Cloud technology is expanding rapidly because of its many benefits. However, not all cloud solution providers are the same. Yet there are many cloud service providers offering themselves as the solution to your business’ needs. The question for many is what they should use as deciding factors when searching for a cloud solution. Here are seven things you should consider when choosing a cloud solution.
Your Core Needs
Before you start shopping for a SaaS service or cloud service provider, determine what your core needs are. What infrastructure and software do you need to keep your business going and remain profitable? Does it integrate with other applications, including those you consider crucial? There’s no point in shopping SaaS service providers that don’t have what you absolutely must have to keep going. Extras are just that, extra.
Support Versus Your Needs
Look at the level of support the service provider needs relative to what the cloud service offers. If you need 24/7/365 support to meet the expectations of your consumers, you can’t afford to hire a cloud service that limits support to office hours. The problem is amplified by relying on a service provider in another country that limits support to office hours that don’t line up with yours. Don’t let them tell you that their online documentation is good enough, though you should give preference to a SaaS provider with good documentation on everything from how to use the service to troubleshooting issues that may arise. Ask how they handle upgrades and whether or not you have input on when and how these are done.
We would like to warn you that an organization that promises excellent support during outages may be a warning sign in and of itself. The provider should guarantee 99.9% uptime at a minimum. Anything less than this level of uptime indicates trouble.
The trust factor is a major factor when you’re deciding which cloud solution to use. You are, after all, going to keep all of your user data and probably the data critical to your business’ operations on their servers. If you going to be posting medical data that needs to be protected in accordance with HIPAA standards or financial data that requires an extra layer of protection, make certain the service provider meets the industry standards for such. How are they protecting your data? If the vendor doesn’t use their own data center and cloud technology, what does their service provider do to protect your data?
Price cannot and should not be your overall deciding criteria. After all, the cheapest service may lack the memory space or support that you need. You’ll also pay for the services you use, such as the number of users accessing the site and the number of transactions processed. Cloud service providers tend to charge based on “tiers” or levels of service. You can learn more about cloud storage tiers and their prices here and about SaaS pricing strategies here. When you’re shopping for a cloud service provider, determine your needs now and in the near future. Then compare the overall value of each provider’s package. You might want to pay a little more per month for an automatic backup of your data that is easily restored if there is a problem. If maintenance and support are included at a higher tier and you expect to hit that volume of transactions soon, it may be worth paying for the higher tier now and locking in the rates.
A business may have an excellent service plan at an affordable price and say they meet industry standards. The experience of their customers may prove otherwise. You can find this out by checking their reviews. Reading reviews on a variety of sites, not just the business’ chosen testimonials posted on their website, allow you to really know if they respond to tech support calls in a timely manner. You’ll learn if they actually meet the terms of their Service Level Agreement or if you have to have an SLA in order to get that fast turnaround on a memory space increase or restoration. Reviews may be the only way to learn about data loss from mistakes by the service provider.
Go ahead and ask for references, so that you can ask their current customers about what they think of the cloud service provider.
You want to know what it is like to use the software as a service hosted on the cloud. How hard is it to log in? What do they offer in terms of software relative to what you’re familiar using? How fast can you log in? How quickly do the apps respond? You can ask these questions, or you can ask for a fully functional trial period to test drive the cloud service yourself. Make sure you know what service level they’re providing before you commit to another tier in a contract, so you don’t pay for something slower than the service you loved when you tried it out.
Something else to check is how well the cloud service provider supports usability across devices and operating systems. Can you check your email on their server using your smartphone? Does it work with all the various laptops and personal computers in use around the firm? Will it work with the next generation of tablets you want to use?
An Exit Strategy
An often overlooked factor is how easy it is to move the data if that becomes necessary. If they use proprietary data, it may be hard to move your data somewhere else, whether you want to change service provider or your service provider goes out of business. Incompatible data formats or unusual software applications could also create problems if you backup data with a different service provider simply to benefit from redundancy. Find out how well they support the export of data, regardless of the reason why.
Take these factors into account, and you should be able to find a cloud service provider who meets or exceeds your needs without breaking your budget. And you’ll be able to be confident you’ve made the right decision.
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