By Ramon Ray, Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com
The big trend now is for small businesses to move more and more of their operations to the cloud.
I love the world of “cloud computing.” I love how I
can use a browser and have all of my data–anywhere I can get to a browser. I also like how through my mobile phone, I can access a variety of online tools and have almost the same power and flexibility as I would have on a desktop computer. Way cool and productive.
One of my favorite online services is file sharing. Smallbiztechnology.com has a distributed (yet small) workforce across New York, the U.S. and the world. We rely on a variety of file sharing services to help us get our work done. I live in Dropbox, Carbonite is always on backing up my data and has remote access, and Google Apps is a great tool for overall collaboration and communication. Other file sharing tools you might like are SugarSync and Box.net.
However, before you jump into moving all of your company data into the cloud, there are some things you should consider.
- Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Research cloud service providers and you’ll find many large companies staking their claim on an increasingly crowded cloud market. The service provider’s reputation and how long they have been offering cloud services should trump size. Look for a cloud specialist with reputable technology that knows the industry inside out.
- Understand Your Security Needs: There has been much hype surrounding the security of the cloud, but there is very little difference between the trust you place in your ISP and your other technology providers. With that in mind, every organization’s security needs and expectations are different, so it’s important to understand how the vendor can meet those needs. Check the vendor’s references and investigate case studies with organizations similar to your own.
- Know the Basics of Data Backup: Know how the cloud provider backs up data and in the worst-case scenario, what would happen if they went out of business or if you wanted to move data to another provider. Get a feel for the provider’s storage reputation, the number and location of their data centers and redundancy of their infrastructure.
- Secure Good SLAs: Industry certifications capture a moment in time and don’t necessarily indicate good performance. The best way to ensure good service is with solid Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with clear contractual language. Look for vendors who publish their performance and have clear financial penalties for underperformance.
- Evaluate Customer Service Standards: The best customer service departments for cloud services are staffed with cloud specialists who are available 24×7. Ensure that your chosen vendor’s customer service specialists can meet your organization’s needs.
- Test the Service: A key advantage of SaaS is that it makes it easy to deploy a free trial. Most vendors offer this to those considering their services. Start small with the trial, and once satisfied, you can expand the service to include confidential data and other mission-critical systems.
About the Author: Ramon Ray is an author, speaker, technology writer and former small business technology consultant. He publishes Smallbiztechnology.com, a website that helps small and medium-sized businesses strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses. Ramon recently joined the Manta team of industry experts.