How to choose a Cloud Provider that suits your Business Needs

In the past, small and medium-scale businesses had no chance of competing against large corporations when it comes to technological tools that can make operations easier and more efficient. Fortunately, the rise of cloud technology changed all that. Now, through the cloud, different business apps that address different business needs from storage, infrastructure, communications, accounting, and more, are now within reach even for businesses with little funds or resources.

The best part about cloud technology is that it is no longer treated as a mere alternative to on-premise systems. It actually presents several advantages that you would not get from non-cloud solutions like:

No large capital investment – There is no need to invest large amount of money outright just to buy the expensive hardware for the infrastructure needed to host the application or software. Cloud services are stored on remote data centers by third-party providers, and delivered via the Internet through subscription.
Flexible and scalable – Because cloud services are delivered through the Internet, it can be accessed from a multitude of devices from anywhere. Plus, since it is subscription-based, you can upgrade and downgrade your plan based on the needs of your business.
Automatic updates – Upgrades to the service is rolled out automatically to all subscribers of the service. No need for additional payments.

There are many more benefits to going to the cloud for your business application or software needs and these listed above are just a few. However, as cloud technology rises, so is the number of cloud providers in the market. The question now shifts from “Should we move to the cloud?” to “Which cloud provider should I get?” To help you decide on which cloud provider you should select, here are some questions you need to ask before choosing a cloud provider.

What are the areas of my business that need improvement?

There are hundreds of different kinds of cloud services for businesses in the market today. So first and foremost, you have to identify the type of services that would improve your business operations. Do you want to automate your business communications? Do you need to gather and organize the data of your prospects and existing customers? Do you just need a large file storage? There are hundreds of different kinds of cloud services for businesses in the market today, and they are designed to tackle a specific need. Once you identified that business need, you can start narrowing your choices. But first, you must decide…

Which cloud model do you need?

Most cloud services are delivered via the “as a Service” model. Depending on your needs and capabilities, you may want to decide whether you want a:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – If you need a ready-built data center to host your own software, files, and other things a normal on-premise network can do, this is your bet. Instead of building your own, you are kind of renting a remote data center for your own business. This is for businesses who have their own solutions but do not have the resources to build their own infrastructure.
Platform as a Service – This is more like an extended version of the IaaS, but instead of just the underlying infrastructure, it also provides businesses a platform to design, build, and manage their own applications. This is for businesses who wants to build their own solutions and systems.
Software as a Service (SaaS) – These are ready made software or applications that are actually designed and built to address a specific purpose like accounting, storage, or business communications. Instead of building your own, you subscribe to a pre-made application and implement it to your business.

Most small businesses opt for the SaaS model as they lack the resources to build their own applications. Besides, if the pre-built cloud apps can fulfill the need, the resources that would have been used to build a counterpart app, can instead be spent somewhere else more important.

Does your business need to be compliant to certain standards or regulations?

Some companies are subject to regulations and standards dictated by the industry they are in. Fortunately, there are cloud apps out there that can help companies stay compliant to certain standards. For example, Google for Work and RingCentral has settings that limit the collection and sharing capabilities of customer information from their apps. This is to help the business stay HIPAA compliant.

How reliable and secure are these cloud business apps?

A cloud app is of no use if it is down always. That is why even before subscribing, you should investigate the reliability of your cloud provider. First, you should ask if they have multiple data centers to ensure redundancy. This is so that if one data center goes down due to, say, natural disaster, other data centers can step up and take over. You should also inquire about the locations of the data centers as compliance and regulations can vary from country-to-country. So yes, your cloud service can be hosted outside the US.

You should also be worried about how secure your data is with your cloud provider. Find out what types of data they are acquiring from you, and from your customers. Inquire about the security measures the provider is implementing to safeguard these data, especially when it is travelling along public Internet lines. Most providers implement heavy encryption on both ends of data transmission to prevent breach. You can also ask about their certifications for standards they are compliant to.

Do these cloud business apps play nice with other business apps?

Today’s world of work is about collaboration and this reflects on the business apps that companies use today. A lot of cloud providers recognize this trend, and made it possible for their own apps to integrate with other business apps. In fact, most cloud communications solutions are able to integrate and add communications components on other business apps like Salesforce CRM, Dropbox, Microsoft 365 and others. A lot of cloud providers have also made their APIs available to encourage business app developers to integrate their service into the solutions and systems they are building. So, before signing up for a cloud service, ask if it can be integrated into the apps you are currently using or planning to use.

Ask about the price and packages?

As you can see, price, plans, and packages are placed last in this list. That is because if you start off your search with price, you would be severely limiting your search. Sometimes, those that are priced slightly higher gives your business the most value and savings in the long run.

About the author:

Mark Dacanay is a Digital Marketing Professional who has been working with a B2B company offering cloud-based phone systems for more than 5 years. He is obsessed with anything about the cloud – the technology, not the fluffy stuff in the sky.

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