How to select a Cloud-based provider of business services

Entrepreneur Will Lovegrove shares how he would select an online software company to supply business services

 

I demonstrated in an earlier article on The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that it’s possible to get a business up and running by just selecting from a raft of Cloud-based solutions. But how do you select a provider?

Here are my tips on what to watch for when selecting a cloud vendor:

1. Look carefully at what’s free and what’s not.

Not because you are likely to mistakenly adopt something thinking what is free is actually chargeable (although this does sometimes happen). What I want you to understand is why the vendor has made some parts of their service free and others payable. Ask yourself, what may I need in six months time, or 12 months time? And what will it cost me then?

2. Read the small print.

Review the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. We’ve all clicked through Terms and Privacy on consumer software. It’s a boring necessity that we know millions of other customers have accepted. So why make the effort to read the small print?

The trouble is that if you take this attitude into the selection of your business applications then you may find there are aspects of the privacy policy and terms and conditions that you don’t like. It’s worth being diligent. Take special care over the service levels, support and security of the free-use version.

Most good vendors will be responsible and want to make sure you get a good experience from their app (and so increase the percentage take-up of their premium services). But it’s a boom market for cloud application providers and not every tech-start-up is as well organized and professional as others…

3. Research the software vendor as thoroughly as you can.

Google is Google. They are a billion-$ organisation which is likely to be around for a long time to come. Less well recognised companies could be different. Let me make it clear: there’s absolutely no harm in working with a start-up.

In fact, there could be some significant advantages. Many start-ups offer incredibly useful and valuable technology that can make a positive impact on your business. By example, I run a start-up cloud company, and you may be trying to start one as well.

My point here is that it’s good to understand who you are buying your services from. You would conduct due diligence on your real world suppliers… do the same for your cloud suppliers. And of course, there’s a free cloud app for helping you with that as well: www.duedil.com

4. Think about what service the cloud app is performing for you.

Think about what data it will collect. Think about where else in your business that data may be useful. It could be that you will want to export, or link, the data in your cloud vendors app with other parts of your business in the future. Is that possible?

Does the vendor support the notion that the data they collect for your business is yours… or do they think it’s theirs? Importantly, make sure you can get a copy of your business data from the vendor at any point in time. Particularly if you think you want to leave them and take your business to a rival service.

5. Think carefully about what you put in the cloud.

Bear in mind that the more critical business functions you put into the cloud the more your business becomes reliant on your broadband connection and internal network infrastructure. Do not skimp on this. Buy high quality bandwidth and service from a reputable service provider with excellent customer service.

Get the best you can afford. Because when your broadband service fails (and it will) you will be in a business blackout. At that point in time you will want your broadband service provider working hard to reconnect your office to your cloud applications.

This article is part three of five. You can read part four – How to deal with bandwidth failure in the office – by clicking the arrow links.

Will Lovegrove runs an award-winning mobile app software company called Release Mobile. He has just launched a new cloud-based data sharing platform, Datownia, aimed at helping small to medium-sized businesses connect their data to mobile apps and business systems.

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