Key questions to ask when evaluating a cloud service provider

Key questions to ask when evaluating a cloud service provider

Cloud computing has become massively popular among businesses. In fact, 81% of all enterprises already employ a multi-cloud strategy or at least have plans to do so. This is largely because the technology is known for reducing costs, increasing flexibility, and enhancing productivity.

However, it's easy to get drawn in and make ill-informed decisions. For instance, certain cloud service providers (CSPs) claim that their cutting-edge technology is designed to cater to every business. As a business owner, you should be able to see past the sales talk and discern one that truly offers the best value.

The baseline for any evaluation of a CSP’s merits is a face-to-face meeting with the prospective provider. Add to that a network assessment — a detailed report and analysis of your IT infrastructure, security, processes, and performance.

But before you set that meeting or free consultation, a critical look at the candidate’s website will tell you a lot and save you time. As you examine their website, ask yourself the following questions.

Is this cloud service provider a true expert?

Don’t get enamored by fancy and colorful words. The true measure of expertise isn’t technical jargon, which can’t compare to years managing networks, resolving issues, and dealing with cyberattacks. IT support experts forged by experience won’t be fazed by the weight of the unpredictable problems and demands of a business network.

Look for any indications of how long the CSP has been in business. If it’s a managed services provider (MSP) that offers cloud services, find out when it first opened its doors. If it’s before cloud services, that’s a good sign. This means it has had years of IT support behind it. And as long as the MSP maintains recent and reputable vendor certifications, you can be assured of a proven track record in delivering IT solutions at a high standard.

Will they lock your company into a long-term contract?

Allowing customers to avail of cloud services on a monthly subscription basis rather than locking them into a long-term contract is a sign of the CSP’s confidence in its services. The quality of their solutions makes clients happy to continue in a partnership month after month.

Take a good look at the prospect’s marketing materials. Even though contract terms are rarely discussed outside a sales meeting, you’ll find that the best CSPs gladly advertise this no lock-in guarantee.

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Do they offer tailor-made cloud-based solutions?

The market for customized cloud-based solutions has been in high demand, so much so that some CSPs are not above putting their logo on prepackaged hardware or software and calling them “made-to-order.” You can imagine that approach to customized solutions will create problems as your business and its needs grow.

To be sure about a CSP’s claims of tailor-made cloud services, you can check for details in their white papers and case studies, usually found under the “resources” banner.

Cloud solutions can take many forms, but basically leverage the data storage and computing power of the cloud. Take a good look at the services and solutions listed on a CSP’s or an MSP’s website. You may find that cloud-based solutions like virtualization, hosted servers, HR management, VoIP phones, disaster recovery, Office 365, and more are customizable to your needs.

Do they provide industry-specific support?

Your shortlist should have at least a couple of CSPs or MSPs that detail experience in your industry on its website. Is your company a healthcare provider? Then you ought to partner with a provider that specializes in helping organizations achieve HIPAA compliance. From hosting cloud-based design software for architectural firms to document management solutions for law offices, IT performs at its peak when managed by industry specialists.

Does this cloud service provider implement sufficient security measures?

If a cloud provider doesn’t give you details in its security policy on how it plans to keep you safe, look elsewhere. Their security strategy should also include protective measures for your data and applications once they’ve migrated to the cloud. Data security for cloud environments has improved dramatically in recent years. If they don’t measure up to current cloud security standards, best look elsewhere. One way to be certain is to find out how they currently protect their clients.

Vulnerability assessments, intrusion detection systems, 24/7 monitoring, data encryption, multifactor authentication processes, and regular software updates are some of the nonnegotiable security measures to look for.

Do they have a modern data backup and disaster recovery plan?

Only a provider that stores your data in multiple locations or has redundant data storage is worth your confidence. However, data centers for backup located within the same city are still risk-prone. A hurricane or other disaster could wipe both out. Phrases like “global redundancy” and “no single point of failure” ensure the highest levels of service reliability.

Can they do on-site visits?

With everything from data storage to computing power available remotely via the cloud, it comes as no surprise that IT issues can be fixed with an on-site visit. Among the core services of an MSP is a team of experts who monitor and manage your IT systems as well as cloud-hosted data and applications, and address issues remotely.
Having remote monitoring and management (RMM) or cloud computing technicians, however, doesn’t mean that you’ll never need an on-site visit. You shouldn’t have to sit by the phone while a technician walks you through a highly technical process. Providers that walk the extra mile by dealing with complex problems in person prove their commitment to higher-quality service.

Small businesses in Middletown are saving money and simplifying IT management with cloud services. Hudson Valley IT has spent the last 20 years providing safe and affordable technology solutions. Call us today to learn about how we can simplify your business technology.

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