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Cloud Computing: Five Things to Look for in a Managed Service Provider

Ensuring a successful experience with the Cloud

CIOs and IT directors today recognize the value in leveraging the Cloud when it comes to many areas of a business - managing customer relationships, human resources, billing, and even expense reporting. It's a technology that is proliferating into businesses across every industry for its scalability, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness- and it's even considered green.

Regardless of the application, all instances of Cloud computing handle sensitive data - customer account information, employee social security numbers, patient records, etc. So before jumping in, a CIO needs to consider some critical issues when selecting a Cloud managed service provider (MSP).

To ensure a successful experience with the Cloud, here is a list of my top factors to weigh when selecting an MSP:

  • Security Standards Compliance: When evaluating managed service providers, be sure to look for those that meet your own set of industry security compliance standards. Hospitals have strict guidelines around protecting patient records just as banks need to ensure their client records are encrypted and protected. When you select a third-party Cloud solution to manage your critical data, it is important that you look to MSPs that have a track record for excellence and meeting industry standards. Know your own organization's needs and work with the MSP to ensure that their offering will help you comply with your industry standards to give you and your customers peace of mind.
  • Published SLAs: Determining the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is important when selecting an MSP because this will inform up- and downtime and when your business could be affected. A Cloud or hybrid approach relies on the MSP for software uptime and full functionality. If the service goes down during the middle of your workday for planned or unplanned service interruptions, your business will be affected. To minimize this risk and know what you are buying, look for published SLAs from your MSP for service guarantees and planned service outages that will not affect your business.
  • Solution Deployment Flexibility: A Cloud-connected approach enables organizations to pay for what they need as the company grows or shrinks. This approach also allows for offsite data duplication and can help minimize the IT budget or free up an IT department to focus on other initiatives. However, depending on your business, the Cloud may not solve all your needs, so you may need an MSP that offers solution deployment flexibility with Cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment options. This solution deployment flexibility comes into play as some businesses must meet regulatory compliance and require a software or on-premise copy of their backup with an additional offsite server for disaster recovery. Having the option of Cloud, on-premise or hybrid may not be available with every MSP and it can be an important factor for your business depending on your needs.
  • Data Redundancy: Your data is your business, and if you are doing your business in the Cloud it is essential that you find an MSP with data redundancy. Keeping your data in a single location whether on premise or on your MSP's own server could mean the end of your business in the event of a disaster. Keep this in mind when selecting an MSP to make sure that your provider is backing up its own servers by replicating it to a separate location via a secure, bandwidth-optimized transfer.
  • Disaster Recovery Support: While some data may be more critical than other data, all of it needs to be protected in the event of a disaster. Whatever the Cloud solution, it is critical to pick an MSP with data backup and disaster recovery plans in place. Data is the heart of your business so if a fire ruins your data server, your business is gone. This is why it is important to select an MSP that can get your data - and your business - back up and running quickly with plans that are in place from day one.

The beauty of the Cloud lies in its ability to map to your company's IT needs. But to choose the right MSP for your business, it is a must that you investigate your current and future needs so that the data you bring to the Cloud - whether highly confidential patient information or email backup - is properly protected so you can give your customers peace of mind while enjoying the benefits of the Cloud.

More Stories By Karen Jaworski

Karen Jaworski is the Director of Product Marketing for i365, a Seagate Company. She collaborates with i365’s 32,000+ customers and partners to deliver the industry-leading EVault Cloud-Connected solution. Jaworski has 18 years experience managing and developing award-winning technology applications. Prior to joining i365, she drove the SOA management strategy at CA Wily Technology and directed application management tools at BEA. Ms. Jaworski holds an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, and an engineering degree from Cornell University.

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