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As an entrepreneur, I understand the depth, variety, and complexity of the decisions we face when starting a company. IT is a delicate area to navigate as an entrepreneur, and it’s easy to put crucial decisions on the long finger when you want to focus on the ideas, products, and services you plan to provide.
However, effective and efficient decision-making in the realm of IT is critical for the success of any small business given how reliant most companies are on technology. You’ll have no doubt heard about the cloud if you’re starting your own business. A public cloud service is a technology resource, such as file storage, computing power, or an application, which is made accessible via the Internet and provided by a third-party.
In my opinion, public cloud computing services drastically reduce headaches for entrepreneurs because they outsource many IT concerns, such as file storage, website maintenance, and data backup, to a third-party cloud provider. Cloud services can also dramatically cut costs for small businesses by reducing the need for in-house IT personnel and on-premise hardware.
A quick Google search reveals tons of different public cloud services, and the array of choices quickly becomes dizzying, making it a real challenge for you to choose the right service for your business. I have decided to drill-down into what matters here and give you seven tips for choosing between cloud providers to make your decision easier.
1. Clarify Your Requirements
A mistake I’ve seen some small businesses make is to dive into researching cloud computing without a clear definition of what they need. Cloud services exist that meet many different needs, and it’s important to be clear what you’re looking for before you look!
As your business grows, you may have to consider more advanced cloud computing services to meet increasingly complex IT needs, such as seeking out services offering virtual computing resources that can host applications in the cloud, including AWS and Microsoft Azure’s App Service.
2. Opt for Pay-as-You-Go Pricing
One of the main draws of the cloud for entrepreneurs is that it reduces upfront IT costs, which can be a real burden on your resources when starting a company. Different cloud services have different pricing structures. However, I advise you to seek out only those services that provide pay-as-you-go pricing plans.
Costs, of course, often depend on how much you use different cloud services, but a huge advantage of the cloud is that you can pay for precisely what you need and nothing more. Tread carefully with cloud providers that demand large upfront payments.
3. Think about Cloud Backup
I think cloud backup is something all cloud users need to think about. If you have on-premise servers and computer systems with lots of valuable data about your business, it’s imperative to have a backup option in the cloud in case disaster strikes and wipes all your business information.
However, providing a secondary location for on-premise data isn’t the only way to use the cloud for backup purposes. I already mentioned using the cloud to store files and run apps on services like AWS.
4. Prioritize Information Security
If you decide to use the cloud to store sensitive company documents and data, it’s vital to prioritize information security when choosing a provider. Trusting a third-party with company files carries significant risk, and it’s essential to develop a relationship based on trust with any service provider.
Look out for security certifications, data encryption, and watertight user authentication policies as minimum requirements. Additionally, depending on your industry, you may need to adhere to specific regulatory requirements that dictate what you do with customer data. Make sure your cloud provider guarantees compliance with any relevant laws in your industry.
5. Pay Close Attention to SLAs
The service level agreement (SLA) is an agreement between you, the customer, and a cloud provider that sets out the minimum level of service you can expect. When evaluating any cloud provider’s suitability, read through its SLA and look out for important aspects such as the security practices of the provider, what the provider can do in the event of data loss or outages, and the potential downtime.
6. Assess How Good the Customer Support Is
A helpful way to find out the truth about a provider’s customer support is to search for reviews online. I cannot overstate the importance of a good customer care team for entrepreneurs looking to use the cloud—it makes everything much less stressful. I advise searching for companies that can provide technical support 24/7, whether by phone, chat, or email.
7. Look for Good Documentation
It’s an excellent sign of an easy to use service if a company provides clear documentation on its website about using the service. Dropbox, for example, has excellent guides both for business admins and business users of its cloud file hosting services.
You want to minimize headaches and get up-and-running as smoothly as possible in the cloud, and proper documentation goes a long way towards getting you started.
For entrepreneurs, I advocate anything that saves both time and money, particularly in such a technical aspect of business as IT. Minimal capital expenditure on hardware, easy accessibility via the Internet and effortless scalability to meet increased business growth are all reasons to vouch for using the cloud. Use the seven tips from this article to make better decisions about what services and which cloud provider you should choose.