Cloud Vendor Buyer's Guide: 4 Ways to Make the Choice a Breeze

A dedicated IT team can help a small business scale and grow quickly, but it's not a luxury all SMBs can afford. But the ever-present threat of a computer crash or other data disasters mean that businesses can't afford not to invest in some kind of IT solution. For many, this means outsourcing at least a portion of IT infrastructure to cloud and other third-party vendors. 

Selecting a reliable cloud provider can be complicated, even for the most tech-savvy buyer. For starters, keep it simple. “Complexity in any mechanism — not just in IT — means too many components working together with a lot of potential tension or incompatibility,” says Sam Roguine, engineering director at Acronis. Here are four basic guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a cloud solution:  

Ease of Implementation

The implementation stage, when a cloud computing system is first truly tested, can be tricky. "Whether you want to protect servers, desktops or either physical or virtual systems, files of applications, all should be encompassed within one rollout through a vendor," says Roguine. The IT administrator can choose the best rollout option, whether manual, remote or automatic. 

Ease of Management

Does the provider offer 24-hour customer service? How easily accessible is your data? What kind of downtime can you expect? These are all important questions to ask of potential vendors. The answers to those questions will have a direct impact on how you are able to manage your business stats.

"From an availability perspective, it's important to understand if the service is deployed on an underlying infrastructure that is backed up with a meaningful service level agreement," says Vince DiMemmo, general manager of cloud and IT services at Equinix. "You already have fundamental expectations of your service levels if you are managing your own IT today. When you move to the cloud, you minimally want to achieve that availability or better to ensure the performance of your infrastructure and applications."

Ease of Scaling

For a growing business, it's crucial to choose a cloud computing solution that can scale. “To ensure that you're choosing a flexible cloud provider, find out what additional storage capacity and other services can be offered over time and for how much," says Kim Lachance Shandrow, senior writer at Entrepreneur. “If you plan to increase your staff, you'll want to make sure that you can easily add additional users to your account.” 

Ease of Transfer

Lastly, an often overlooked consideration: The less expertise and experience that an IT admin or business owner needs to transfer company data to the cloud service, the better. An easier solution will save time and training resources and reduce the possibility of catastrophic mistakes that could result in permanent data loss. Cloud vendors offer several installation methods, including requiring new users to login to a dashboard and configure their accounts themselves, offering installation consulting or providing online introductory guides, according to Nicholas Bessmer, author of Cloud Computing for Small Business. Each option comes with its own pros and cons. Bessmer's recommendation for IT pros vetting cloud vendors? Consider which transfer is likely to meet your business needs and to result in the easiest transition.