By Forrest Blair, CEO of AirDesk Solutions
1.Will data be converted?
Many cloud services require your existing data to be converted
2.Will the user experience be similar to working on earth?
Select a cloud service where hosted applications work exactly like they did before - even on multiple monitors. Terminal services or “fly to my pc” style interfaces do not cut it. Folders and paths in the cloud should mimic those on earth to minimize the transition and learning curve. Plugins to Microsoft Office apps and integration with products like Adobe Acrobat and Quickbooks should all work like they did before.
Cloud-based apps are sometimes stand-alone services that do not integrate well with other programs. For example, when creating or editing documents, the documents must be downloaded to a local desktop for editing and then uploaded back to the cloud service. This is a time-consuming and awkward process. When going to the cloud don’t keep one foot on earth.
3.Can users work with the devices of their choice?
The cloud service should be “device agnostic” and support the full suite of PCs, MACs, laptops, tablets, and phones. It should not be necessary to configure Mac devices to run “parallel” to use Windows-based applications. The only thing that should be required is an internet connection to use any application and work with any documents. No special handling required.
The service should work well over DSL connections and provide reasonable productivity with a 3G/4G tablet connection. One should also be able to use current older desktops with the service until they die rather than upgrading to the latest operating system.
4.Will the local devices be accessible from the cloud?
Users’ local devices, such as hard drives, scanners, and printers should be automatically connected to the cloud applications. No extra setup should be required.
5.Is it secure?
Government and Enterprise class data centers generally have more hardware, software, and staff resources dedicated to security. Ask if there is a full-time security officer and team on board. Small vendors who run their own data center carry a higher risk.
The data should reside in facilities that meet AICPA/SOC, SAS 70 Type II, SSAE 16, PCI, SOX, HIPPA and GLBA-compliance.
6.Will IT expenses be fixed?
Confirm that all cloud server maintenance, operating system updates, industry-standard software updates such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, etc. are managed by the service provider without hidden costs. A good service will provide premium customer support with the service.
7.Will out-of-pocket capital investment be eliminated?
When making the move to the cloud put both feet firmly there and don’t have a legacy server left behind on earth that needs maintained and upgraded. The local server may run for a while after the migration but expect it to be turned off soon. The entire infrastructure should move out – efficiently and simply.
8.How will data be backed up?
Data should be backed up to multiple data centers and daily at a minimum. The number of backups can vary but a weeks’ worth is a good starting point. Some providers charge extra for longer periods. Users should be able to easily restore previous versions of folders or files if needed in the event data is inadvertently overwritten or deleted.
9.Does the vendor have a successful track record?
Many businesses have unique applications or client-server systems used to run their business. If the vendor has hosted those applications for other customers, chances are they have already dealt with issues that could arise. A vendor with a broad user base generally will have a wealth of experience to go with it.
10. Is the service cost effective?
Generally the cost of hosting back-office systems in the cloud has a good return on investment. Big factors are reduced infrastructure costs, improved staff productivity, and overall increased profitability. Vendors should be able to justify the ROI. When they know how to clearly explain the cost benefits they likely have employed the cost management aspects into the service in an effective way that not only saves companies money, but also makes them money.
Forrest Blair is Chief Executive Officer at AirDesk Solutions (www.airdesksolutions.com). His professional background ranges from technical innovator and entrepreneur guiding technology startups, to executive leadership in large corporations. He has held Senior Director, Vice President, President, and other executive roles at various companies. He holds a degree in Engineering from Brigham Young University.