5 Questions to Ask your Cloud Solution Provider

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Cloud computing is the newest buzz in business technology,  though for many the mere mention of “cloud” leaves their head, well, in a cloud of confusion. Simply put, cloud computing covers any application that is accessed via the web, such as online accounting software, that is no longer loaded on an individual’s computer or company server. Simply stated, cloud software solutions are designed to provide better access and visibility throughout an organization, as well as streamline operations via a user-friendly interface. That said, how do you know which cloud-based solution is right for you? Here are some things to consider before making your decision.

What level of security can I expect?


One of the first areas to discuss with your cloud software provider is the level of security that they offer to their clients. Data encryption, data storage locations, user access, and incident maximums should be addressed upfront and carefully articulated in the service agreement. Equally important is how your provider understands and maps your company’s key business security drivers to the overall business strategy of your organization, and how many layers of security exist within the cloud application and the server.  In short, you need to know how your cloud software provider protects your data from viruses, hackers, and theft before you sign on the dotted line of any service agreement.

What are the cost differentiators between cloud and hosted solutions?


Hosted solutions come in two flavors – private and public hosting. Either way, the company owns the software and has greater flexibility with regard to technology maintenance and where it will be serviced – at the company or in a public or private data center/cloud.

Cloud solutions, on the other hand, can be all-inclusive, eliminating the need for your company to manage technology – the software, data, support, or maintenance. While hosting may be a fit for some, Cloud software solutions are smarter in terms of cost efficiency, as they deliver lower investment expense and eliminate up-front equipment, maintenance, and upgrade costs.  Furthermore, cloud solutions convert a traditional capital expense into an operational expense – a SMART play for small and midsize companies that need to manage their cash flow for maximum flexibility.  To be thorough, review all  options with regard to total cost of ownership and technology maintenance.

Will the provider’s back-up and disaster recovery processes meet the challenge?


What if your company experiences a data access issue or power outage that also affects your client’s access to their data?  How confident would you be with your service provider’s contingency plans?

When evaluating a cloud software provider, take a deep dive into their contingency plans, backup schedule and recovery plans. Ask the provider about what you can expect with regard to associated costs should a crisis situation arise. Inquire not only about the frequency for data backup and the time required to recover data during a critical situation, but also how long it would take to recover deleted files. The more you know, the more you can eliminate risk and avoid potential billing issues.

What percentage of downtime can be expected for scheduled maintenance and upgrades?


This is a must-ask question for every organization considering cloud software and hosting, along with data availability/access.  Depending on the level of action required, an effective cloud provider will schedule a customized service plan in advance, working around your calendar and providing a guarantee on data availability. A good benchmark should be no less than 95 percent availability during a calendar month. All details should be carefully explained, along with the contract definitions associated with maintenance, such as availability, outage, castrophic disaster, and credits, in the service agreement.

How does the provider communicate maintenance notices, outage issues, or fixes?


As with any other software, cloud applications require periodic routine maintenance, upgrades and fixes.  Any cloud provider should carefully explain the “customer service” options available, customer service hours (if not 24/7) and the communication vehicles/frequency for notifications. Know upfront how your cloud provider will locate you should the system be down, and what forms of communication will be used:  email, phone, web, mobile, or all. With so many options available through social media today, some providers may use Twitter or Facebook posts to inform clients of pending maintenance. Agree to use the methods that best align to suit your needs.

As more small and midsize companies are driven to keep costs in check, cloud computing and cloud software are becoming increasingly popular. Understand what cloud providers can offer in the way of security, emergencies, data recovery, and downtime before making any decision.  For more information regarding online accounting software, visit www.smbsuite.com.

by SMB Suite, South Texas Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner

2 thoughts on “5 Questions to Ask your Cloud Solution Provider”

  1. You actually make it seem so easy together with your presentation however I find this
    matter to be actually one thing which I feel
    I would never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and
    extremely large for me. I am taking a look forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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