Yes, moving to the cloud can offer a number of benefits. These range from the ability to plan for disaster and recovery to saving money to ensuring better security while making data available to you and your employees from just about anywhere. However, not all cloud providers are cut from the same cloth and you’ll need to ensure that you’re making an informed decision regarding your needs. Let’s take a look at several of the most important features to look for in a cloud provider.
Reliability and Availability
These are separate issues but they’re so closely related that we’ll treat them as a single feature. Reliability means the amount of uptime offered by the provider and the number of outages and partial outages experienced. Remember that these are business critical features, so it makes sense that you want the utmost in terms of reliability. Availability ties in here in terms of recovery times. All cloud providers experience outages to one degree or another. The speed with which they can recover and redeploy services is critical.
More Than Technical Benefits
Another feature that you should look for here is a provider that does more than just tout a high uptime percentage or other technological benefits. They need to speak your language and actually explain the benefits that will come to your business. Otherwise, they’re focused on the features of their own service, which are not the same as the benefits you need to reap. You should also make sure that the provider understands the ins and outs of your particular industry, particularly if there are regulatory compliance considerations to be made.
Yes, security is a critical consideration, particularly today as more and more threats evolve. Some of the biggest companies in the world have been hit hard by hackers who have stolen both consumer and business information only to turn around and sell that data on the black market. Make sure that the cloud provider you choose features 256-bit encryption for your data while in transit and at rest. Anything less will not suffice to protect your information from a determined hacker.
You’re going to need support at some point, and it’s crucial that your cloud provider be capable of supplying it. Look for a provider who offers in-depth knowledgebase collections so that you can find information on your own, as well as other features. A forum and a robust FAQ section will also help. However, there’s no substitute for the human touch, and you will likely find that you need to contact your provider in person at some point. Make sure that you can get ahold of them by phone in addition to email and web-based contact forms. Their reps should also be fluent in English, and they should have extensive knowledge of the system. They should not simply be “warm bodies” filling a hole in the support team.
SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
When you contract with a cloud provider, you’re paying for a service and you expect that service to meet your needs. However, there are instances when this might not happen. An SLA (service level agreement) with the provider ensures that you have recourse here. For instance, if the provider experiences a prolonged outage, an SLA would allow you to recoup at least some of your costs for the downtime.
These are just a few of the many essential qualities to look for in a cloud provider. There are many others, ranging from scalability to the quality of service to the underlying technology in place.