Shifting business operations such as document storage and email to the cloud yields many benefits. Companies that pivot to the cloud realize some degree of discernible business acceleration. A partial list of the advantages of being cloud-based includes:
- reducing costs
- streamlining workflow
- eliminating the need for in-house IT personnel and hardware
The first half of 2020 witnessed a wide-spread expansion in the number of employees working from home. The cloud largely enabled the rapid execution of this response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloud-based operations provide advantages to employees who work remotely. The cloud facilitates reporting for work, accessing vital data, and collaborating online.
Possibly the greatest positive outcome for small companies is the ability to focus on the business at hand and allow cloud-based services to manage IT concerns such as support, maintenance, security, and backup.
Vendors are offering a burgeoning menu of cloud computing solutions. Identifying providers, vetting the lot, and finally selecting one presents challenges. The eight essential questions listed below are intended to refine the vetting process and drive the screening process to the best selection that meets defined needs.
1. Which cloud services are provided, and what is the pricing structure?
Having a well-defined understanding of what is needed will dictate the type of service or services a small business should select. Cloud offerings include Dropbox for online document, photo, and video storage. If online accounting is desirable, look to Intuit, which offers QuickBooks. Salesforce, an industry-standard, provides online customer relationship management (CRM). Bringing Mobile Computer Services, Inc., a managed IT solutions provider, into the decision-making process can save time, money, and headaches. Leveraging expertise and knowledge creates real value for a small business, such as a dental or veterinary practice.
A small business should only pay for what they use. Be careful of large upfront costs, which are beyond the norm for reputable cloud vendors. From the outset, the pricing structure ought to be pay-as-you-go. The capability to add services as needed should be a standard feature. The fee structure depends on the vendor. Pricing for cloud computing services and other cloud solutions can range significantly. Due diligence is required to research products, services, and pricing.
2. How secure is the particular cloud solution?
Security should be a primary factor when considering storing data in the cloud. Standard security measures should be in place and undergo constant updating. Indispensable security measures encompass anti-virus detection, multifactor user authentication, firewalls, data encryption, and routine security audits.
Providers should offer details about compliance with government legislation specific to an industry. For example, dentists will want to be sure their cloud provider is HIPAA-compliant.
The location and security of the data centers and servers where company information will be stored are as important as online security. Vulnerability to a data breach is a liability that can be avoided.
Understand how a potential cloud vendor protects its data center from natural disasters. Floods, fires, storms, and earthquakes happen every day. Also, know how the facilities are protected from thieves who could walk away with sensitive company data.
Verification that a cloud vendor’s data centers can withstand a wide range of security threats is the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 (SSAE 16) certification. SSAE 16 certification validates that a company’s systems, products, and data are compliant with the industry security standards for customer access and privacy, data center physical security, and data redundancy.
3. What is the policy for rectifying the loss of company data?
What Service Level Agreement (SLA) provisions address potential data losses? Will compensation for losses be provided? What data redundancies are being executed to mitigate data loss risks? Has the company experienced significant data breaches in the past?
4. What customer support services are currently provided?
A non-negotiable is customer support. Without exception, support should be available 24/7 either online or by phone, including holidays. Inquire regarding the average response and resolution time. Will there be interaction with knowledgeable tech engineers? Does customer support consist of service representatives reading scripts on the customer helpline? Is a live chat feature in place and functional?
5. Can the cloud solution scale up to meet business growth demands?
When a business grows, its cloud storage needs to grow too. What additional storage capacity is or will be available? Will other services be offered over time? What are the anticipated services, and how much will it cost? If plans are in the works to increase staff, can additional users be added to the account at a reasonable price?
6. What is the downtime history?
On occasion, a cloud provider will be inaccessible to users over the internet. This downtime is usually brief and may be scheduled or unscheduled. At best, downtime is never. At worst, the cloud provider is offline for hours. No cloud provider, large or small, is immune to situations that may result in unscheduled and unplanned downtime.
Experiencing a cloud outage can be expensive and disruptive for a business. Therefore, identify providers with a solid history of online consistency. Request a downtime history log. Some vendors post their history online. Obtain the link, review the history, and make an appropriate selection.
7. What does setup look like?
Once a particular solutions provider is selected and an agreement is signed, the next step is typically to log in to the user dashboard and begin setting up the account. This configuration includes adding employees as users. Some cloud vendors walk clients through the setup. Others, such as Amazon and Google, have online introductory guides.
8. How will the company’s cloud be accessed?
Access to business information in the cloud should be available 24/7 via the web. Simply sign in to the provider’s client login page. Any device can be used to log in, including a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
These basic questions are intended to help a small business make smart decisions that move the business forward into the future. The complexity of IT management increases as technology advances and attempts to steal a company’s data become more sophisticated, adaptive, and intense. For a consultation about cloud-based efficiencies and solutions, contact Mobile Computer Services, Inc. by phone at (919) 830-9448. Visit Mobile Computer Services, Inc. Raleigh website at www.ncmobilecomputerservices.com/locations/raleigh.