While many small businesses are rushing to the cloud to realize cost savings and improved infrastructure, some are doing so without thinking through the hard questions that should accompany a major change such as this. If you’re contemplating a move to the cloud, slow down and ask any potential cloud vendor how they handle security, customer service, and cost associated with the cloud.
Particularly if you are considering moving to a public cloud, where your enterprise data co-locates with that of other businesses, you will need to ask any potential cloud provider several questions about their security. These include:
- Who can access the data center and what internal access controls they use?
- What sort of active threat monitoring do they perform?
- What level of security does the organization need from a data center?
- What type of encryption, if any, does the cloud provider use with the organization’s data?
- How secure is data during the uploading and transmission process?
To really help employees be efficient and effective, a cloud needs to be usable. Aside from testing out the cloud to see how easy is it to use, ask these questions:
- What type of IT support, if any, does the organization need to provide?
- What types of customer support does the vendor provide?
- Does the provider offer 24/7 customer support?
- What type of programs, data, usage etc. can the cloud services accommodate?
While the cloud is scalable, you don’t know how much space you need unless you know how much space you’re presently using. To accurately assess your space usage, ask your IT guy to complete a tech evaluation of your resources. If you have an in-house server, how much of it is full? How full of photos, documents and files are employee hard drives? Your cloud database storage must accommodate all of these existing resources, plus the data you continue to generate. If you have a peak season, how do data needs change during the peak season compared to in the slow season? Crunching these numbers gives you a starting point — one that can always be scaled up or down to meet your needs.
You’ll need to know what you are paying for to evaluate the cost effectiveness of the cloud. Before you commit to any plan, determine whether you pay for the real space you’re using, the access to cloud infrastructure or both. Find out what the next levels up (and down) cost, so you have an accurate picture of how your cost will be affected by a plan change. So that you can accurately project expenses, ask about any additional fees for which you may be responsible. Lastly, find out what happens to your enterprise data if the company goes out of business or if you decide to leave.
Asking these questions gives you the opportunity to learn more about several different cloud vendors and ideally find one that meets your needs and fits your budget. If one cloud provider does not work out, there are plenty others to choose from, so move on to the next and begin again with these questions.