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The Confident SMB

Cloudy with a Chance of Saving Money

Created: 16 May 2011
Blake M's picture
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Have you heard about the cloud? I would be shocked if you haven’t. With all the cloud chatter, many small businesses are no doubt confused about the cloud. The big question is: what does cloud computing mean for you?

Cloud computing holds a great deal of promise for small businesses—simplicity, affordability and efficiency. A recent IDC Executive Brief investigates how SMBs are looking to new technology delivery models, such as cloud computing, as a means to optimize IT and cut costs, but notes that most are still cautious about the cloud.

So how do you know if cloud is right for you? Before you lift off into the cloud, consider these tips:

  • 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 Back-up: 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 24x7. 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 and 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.