to increase your staff, you’ll want to make sure that you can easily add additional users to your account.

Q: What’s your downtime history?

A: Because cloud outages can be disruptive and costly for your business, it’s best to choose a provider with as few as possible. Some vendors post their downtime history logs online. If not, be sure to ask for a cloud provider’s track record.

Q: How will I get set up?

A: Once you choose and sign with a cloud provider, the next step is typically to log in to your user dashboard and begin configuring your account and adding employees as users. Some cloud vendors will walk you through how to install and set up their services, while others may provide online introductory guides.

Q: How will I access my company’s cloud?

A: You should be able to access your business information in the cloud from anywhere at any time via the Web simply by signing in to your provider’s client login page using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

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