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Journey to the cloud: 6 critical questions to ask your cloud service provider

There is no question that businesses can benefit from moving data to the cloud. Improving user productivity, unburdening IT staff, saving time and money, the cloud can accommodate anything from simple file sharing to mission-critical data backup. But when it comes to choosing a cloud service provider, what questions should you be asking to ensure that your journey to the cloud is productive?

1. Which cloud services do you provide?

This is the first question you should ask any cloud provider and while it’s important to know what your cloud computing needs are, it’s also important that the cloud service provider lets you have your say, not just telling you what you’re going to get. It’s important that you can talk through what your needs are and have a say in the services you get in return.

Ideally, you want a cloud provider that can provide the servers that you specify, the software that you either buy or bring your own and Internet access that the provider can support. It’s a simple proposition.

2. Where are your data centres located?

As we highlighted in our previous blog, location is everything. Ideally you need to be working with a cloud services provider that offers data centres in more than one location. A shared platform can make it simple to failover, migrate, or serve workloads from different data centres, depending on the use case. The location and security of the data centres and servers where your company’s information will be stored are as important as online security.

It’s worth asking how a potential cloud provider protects its data centres from natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes and storms. Also, find out how the facilities are protected from thieves who could walk away with your sensitive data.

3. How flexible are your services?

Will your chosen cloud provider allow you to specify your needs and set up each server you require so that you can then make in-life changes yourself? Or give you the opportunity to specify a resource pool? Having the freedom to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want is extremely important. Similarly, if you’re not entirely sure what it is that you want to do, especially at the start of your journey, it’s important to be able to talk this through with your cloud service provider.

Buying new technology isn’t always a positive or productive experience for businesses, especially when there’s uncertainty around how to get it working. The danger here is that if the technology doesn’t work first time, it’s tempting to revert to what you did before while the piece of technology is left gathering dust in the corner. It’s about seeing decisions through to completion, you need a cloud service provider that’s not going to let you walk away until they’re sure that you’re happy with what you have. Put simply, your service provider should go on the journey with you and share the pain if something goes wrong.

4. How secure is your cloud?

Security should be a key consideration when it comes to storing your company’s critical data in the cloud. Cloud providers should have standard security measures in place and be constantly updating them, it’s important that you feel completely comfortable with your cloud provider’s approach to security.

There are two important questions to consider. If a cloud services provider uses a system to back up files, how is that service protecting from data loss? The second question is, how secure is the data from a security breach? Verification by independent auditors of these procedures may help. Other important questions are:  how will your company be notified if the data is breached and what procedures does the cloud services provider have in place if it happens?

5. What’s your downtime history?

Has your cloud service provider had any outages in the last three years that has meant that its service has become inaccessible to users via the internet for a significant period of time? Naturally, the best answer to hear is no, however, even the biggest, best-known cloud providers occasionally experience downtime.

Cloud outages can be disruptive and costly for your business, so it’s best to choose a provider with as few as possible. Some vendors post their downtime history logs online. If not, be sure to ask for a cloud provider’s track record.

6. What customer support services do you offer?

Without exception, technical support should be available to you online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day, including public holidays.

You should also enquire about the average response and resolution time, and whether you’ll be interacting with knowledgeable engineers or customer service reps reading scripts when you call the customer help line.

If this blog has helped you define what you’re looking for in a cloud service provider then why not take advantage of our complimentary cloud audit and let us support you on your journey to the cloud…

Up next

Journey to the cloud: 4 ways cloud can change the way you work

When we say the cloud changes ‘the way’ you work, we’re not saying you’ll suddenly change the way you write documents, create PowerPoint slides and email.  You’re still going to use the same resources – it’s more about your experience as an end user and how you consume those services that changes.

1. Flexibility

There was a time when you would have to go into the office because that’s where the phone system was – it’s where your desk phone, desk top computer and the application servers were housed. You had no choice but to be in the office because essentially that building was full of the stuff you needed to get your job done. But that’s in the past.

These days, owing to increased use of the cloud, the way we work is changing. We’re not tied to an office anymore – the handcuffs have been removed. Employees haven’t got to sit in a car for several hours every day if they don’t want or need to. They can work and consume the services from wherever they choose.

Cloud computing makes working from home not only possible, but even profitable for some businesses. Employees working remotely tend to be more productive, more efficient and willing to put in longer hours since they are able to benefit from the greater flexibility of working from home.

2. Easy access

Back in the day, if you wanted to make phone calls on a private network you had to use a desk phone that was a local extension on the PBX. If you wanted to be on the corporate network, you had to be on the corporate LAN and if you were using collaboration tools you had to be using a desktop PC and have the right software and plugins. Meaning the whole collaborative environment was really clunky. Whereas cloud applications are now allowing us to use a wider variety of devices, so if you decide you want to join a conference from your browser on your iPad, you can.

Therefore, it’s not just a case of having the choice of where you want to be. It’s also how you want to access, consume and participate in a service, giving you the freedom to access services how you see fit. Now you can use whatever device you like, without any restrictions based on the sort of technology you’re using, whether it’s Windows or Apple, Google or Firefox.

3. Simple collaboration

The quality of the communication itself can have a real effect on the overall user experience, for example, does the conferencing facility have high definition voice and video? It might sound simple, but having HD quality voice is so much better for getting a good understanding and really hearing what someone is saying. It might be a bit of simple argument but, there’s no two ways about it, if you want a good outcome from a conversation you need both parties to be able to hear clearly what each other is saying.

We have all experienced it – the lousy service you sometimes get on a mobile or the hopeless service you may get on Skype. Then you compare this with being on a private network where you can talk to colleagues with HD audio, which gives you get the feeling of presence – feeling that they’re in the room with you. You’re more likely to have a good outcome to whatever communication it is that you’re having.

The cloud makes collaboration so much easier. For example, our Touch Technology platform enables you to create a collaboration room and generate a URL to share your desktop at a click of a mouse, making the whole experience of setting up a sharing collaboration so much quicker and less formal.

4. Scalability

Traditionally when it comes to conferencing, it has been a struggle to scale a conference up and down without intervention, constraints or cost implications. The beauty of IP-based conferencing is that you can pretty much scale to whatever you want and no one will stop you.

If you’re on our corporate Touch Technology platform, for example and you want to set up an all-hands call, then you can without any fuss. This gives the end user in control of the scale of the communication they wish to have with others in their work group.

The Cloud may have started out as a ripple in a sea of data solutions and business technology, but in just a few years it has become the primary way we work. We look forward to seeing how cloud computing revolutionises the way we live in the years to come.

To determine how your company can benefit from the Cloud, contact us today for a complimentary cloud audit from one of our experts.