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How to choose your cloud provider?

23/07/2013

Although 2014 is set to be a key year for cloud computing (newsroom.edicomgroup.com's POST), there are still some companies afraid to make the leap to the new platform. Outsourcing software and hardware in the cloud, as well as the human resources needed to keep it updated and in proper working order, gives rise to insecurity in some users, who also worry about breaches of their data protection.

These issues are not trivial. Choosing a suitable service provider is crucial to achieve maximum benefit from cloud-based solutions. In this sense, there are some aspects that all of you who may be thinking about getting into cloud computing should take into account:

  • Choose a cloud that suits your needs. There are specialist platforms designed to set up a management applications infrastructure, to build corporate intranets or company desktop solutions. But there are also others designed for specific B2B e-commerce applications, such as the EDICOM platform.  When you know what type of cloud is the best for your company, study the range of service providers available.
  • There are guarantees, and if they are in writing, so much the better. Getting into the cloud will most likely mean delegating some critical aspects of your company's management to your provider. It is therefore important, before taking this step, to check out the service availability and how you will be compensated in the event of failure. This is what is known as a SLA (Service Level Agreement), a document whereby the supplier undertakes to provide the service in a certain way and with some minimum guarantees.
  • Ask them to keep you regularly informed on the degree of service compliance. This is a good way to periodically ensure that your provider is doing everything set down in the SLA. Moreover, it will let you know about any incidents that may have occurred and how they were handled.
  •  Ask about the communications services that your provider has rolled out. Some of the most relevant questions are the Internet service provider, the dedicated bandwidth available and the data processing capacity and data connections they are able to guarantee. In this sense, what interests us depends to a great extent on the use we are going to make of the infrastructure: outsourcing cloud computing services that you need to access frequently to administer your own network infrastructure services is not the same as contracting specific services that call for the exchange of massive amounts of information, involving the delivery and downloading of important volumes of data, as would be the case in cloud solutions for EDI or electronic billing.
  • Make sure that your provider's systems architecture is suitable for your needs. Check that they have disaster recovery centres, redundant services or data centres running in active-active mode that guarantee service availability.
  • Find out about how protection of your data is guaranteed. Ask about the procedures for information storage and retrieval of information when faced with possible contingencies; find out how often security backup copies are made and how long it takes the service to get up and running again in the event of possible crashes. These issues must be dealt with, and ideally your suppliers should hold specific certification such as ISO27001, ISO2000 or ISAE3402 (formerly SAS70).
  • Look for scalable service in line with your needs. Bear in mind that the service your company needs today may not be the same as it needs tomorrow, and ideally your provider should be able to meet your needs at any given time. Before making the move to the cloud, find out how your IT infrastructure is extended to ensure that your current and future needs will be covered.
  • Protect your data. The provider you hire must guarantee that the data you leave in their hands are protected. In many cases, this information may be highly sensitive for you or your business, so, if you deem it advisable, confidentiality agreements may be in order.

If you control these issues, your company can fully exploit the advantages offered by cloud solutions: from lower economic and labour costs to the simplification of administrative processes.

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