Migrating to the cloud is an investment for your business both in terms of time and money. It allows you to outsource all of your technology challenges to experts who will build a computing infrastructure that works for you rather than against you. At least, that’s the way it can be. Unfortunately, many vendors make big promises but fail to deliver.
When evaluating cloud providers in your area, be sure to ask the following questions:
#1. “Which security measures do you use?”
If there’s one thing that keeps business leaders awake at night, it’s the security and integrity of mission-critical data. Those sleepless nights are often for nothing, since many business owners incorrectly assume that the cloud is inherently less secure than in-house computing resources.
In most cases, cloud vendors have reached a size where they can assign each client a dedicated specialist for proactive maintenance tasks. And when an emergency comes up, specialists that usually assist other clients can team up for extra support. This outsourced model costs far less than hiring the same resources full time. Cloud providers use this economy of scale to provide cybersecurity support many businesses cannot afford.
Ask potential providers to explain and demonstrate the data encryption technologies they use while your data is in transit or in storage. You’ll want to see how they manage encryption keys and access rights and which administrative and physical safeguards are in place.
#2. “What is your downtime history?”
There’s no such thing as a computer system that never goes down. Every system needs to be taken offline on occasion for upgrades, repairs, or maintenance. Any system that doesn’t have scheduled maintenance is at risk of even more downtime.
Unexpected outages cost money to businesses that rely on electronic client information to do business. You’ll need guarantees from any service provider you choose that downtime will never exceed more than an average of 1–2 minutes per day.
Cloud uptime is usually measured in nines. For example, an uptime of 99.9% (three nines) translates into almost nine hours of downtime per year or ten minutes per week. That’s the most downtime you should accept. Anything higher than that should guarantee certain compensations in your service level agreement.
#3. “How scalable are your services?”
Cloud computing is scalable by nature, because it lets you essentially rent IT hardware in data centers that are designed to accommodate growth. However, you should never assume that every cloud solution is created equal.
Consider your future goals and needs when evaluating different providers. If, for example, you’re running a business that currently has 25 employees, you might want a provider who can accommodate over 50 in the future.
#4. “Have you supported other businesses in our industry?”
Every business is different, and every industry faces a unique set of challenges. For example, healthcare providers and their business associates are required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to implement special security and privacy controls to protect patient health data.
If a potential cloud provider can’t outline IT challenges specific to your industry, then you should take that as a red flag. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model in the increasingly complex world of enterprise technology.
Any service provider worth considering must be able to demonstrate expertise in your industry. They must also be prepared to align your technology with your core operational goals. If they come across as salespeople rather than long-term partners, then it’s probably best to start looking elsewhere.
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