Seven things you should ask a cloud computing vendor

So you’ve heard about the benefits cloud computing services and applications can bring to your business, but what do you really need to ask to make sure the move to the cloud doesn’t end in disaster?

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9th April 2009 at 11:11 am

It’s no surprise that companies of all sizes are seriously considering moving some, or all, of their computing to the cloud.

But for many, it’s also something of a leap of faith.  They will be concerned about exactly how they go about uploading their business data to cloud applications.  About how they get best use of the cloud software, and if the data will be secure when it’s up there.

Then there are issues such as application performance, availability and uptime – all of which are legitimate concerns.  So how can you be sure that you will reap the full benefits and rewards that cloud computing promises?  And how can you ensure that the cloud vendor you choose will help you realise those benefits quickly, with minimum fuss?

Here are seven tips to help you get the best from your vendor.

1.         Does the application actually do everything you need it to?  Can the vendor offer you a free, no-obligation trial period so you can explore the software or service before committing?

2.         How easy is it to upload your existing business data to the cloud application?  Here, you need to ask the vendor what data and file formats are supported.  The cloud application should support formats from a wide range of popular applications, to make exporting and uploading as seamless and easy as possible.

3.         Does the cloud vendor offer resources such as online tutorials on uploading and sorting data, and comprehensive context-sensitive help?

4.         If online help resources aren’t enough, does the vendor have a helpdesk to guide you through the migration and upload process, as well as through initial use of the cloud applications?  If not, why not?  The point of cloud computing is to help remove IT support and management headaches.

5.         Ask the vendor specifically about the terms and conditions of using the cloud applications.  Is the deal truly flexible?  Can you add and subtract users and application modules as you need, on a month-by-month basis?

6.         What quality-of-service commitments and service-level agreements the vendor can offer.  Can they tell you who hosts your business data?  Are guaranteed levels of application availability and uptime offered?  A key advantage of cloud apps is, they are far less prone to server or power failures, as the software and data is hosted in enterprise-class, secure data centres where it is constantly backed up.  But it’s good to know where your data resides, and the levels of performance and access that the cloud hosting offers you.

7.         Finally, what security does the vendor offer for your business data?  When you connect to the cloud application, is the connection secured to prevent ‘eavesdropping’ of data?  In the cloud, are the data and applications secured behind firewalls to nullify hacking attempts and malware?

Realistically, a cloud application offers higher security than many corporates apply to data stored on their own servers, in their own offices.  There’s certainly less risk of data loss or theft by insiders or disgruntled employees, and lower risk of trojan infections which could intercept data.  So your data is likely to be safer in the cloud – but ensure the vendor can reassure you of this with an overview of their session and storage security measures.

In conclusion, you need to know what the cloud service you plan to use is made of, before you commit to moving your data across to it.  By asking what your vendor can do for you, you’ll be in the best position to know exactly what you can ask of the cloud.

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Dean Miles

http://www.goooroo.co.uk

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