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Questions you should ask when choosing a cloud provider

Geoff Roy - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Previously we’ve looked into the pros and cons of cloud based software and applications for your business. Well, if you’re now at the stage where you’re giving serious consideration to adopting some cloud software for the storage and transferring of data and files in your organisation then there are a number of things you need to consider when looking at which provider is right for you and your company.

What do we need from our cloud service?

Before you take the plunge with any cloud provider you need to ask yourself, and of course come up with the answer to, this basic question: what is it that we want from our cloud software provider?

Are you, for instance, looking to move your data lock, stock and barrel over to a cloud system or are you going to maintain a local network as well? If you understand your own needs at the outset you have the control to ensure that you can source a provider who can accurately meet these needs.

What will the service level agreement entail?

You’re committing your data to a third-party provider when you sign up to a cloud storage system. With this is mind it’s absolutely imperative that you’re fully aware of what kind of service level agreement you will have in place before you sign. You need a provider who will commit to exactly the kind of support that your business requires, including any penalties for failure to deliver, help on critical issues and up-to-date monitoring and reporting for your own peace of mind.

What kind of security do you have?

Another critical element to ascertain before signing up with a provider is to find out exactly how they safeguard your data against any security breaches or risks.

Don’t forget, you are placing your important data into their hands and you need to be sure that they have the facilities to keep that protected on your behalf. Have the provider explain and demonstrate how they monitor their security, what kind of measures they have in place to counter software failure, threats from hackers or infection from a virus or malware. Your provider should be able to ease your concerns with a robust security set-up; if they can’t alleviate these concerns then they might not be right for you.

How robust is your back-up system?

Following on from the security questions you need to ask about how the provider backs-up data to protect against unforeseen failures that could result in potential data loss.

Your provider should be able to tell you what measure they have in place to be able to recover data should something go wrong with the software or indeed with their own hardware. Data is ultimately stored on the hardware of the providers so do they have multiple locations in which it is stored in case of a worst case scenario (fire, flood etc) at one location.

Ensure your provider gives you a full and clear understanding of how they overcome such issues and what disaster recovery plans they have in place to protect against loss of your crucial data.

What is your average uptime?

A basic question perhaps, but one really worth asking? Quite simply, reputable providers will be able to give you accurate stats on the uptime and, conversely, downtime of their servers over a weekly, monthly or annual cycle.

How accessible will your data be?

One of the key features of most cloud storage systems is that you should have the ability to access data as you require it across variable locations and devices.

This perhaps relates back to the first question about understanding your own needs at the outset, so that you know exactly what data access you require, who can access it, how (on which devices) they access it, where they can access it and when is access available.

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