The cloud is sometimes discussed as if it’s a mystical happy place to which technology and data can magically ascend. In reality, the cloud is literally grounded. Uploading something to the cloud means you’re wirelessly transmitting data that is going to be stored on a physical server that’s usually somewhere far away from your computer and office.
If you cut through the hype, you’ll find that cloud-hosted solutions are generally cheaper, safer, and more convenient than traditional hosted solutions…but this isn’t always true. Some solutions are better than others - in cost, practicality, and quality - so you need to know the difference before you make any decisions.
Factors to Look For
If you’re in the market for a cloud-based platform (and you probably should be, unless you’re perfectly happy with your current cloud setup), you need to be aware of certain fundamental qualities that are of critical importance to the security of your data.
You may have personal preferences when it comes to aesthetics and functionality, but the following are foundational elements you shouldn’t go without:
1. Multiple redundant backups
Where would you be if you suddenly lose all your company’s vital data? You don’t want to find out. Your cloud service provider should have multiple redundant backups, in other words, they should be storing your information at multiple, separate locations in case something happens to one of them. For example, CloudRecover’s backup and disaster recovery services are guaranteed, with multiple copies of your information available at any time. Though this is fairly common, not all cloud companies offer it, so you should specifically confirm that your provider has it.
2. Encryption and security
This involves your company’s private data that it’s personally and physically storing offsite. It must be absolutely secure, no matter what. Check the encryption and security standards of each new platform you consider, and only accept the service providers who are genuinely interested in keeping your data safe.
3. A proven history
Have you heard of Dropbox? Of course, you have. It’s one of the top names in the cloud storage field, and it’s been around for years. This is a firm that’s proven itself over time and has a long track record of satisfied clients who can attest they’ve never had a problem with its reliability. Many new companies could be just as reliable, but they can’t prove it -
4. Client reviews and testimonials
Client reviews and testimonials are also good if you can find them. Most big-name cloud service providers have lists of customer reviews on their own sites, but if you want to dig deeper, find someone who’s used the service in the past, and have a direct conversation with them. If you can get a few positive recommendations and you don’t hear any horror stories, you’re probably good to move forward.
5. Open API (or easy integration)
Over time, you’ll likely need to use multiple distinct systems at the same time to keep your business running. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all worked together, and talked to one another? A system that has an open API can make that happen, as long as you have a developer in your team. Otherwise, make sure there are easy and straightforward integration points you can use in the future. You never know which systems you’ll want to integrate next.
6. FAQs, forums, and customer resources
If you get stuck on a problem, you may want resources to bail you out. That’s why it’s necessary for your cloud service provider to have some provision for self-help for its customers, whether it’s an in-depth FAQ guide or a customer forum. For example, Salesforce has multiple customer forums - one for developers and one for regular customers - and they have contributed significantly to the company’s success.
7. Effective customer service
Not everything’s going to run perfectly. When things go wrong or something needs to change, you need to be able to contact someone immediately. When you select a cloud service provider, find out how difficult it is to get in touch with a customer service rep, and what kind of interactions you have with the person who responds. It’s worth sacrificing a few bells and whistles if it means being able to talk to a helpful real person during a crisis down the line.
Doing the Research
Thousands of cloud-based platforms are out there, ready to help with anything from hosting your site to organizing your invoices, and many of them look the same on the surface. If you want to choose the right platform, you need to commit to doing some research.
Take your time to investigate competitors and the many variations of the same platform. Opt for free trials and spend some time getting to know each firm. This is a big decision and one you can’t afford to make lightly. Make sure everything you need is in place before you step forward.