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Wading Through the Clouds

The biggest hurdle to migrating your data to cloud storage is picking a cloud provider from the hundreds that seem to have sprung up overnight, invigorated by the success of Dropbox and other early providers. With so many to choose from, picking the right one can intimidate those with less computer knowledge and frustrate advanced computer users who may tire of sifting through the clouds.

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Take a step back from the cloud buzz and think about your basic business needs. How will you be using the cloud? If you want a cloud service that comes with apps that allow you to perform business functions, a SaaS or software as a service model works well. If you plan on developing custom apps, a PaaS or platform as a service model offers storage without the extras. An even more bare-bones option, IaaS or infrastructure as a service provides virtual machines and servers for data storage.

Considerations

After coming up with a basic idea of which direction is right for your business, it’s time to get serious about specs. Not all cloud providers are created equal; taking the time to pick through them all will help you pick a platform that offers what you need. Consider comparing platforms by:

  • Security: How secure is the data center storing your information? What levels of security, such as firewalls, exist to protect your data?
  • Price: Budget what you can afford to spend on cloud computing, then examine the plans of each provider and what you receive for each plan. If you overspend or spend your max on a basic cloud plan, scaling up when you need more space will be challenging. Compare the costs of cloud storage with those you currently pay for data storage? Is cloud computing cost-effective?
  • Space: How much data storage space do you get? How much bandwidth will you need to easily upload and download data to the cloud?
  • Functions: What applications, functions or storage capacity can you add on if you need to scale up?
  • Support: What type of support does the cloud provider offer? Do you have to pay for extended customer service, such as telephone support?

Once you have four or five strong options, leverage social media to perform a little more research that can help you decide. Begin by checking the company’s social media presence. Look at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other social media channels the cloud provider touts on its website. For example, cloud host Rackspace has a detailed list of their products and services on their LinkedIn profile, allowing you to see not just what they offer, but who recommends it and who the people working at the company are. See what type of information the company provides. Do customers engage with the cloud provider by tweeting or posting on their Facebook wall? If so, is it to complain, to praise or offer a bit of both? If a company’s social media presence consists of shilling, with little helpful information or customer engagement, it?s a red flag.

Many companies offer some type of free trial that can help you make that final decision. Get started with the free version, then evaluate how it works after a couple of weeks. Don’t be afraid to test out multiple cloud providers, or to reach out to the cloud provider with any questions you have. Often, the experience of using the cloud at work for a couple of weeks will be enough to inform your decision to use it or try another service.

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