Are you ready to move some or possibly all of your business operations to the cloud? Many small business owners are in order to save on IT equipment and infrastructure costs, increase efficiencies and boost mobile capabilities.

The range of cloud computing solutions is growing. Payroll and invoicing, online back-up, phone systems, collaboration platforms and more all are available in the clouds, which makes them accessible to your team wherever they are. This is particularly important due to the increase in remote working over smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Even with all its benefits, do your homework before moving critical company data assets and operations to the cloud.  Choose a vendor that meets your needs for availability, security and performance and who promises a smooth and timely transition of your operations. Also be sure that the vendor will be around and isn’t about to go out of business or be acquired.

Ask questions about:

Product: What are the features of the cloud-based applications you want to deploy? Are the applications stable and reliable? Will they be easy for your team to use? These issues along with cost will help you decide if there’s a match.

Security: Security is not only critical in terms of running your business; many laws today require you to protect the personal information of your customers. Find out what precautions a provider takes to protect data from security breaches, including encryption and firewalls as well as onsite security and possible natural disasters. Does the vendor back up data at more than one location, for example?  Also ask how soon you can expect to be notified if there is a data breach.

Performance: Is the compute power sufficient to handle peak loads or the rapid deployment of a business process? Will applications scale as your customer base grows? You want to make sure the performance you are getting is at least equal to or better than managing your own IT.

Availability:  Downtime is something you can’t afford. Ask about uptime guarantees; in fact, find out if you get money back if the service goes down.  You also need to know who to contact if there is downtime or if you will be relegated to an automated call tree.

Cloud computing has many advantages, but don’t expect to hand over your applications and walk away. Cloud computing is no different from any other outsourcing agreement. Assess your business needs, develop a list of questions and start interviewing prospects. And most importantly, even after you find the right vendor, plan to work at maintaining a good relationship.  This is all about collaboration, after all.

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