On reflection, we realise our last post may have left many of our readers wondering about how to select a provider in order to avoid being exposed to the potential drawbacks associated with a Cloud solution. Therefore, to make this sometimes daunting task easy for you, we’ve come up with a guide to assist.
Firstly, it is important to establish a clear outline of what exactly you are looking to gain from employing a Cloud solution. Ask yourself:
What are my current and future storage requirements?
What specific features do I require? For instance accounting, customer relationship management, general document storage?
What is my budget? Is it flexible?
By determining a set of criteria from the outset, you will be in a far better position to quickly and rationally evaluate the myriad of providers and solutions in the market. Next, ask the following of any Cloud providers you consider:
What services do you offer? Can you tailor these services to match my specific needs?
This is arguably one of the most important considerations when selecting a Cloud provider as it is vital that any solution deployed be able to seamlessly integrate with your operations. Cloud solutions are not a ‘one size fits all’ offering, so don’t feel as though you have to compromise or forgo some of the requirements you outlined earlier. Solutions can be customised and providers should be willing to do this. If not, move on. Further, as storage needs change, it is important that providers give you the option of scaling up and down as required.
Security and Data Centre location
How secure is your facility? Where are your Data Centres located?
Security is often the first thing that comes to mind when investigating a Cloud solution. You must be confident that your data will be protected, not only against unauthorised access and hacking, but also physical damage such as break-ins and theft from Data Centres. You have the right to know where your data is stored, and you should insist that it is always within Australia. This ensures that you will be protected by local privacy laws.
What is your pricing structure? Is it competitive? Does this fit my budget? What are the contract terms?
The Cloud provider should have a transparent pricing structure, and you should only be paying for the storage that you actually use. Further, you should expect to be informed of any price changes in advance, before they are applied to your account. Also, look closely at the terms of the contract. Will you be locked in for a period or will it be difficult to alter your plan in the future? This is an important consideration as it is inevitable that your needs will change, and your plan must be flexible enough to respond to such changes. There are a number of providers in the market, so don’t be afraid to shop around and compare prices and terms.
What support services do you offer and when are these available?
It is a standard expectation that you will be able to access support when required. Ask the provider what support services they offer, for instance, do they operate a Help Desk? Can you schedule ad hoc visits? Are you restricted to email only support? Look for an indication of response time here, as it will give you a guide as to when you can expect your issue to be looked at.
What Service Level Agreements (SLAs) do you have in place? How often do you experience downtime and how do you handle this?
Service Level Agreements aren’t a guarantee, but instead a commitment by a provider to meet certain performance standards. In the event that there is an outage or downtime is experienced, this agreement specifies how a provider will handle the issue. Downtime can be disruptive and costly for organisations, therefore it is important that this be minimised. Most providers log their downtime and outages, so you may ask to view these to get a picture of their performance.
Will you provide references?
Ask for references. Cloud providers should be happy to provide evidence of their service and proof that they are able to deliver on what they promise.
Finding a Cloud provider can be daunting, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of providers and solutions to consider. However, if you identify your requirements from the outset and follow our guide, as well as the many others available online, you shouldn’t have a problem. Remember to seek out those who meet your expectations and compare pricing and terms to find the best deal. For those embarking on the Cloud journey, we wish you luck and hope this post helps you!
What did you think of this week’s post?