By letting a cloud services vendor store your company's files and applications online, you can easily expand in-house storage capacity and processing muscle as your business grows. Let's say you have a surge of new orders on your e-commerce system or you need to expand processing power for an application. Your vendor can boost your computing capabilities to satisfy those needs.
But there can be some risks associated with moving to the cloud. What if your vendor goes bankrupt and closes? What if its technology fails, leaving you unable to access your sensitive business data?
Migrating valuable business information to a technology vendor is a big move and can require a lot of consideration. Here, we look at three of the most important factors to consider when making the transition for your company.
1. Research the vendors.
Because it's relatively easy to offer cloud services, your choices will range from larger, established companies to unknown startups. The small players may be competent, but be sure you feel comfortable being among the first to put them to the test.
To assess vendors, ask for customer references, talk to other companies you trust and do some research online. The ideal vendor will have a strong track record for both performance and customer service.
For example, low latency -- the delay in moving data from one point to another -- is an important measure to check. Prompt and reliable service is critical because your cloud provider is essentially your new outside information technology department. If the vendor is slow to deal with your problems, your response time to customers also will likely suffer.
2. Be aware of legal issues.
Understand your potential legal liabilities and ensure that your cloud vendor abides by the same rules that govern your company.
Your business may have internal audit rules that demand careful handling of sensitive information. If you're in a regulated industry or do business with the government, you also may be subject to restrictions on handling data.
Make sure the vendor also understands the latest privacy laws affecting your business and that it states in writing its commitment to confidentiality and its methods for securing your data. "As your data is stored in the same storage space as your neighboring tenants, you need to know how your cloud vendor will ensure that your data isn't illegally accessed," says Ian Huynh, vice president of engineering at Hubspan, a cloud services integration company.
3. Consider a back up to the cloud.
Your data will likely be just fine in the servers of a cloud services vendor. I've been using online services for years and have never lost data. But if you would like an added measure of security, you might want to regularly back up data stored in the cloud.
You could manually export your information from the cloud and back it up on-site. Or you could select a cloud backup service from such companies as Symantec, CloudBerry, KineticD and CTERA Networks, which typically allow users to keep copies of their cloud data on local servers or in other locations.
Related: Still Foggy on Cloud Computing?
Installing software on a server or local computer hard disk has been the traditional way of using computers for years. However, online software offers growing businesses a much faster, more productive and more cost effective way to create, manage and move information. Just be cautious about what software you can move securely to the cloud.