Cloud Questions

If charged with the important task of choosing the next IT support provider for your business, consider the following topics and questions. Discuss some or all before signing a service level agreement.

Business Questions

1. Which is the best cloud option for my business – public, private, or hybrid? Consider what you want to put into the cloud. Your selection will be dependent on the type of information being transferred to the cloud and any regulations on that information.

2. Will these IT solutions be easily adaptable with any future changes in the business? One of the greatest advantages of moving to the cloud is scalability. Make sure you will get it!

3. In the event that my requirements do change, will my business be charged extra? Your provider needs to be flexible with storage space, data backup retention strategies, bandwidth, user adjustments and additional applications.

4. In what ways, if any, will my business have to alter existing IT processes or workflow? Will my entire team be informed of these changes? You want to prepare your staff as much as possible to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Availability

1. How does my internet connection / supply affect my ability to access my data? What are your expected internet and performance speeds? How fast does my internet pipeline need to be to support cloud based apps? Because the key to the cloud is the ability to transfer the data from one place to another over secure internet lines, it is extremely important to make sure your current capabilities can satisfy the new demands.

2. Do you initiate a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for your services? What are the Response times? Resolution times? A SLA is a legally binding document that gives you, the end user, established expectations and grounds for recourse in the event of an agreement breach.

3. What is your Disaster Recovery strategy? How frequently is it updated and tested? Consider the idea of backing up your backup and providing an additional layer of data security if a disaster affects the data center(s) that hold your mission critical data.

4. Do you have a process for informing clients of any system issues or outages? What is the process? What can I expect? Proactive management of your system is what you are looking for. You need a cloud provider that will establish a process you can trust.

Upgrades, Maintenance, and Outages

1. During upgrades, will my use of the application be affected? If certain applications will be down, it is important not only to know but to have prior knowledge in order to inform your team and maintain internal support of the cloud.

2. How will I be informed of scheduled maintenance and how much advance will be given? Identify the best form of contact and establish a reasonable expectation you both agree on.

3. How is your support handled? Who do I contact with IT issues and what is the best method of contact? Communication is key.

4. Estimated, how often do you upgrade your applications? Upgrades and updates ensure that your network continues to operate at its optimal functionality.

Security

1. Provider: Do you have security certifications from third party creditors? If yes, what are they? In the ever-changing technology industry, your IT provider also needs to be an excellent learner, staying current on all industry standards and securities.

2. Data center: What security measures are in place at the actual data center location(s)? How many technicians have access to my data and are those technicians authenticated before given access? It would be detrimental if a malicious stranger off the street was able to access your cloud server. Most centers have their own individual accessibility rules.

3. Users: Can your IT solutions implement permission rules based on necessary access to files? In other words, who can see what information? Different users within your organization will likely need access to different levels of information. Ensure this function can be managed easily.

4. Do you offer data encryption? How extensive is that encryption? Who holds the encryption key? With the rise of the Snowden Scandal, many cloud prospects are reluctant to release data for legal reasons in the event of a subpoena or other breach.  It is important to know who has control.

Privacy

1. Do you have a privacy policy? What is it and where can it be accessed? Honesty is the best policy.

2. Are there pertinent data related laws associated with your data center locations that I should know about?

3. Do you use consumer data to promote your business or profit in any way? Some public cloud providers use this method and you cannot afford to put your customer’s data in the middle.

Data Ownership

1. What happens to my data if I discontinue your service- do you delete my data immediately? Is there a way to retain access to a read only copy for an additional fee? The most important part about a cloud agreement is your data. Know your exit strategy from the get-go.

2. How easy will it be to migrate to another provider? Can you port data between providers? This is always nice to know; you have no idea what the future holds but information is power.

3. Do you delete my data completely if I delete it from the application? Mistakes happen, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake and you need to ensure the data is truly gone. ASK.

Integration – Technical

1. Do you supply vendor management to integrate other applications easily? If you have 4 applications that help you work faster but have no idea how to make them all work together, it is nice to have someone that can help.

2. Do you offer API access and, if so, are there any additional fees? What form do the APIs take? The more you know.

3. Can a VPN tunnel be built between my office and your data center? Understand your IT arrangement completely.

4. Do you partner with any companies that specialize in integration? This will give you an idea of their experience and confidence.

After examining all your options and discussing the above topics thoroughly, be certain to read your SLA carefully. After migration, you will be floating carefree in the cloud with greater scalability, security, productivity, and efficiency!

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