You Can’t Guarantee Your Client’s Safety in the Cloud. But You Can Get Them Close

No Cloud provider can ensure 100% uptime. Things can and will happen that are simply unpredictable. But you can outline all the options available to your client that will provide reliable, affordable failover protection for even when the unimaginable happens.

Not a week goes by where I’m not having a conversation with a client about Cloud services. Either I’m reaching out offering suggestions on how to implement new services, or more often, my clients are calling me first asking how they can start making the move.

It’s no wonder. Getting applications and data out of the local office and into the Cloud can bring new levels of productivity and possibly significant cost savings for a small business owner.

When having access to the Internet means having access to their company data, end-users can now work from just about anywhere, allowing for greater efficiency and faster, easier collaboration.

Safety of the data can also potentially be improved, through redundant backups to remote locations, as opposed to the single point-of-failure that localized tape backup represents.

And with software being provided as a service, businesses now have the opportunity to use the applications they need without having to make a steep initial investment in hardware required to run those apps.

But while moving to the Cloud can offer some strong and attractive benefits, it also opens up a whole new world of security concerns.

Data is the lifeblood of almost any business. By placing that data in the hands (or on the server) of a third-party provider, it’s important that we can be sure that the data is safe, secure and protected from unauthorized access.

Here are five questions you can ask a potential Cloud service provider to help boost yours and your client’s confidence that you’re making the right choice:

  1. What backup procedures are in place? – You want to know how often the data is backed up, how many copies of the backup set exist and in how many physical locations. You also want to know how long they retain the data for and at what level of granularity the backups are performed.
  2. Can you easily obtain a complete copy of your full data set? – If the provider goes out of business, or even if you just decide to stop using them or change to a new provider, you’ll want to be sure that you can easily obtain a complete copy of your data – and that they’ll deliver it in a format you’ll be able to access easily.
  3. How is the data protected from unauthorized access? – Unless you specifically request – and pay for – a dedicated server for your data, it will be housed on a server that is shared by other companies. Possibly many companies. Potentially even competing companies. What security measures are in place that guarantee no unauthorized users who share your server can access your data?
  4. Is the data protected from unauthorized access at the provider’s end? The Cloud provider will have staff and administrators who will have partial or even complete access to your client’s sensitive data. How does the provider ensure that an internal employee of theirs cannot copy, email or otherwise compromise your client’s information?
  5. What kind of protection does the provider’s SLA offer? – It’s impossible for any provider to guarantee zero downtime. Things can happen that are simply beyond anyone’s control. So, if the unthinkable happens and your client looses complete access to their data for any period of time, how will they be compensated for the downtime? Will this compensation be meaningful to your client?

Besides asking these questions to potential providers directly, another great way to get some valuable insight as to how their current customers view the service is to network through social media channels, like a dedicated LinkedIn group or Facebook Fan Page. This is an excellent way to get some valuable, pre-sales feedback from current customers as well as seeing how the provider takes action in response to the requests or comments of their existing partners.

Your clients rely on you for recommending the products and services that will keep them on the cutting edge of technology. Moving them to a reliable Cloud service provider can go a long way towards enforcing their confidence and trust in you as a valuable advisor. Earn that trust properly by being diligent when evaluating the providers you recommend.

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