These days the majority of Australian companies, whether in the construction, finance, accounting, IT, health, agriculture or government, have either moved or are making the move to cloud hosting.
Cloud hosting makes software and services more affordable for small to medium businesses, and it can deliver better security, reliability, flexibility, mobility and business continuity.
There are a number of best-practice cloud services including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Alibababa Cloud and IBM Cloud, however, your move to the cloud needs to be part of a broader IT strategy, and requires careful consideration and planning to ensure you select the right solution that suits your business structure, objectives and future goals.
Factors to consider when choosing the right cloud hosting provider for your business
Before selecting a provider it’s important that you understand your business security goals and, ideally, have a clearly defined cyber security strategy.
The next step is to identify the security measures that are offered by each provider, and the systems they use to protect your data and applications. Also consider the security features that are offered as standard free features as well as additional paid products and third-party integrations.
A quality cloud service provider needs to be able to manage your host, network and physical setup. They should also offer multi-factor authentication, data encryption, intrusion detection, enterprise grade firewalls and other advanced security features.
Cloud security is a critical concern for your business so if your business is lacking the internal expertise, or you are yet to develop a business cyber security strategy, you may want to engage an experienced IT company to assist with your cyber security and cloud hosting selection.
2. Setup and Performance
When choosing a cloud provider, it’s important to understand how the setup and structure (architecture) will be incorporated into your workflows, and if these can scale effectively in the future. For instance, if your business has already invested in Microsoft, it may make sense to select Azure for ease of integration, consolidation and cost savings.
Performance and reliability are also important factors. It is essential to understand how strong and reliable your cloud service will be. When working with multiple users (potentially staff and clients) you don’t want performance issues.
The leading providers also guarantee 99.999% uptime, meaning your business should experience no more than 6 minutes of downtime in a year, ensuring you have access to your business systems and processes at all times.
3. Backup and Disaster Recovery
All reputable services offer reliable data backup and recovery, however, the speed and ease of the backup process should influence your choice of cloud service provider. Leading cloud services like Microsoft Azure offer cost-effective, simple and comprehensive cloud backup solutions.
Similarly, best practice cloud disaster recovery – the ability to reinstate your hosting service after disruption such as a natural disaster – should be simple, secure, scalable and cost effective. Disaster recovery is an essential cloud hosting feature and should be offered as standard.
Your cloud architecture platform should help you to meet any industry compliance standards, or other organisational frameworks required. Before selecting a provider, make sure you understand what it will take to achieve compliance, and whether this can be delivered by your provider.
6. Service and Support
It’s also worth spending time to understand how much time your shortlist of cloud providers will demand from you to manage. Ensure your key services can be easily integrated and supported, and how much time your business team will need to devote to management of your cloud infrastructure.
For many small to medium size business, outsourcing the management of cloud hosting services to a reliable IT solutions and support company is a hassle-free and effective alternative than trying to deal directly with a cloud hosting provider.
Your Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also an important element of your cloud hosting contractual relationship. If you have strict availability, capacity, response times or support requirements, these need to be clearly defined in your contract. You need to be able to trust your provider, and an SLA provides a legal agreement to fall back on.
Easily accessible support is also important. If you need help, will it be provided quickly and easily? Will your support be nothing more than a chat service or call centre, or will you have access to dedicated resources? Clearly define the level and form of support you will have access to.
Again, accessing your cloud-hosting services through an experienced and responsive small to medium business specialist IT company may be easier and could also offer unlimited local 24×7 support for your business.
Whilst it shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor, cost is always a major consideration for most businesses. The major players offer a variety of pricing structures including hours used, pay-as-you-go, per second used, volume discounts…the list goes on.
Azure Cloud Hosting bills customers on-demand by the hour, gigabyte, or millions of executions, depending on the products accessed. It can be an effective – and cost-effective – solution that meets small to medium business models and budgets.
Selecting the cheapest solution may be tempting, but it may not offer your business optimum services and solutions, so aim to select a provider with flexible pricing that offers all your services for a cost-effective price.
Need Help Selecting or Managing Your Cloud Services?
Choosing and migrating to the right cloud hosting provider is an absolute business necessity. If your business doesn’t have the time or expertise to effectively assess, implement and manage your cloud hosting services, Surety IT can assist with implementing and supporting the best cloud-based solutions and services to suit your business including:
- Hosted exchange email and anti-spam solutions
- Hosted anti-virus and anti-malware solutions
- File sharing and storage solutions
- Web protection and filtering solutions
- Online software subscriptions
- Desktop and infrastructure as a service
- Hosted servers
- Online disaster recovery and backup solutions
- Hosted VOIP solutions