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Navigating Cloud Services: Choosing the Right Solutions for Your Business

In the past, if you had your head in the clouds, you weren’t paying attention to business. Today, proper attention to business could mean putting everything in the cloud. Of course, by that we mean cloud computing, a euphemism for offsite access to software programs and platforms to manage applications, as well as remote storage of data. Doing business “in the cloud” can reduce costs for infrastructure and maintenance, while enabling you to benefit from cutting-edge technology without a huge investment. Moreover, cloud service is wonderfully scalable, so you should never pay for more than you need and can easily ramp up services as your business grows. But if you want to get started with cloud services, how do you know what’s right for your business?

Types of cloud services available for small businesses

Cloud services can be understood a couple of ways. First, you might want to know, “Where is my cloud?” In this regard, you have three choices:

  • Public cloud — With this option, you contract with a company that hosts commonly used business programs such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. Your cloud is offsite, managed by the service provider. This is most inexpensive option, offering a wide range of services without a big capital investment.
  • Private cloud — If you want greater data security, you can opt for a private cloud, which is not shared with the provider’s other customers. (To steal a line from the old Rolling Stones song, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud!”) However, this option requires you to purchase or rent equipment from the provider and take a more active role in overseeing the service.
  • Hybrid cloud — For many small businesses, this is a “best of both worlds” approach, which enables business to access a public cloud for routine tasks and a private cloud for more sensitive data.

But exactly what types of services are we talking about? The answer falls into three categories:

  • Software as a Service — SaaS provides ready-to-use software applications over the internet. So, goodbye to time-consuming installations and updates. You get a complete array of always up-to-date programs to manage all aspects of your business to greatly enhance your productivity.
  • Platform as a Service — If you design or customize software in your business, PaaS provides a comprehensive platform for your developers to build, deploy, and manage applications without having to manage the physical infrastructure. PaaS enables workers to silo or work collaboratively and offers easy scalability.
  • Infrastructure as a Service — IaaS offers all the advantages of robust hardware without taking up floorspace or requiring in-house maintenance. Easy scalability allows your “infrastructure” to grow along with your business.

Now that you know your options, how do you decide on a cloud solution?

Key considerations when entering the cloud

Here are the basic points you want to keep in mind when choosing a service or a provider:

  • Your business requirements — You need to identify your current needs and imagine where your business will be in three to five years. A provider must be able to deliver services that allow your people to perform at the highest level.
  • Security and compliance — First, you must understand your needs for operational security and your regulatory requirements. Then, you must ascertain whether a provider can meet your needs and is also in compliance with its own regulatory requirements.
  • Scalability — Can the service you’re considering accommodate increased demands on your end swiftly and smoothly? What if you had to downsize? Would your contract allow you to scale resources down if you had to?
  • Cost and pricing models — What is your budget for the service? How do different pricing models compare, and which would be most appropriate for your pattern of usage?
  • Data migration — Migrating data from one platform to another and integrating it with a new service can be complex. Your cloud provider must offer assurances that the transition will be smooth and timely, and will not interfere with your operations.
  • Customer support — The cloud provider must offer responsive support. Review the Service Level Agreement for assurances related to issue resolution.

Shopping for a cloud service provider can leave you up in the air, but a knowledgeable IT professional can be a great source of advice and can often recommend a thoroughly vetted provider. With personalized guidance from a pro at KMF Technologies, you can have your head in the cloud, while your feet remain firmly on the ground.