The idea of transferring data from on-site devices to cloud-based storage is becoming a more appealing alternative for many businesses. Improved cloud technology provides such benefits as savings on hardware and maintenance, better security, and more reliability. These are distinct advantages to smaller companies with limited IT support and financial resources.
However, storing your data in the cloud involves more than contracting with a provider, uploading your files, and handing off responsibility. Here are five key questions to ask before entrusting your data to the cloud.
What Is the Service Going to Cost?
Before signing off on what looks like a reasonable price, understand that real value comes from the services that are being provided. Take the time to fully understand what’s covered by your monthly fee and what will cost you extra. There may be additional fees added for services like data back-ups, data recovery testing, exceeding bandwidth or memory limitations, or specific SLAs (service level agreements).
It’s prudent to do some cost modeling based on your own budget and requirements, then start shopping around for the cloud provider that best fits your needs at the most affordable price. Also make note of the security measures that are in place, and whether additional security will cost more. Typically, free solutions will have less storage, support, and security, while premium cloud providers expect you to pay a sliding scale for extra features and services.
Are There Bandwidth Limits?
Bandwidth is the range of frequencies, or extent of communications, that can take place over a given channel. If you are planning to upload or download large files, such as extensive video or high-volume data backups, you may be using a lot of bandwidth. Cloud storage can involve higher costs because the provider has to utilize greater internet bandwidth to accommodate all of their customers.
Limitations on bandwidth may also limit the speed of data transfer. As part of your business continuity strategy, you must have a good estimate of your bandwidth requirements for data recovery should you need it. Ask your provider about features for data compression and bulk data transfers.
What Data Security Is Provided?
In a digital environment where any organization can be targeted by hackers, it’s important to get assurances that your data will be protected. This is particularly important if your data will contain sensitive information like credit card numbers and account passwords. Any responsible cloud provider will have protective measures in place for client information.
Data safeguards should include encryption mechanisms both for transferred and stored data. Messaging can be intercepted at either endpoint, so it’s crucial that all communication is encrypted before it’s sent. Server-side encryption is also essential when storing any sensitive information so that it’s worthless in the event of data theft.
Without encryption, enterprising hackers can embed spyware on computers or devices that enable them to capture, log, and read client-server communications. If they gather the right personal information, they can steal your identity and use it to plunder your accounts and destroy your credit and reputation.
What Are My Disaster Recovery Options?
Cloud services provide a convenient means for performing necessary data backups and initiating data recovery to replace lost or damaged files. Be certain to ask your cloud provider to explain their disaster recovery options in detail so that you aren’t hit by surprises when you need critical data restored. You should have clear directions on where and how to access and recover your data in the event of a system catastrophe.
Ask about where your provider’s data centers are, and how they’re protected and supported. Fast and reliable data recovery is an important feature of continuity. There should also be redundancies to ensure multiple copies of your data at different locations so that you aren’t out of luck if something happens to one of the provider’s systems.
What Kind of Technical Support Is Included?
Prompt, accessible, and expert support is also important. You, as the client, should be provided with opportunities to ask questions or get technical help as needed on an ongoing basis. Small companies with limited technical knowledge are likely to need advice and guidance, especially in the beginning.
Large companies may have the IT support to resolve their own issues, but this could be a complicated and lengthy process for businesses with limited resources. When contracting with a cloud provider, you need to know what level of support is available to you and how to reach it. Support should be available at all hours of the day and night, as inability to use your own data could be crippling to your business.
You need to determine whether technical support will involve extra charges for upgrades, any limits on service time frames, and the promptness and quality of the support you’ll receive. Making the right choice in support services could mean the difference between steady revenue streams and costly downtime.
In conclusion, cloud storage solutions can provide many benefits to your organization. However, it’s crucial to determine which cloud providers can best suit your needs and provide the greatest value. It’s important to select a provider that ensures a high level of accessibility, data security, customer support, and effective solutions for data backups and recovery. If you take the time to obtain a thorough explanation of charges, features, and limitations, you can choose the best cloud services for your company.
About the Author
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.