3 Tips For Choosing The Best Cloud Service Provider For Your Small Business

If cloud computing and having a cloud service is important for small businesses, then why doesn’t everyone invest more time when it comes to choosing the right one? It’s the kind of question that makes you want to pull your hair out, because getting the right cloud provider isn’t rocket science, it’s about measuring your options.

You see, next to virtualization, cloud computing and getting the right cloud system provider is essential to the productivity and efficiency of a small business.

So if you’re a hard-headed small business owner reading this and asking why you should invest time and money into a newfangled-sounding thing like a cloud service provider, I’ll give you 3 compelling reasons why it’s important:

  1. It will save you money by saving space on your server from big software programs and applications.
  2. You and your staff can access stuff from anywhere, because no one has had the desire to set foot in an office since 1952.
  3. You’ll have a team of smart people running the confusing technical stuff and you’ll get support when you need it and if something goes wrong.

So now that you’re convinced and are warming up to the idea of a cloud service, how do you go about choosing one that best suits the needs of your business? This is a big question if you’re a small business, because your time and resources are limited. As such, I’ve boiled down the process of choosing the right cloud provider into three aspects that you should look for in every vendor. Paying attention to these qualifications and patiently evaluating them will save you a headache in the long run.

What’s in Their Fine Print?

A key to achieving business success is to actually read the fine print on the things you sign. Just because you give a cloud provider money, it doesn’t mean that they’ll give you ideal service. So what are the “fine print” things to look for? Well, you can start by asking them how transparent the billing will be—will you be able to monitor your account directly and add users yourself? Is their website user-friendly and will they be willing to make it up to you when the server freezes and you need to access really important files? Lastly, what kind of technical support do they offer and how often are they available. You don’t want to sign up for a provider, only to find out that some levels of support require extra payment.

Do You Feel Safe in Their Digital Arms?

Hacking is no joke, so much that even mega-corporations like Citibank took a big hit when their security was breached in December 2013; and if Citibank needed to scramble, what are you going to do when your important data gets hacked into? If you really want to have a dialogue with prospective providers about their security, get into the nitty-gritty: how do they store their data and what security methods do they use? Have they had issues in the past (and you should get reviews from previous customers)? How do they control who is accessing your account—we’re talking concrete steps here, like steps to identity verification. If they’re serious about protecting you, they’ll be serious about answering these questions.

…But are You Two Compatible?

Using cloud computing for your business is different from buying a software package. The latter is designed to mesh well with your business’s data and the two can assimilate with one another. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, this is an important thing to consider when you’re switching to a cloud, because the cloud applications are separate from your user data and therefore may not function as efficiently. In other words, accessing your stuff may become a bit slower. Before you sign the dotted line, ask your prospective cloud provider how your switching over will affect performance.

If you don’t yet have a cloud service provider to work with, don’t panic. There are many good resources on the web that can give you additional cloud guidance. The key is to choose a cloud service provider that works best for you, and if you’re a small business owner, that means a provider that takes service, support, and security very seriously. If you focus on asking the right questions, chances are you’ll be able to cut your choices and frustration in half.

Eric Shults is a member of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and he frequently contributes on topics surrounding cloud computing to help his readers better understand the benefits and risks associated with using a cloud service provider. Eric strongly encourages small businesses that have not begun using this technology to adopt it as soon as possible.