7 Must Ask Questions to Ask Your Cloud Provider

By Nick Chandi on 23-06-2016

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So you are already looking forward to the benefits of having a cloud environment – a flexible work environment, operational efficiency, increased user productivity, and the list goes on – but what are some factors that make sure you have a positive experience with your new cloud provider? You have to do your due diligence to manage risk. Here are some common questions to ask your potential cloud provider.

  1. Where are your data centers located?
    This is mostly for preference but is a commonly asked question. This is for consumers that want to ensure that their data is in a specific country or province/state to follow their specific policies and laws. You also want to make sure that the servers are reliable and are in multiple locations. We go a little more in-depth about the multi-location factor later – this is referred as geo redundancy. Essentially, this will determine how secure the actual server hardware is when it comes to natural disasters and physical security. Because your cloud experience is heavily influenced by your internet connection, you will also need to make sure that you have a backup in case it fails. Some businesses use 2 internet providers to cover this risk – if one internet provider goes down, they can still access their virtual servers with the backup internet provider.A standard you should keep an eye on is SSAE 16 – this stands for Standards for Attestation Engagements 16. These companies go through a set of audits to ensure their practices mirror and comply with the international service organization report standards. Those cloud providers that follow this demonstrate that their physical systems are secure and have data redundancy.
  2. What happens if I want to cancel your service?
    This is one factor that sometimes scares consumers – commitment. There is a fear that if you don’t like what you purchase or can’t afford it down the road you will be obligated to pay for it. Most providers actually don’t lock you into any annual contracts and are comfortable with having month-to-month payments. This allows them to have some breathing room and can be just as scalable as cloud solutions themselves.Get to understand what the procedure is to cancelling their service and see if they will assist you with transferring your data to the next location. You definitely won’t want to have a hard time cancelling an unsatisfactory service provider that has control over your valuable data.
  3. What happens if I want to add or remove a user?
    To leverage the scalability of the cloud you will want to ensure that your provider is able to work it for you. You will probably want to know about the process to scale your users up and down and plan for it. Some providers have systems in-place that can take hours to add or remove a user. Ensure that their processing time meets your expectations so you know how to plan user on/off boarding. Depending on the process this will allow you to know if there will be any downtime and how you will be billed.
  4. What is the procedure of your backup routine and what are the standards?
    It is important to know what happens to ensure the longevity of your data when it comes to moving into virtual servers. Every provider has different ways of conducting backups. Some may backup once a day, some may backup three times a day, some will follow your requested preferences. Depending on your goals and risk management expectations, you will want to ask this question to your provider. Also, when will the backups be made? Each business – from accountants to lawyers – follows their own set of standards when it comes to data backup procedures so make sure your potential cloud provider understands that.Not only do they provide backups, they ensure that their backup encrypts your data. Just in case someone is able to hack your data when it goes from the live drive to the backup drive, they will not be able to read your data when encrypted.
  5. What will happen to our data if one of your servers gets destroyed by a natural disaster?
    This relates to point 1 – you will want to know if your potential cloud provider has multiple servers in distant locations for cloud redundancy. This means that the provider can duplicate your data several times at multiple server locations. Maybe one day a cloud provider with only one location gets hit by an earthquake – knock on wood – what will happen to your data? It’s not a very high chance but there will still be a chance.It’s usually better to stress about it now than stress about it later. Your data may be one of your most valuable assets and you will want to ensure that it could be transferred to other data centers to minimize the risk. These are one of the main reasons why many companies ditch their on premise systems and have everything stored in the cloud – so they do not have to worry about fires, floods or anything that can lead to hardware failure.
  6. How are my data and applications monitored and maintained?
    Depending on your situation, you may have applications that occasionally need updating or patching and you obviously want your data to be monitored so it reduces the risk of your data being compromised. Make sure your provider have performance monitoring systems in place that automatically notifies them that your systems in need of maintenance support. These monitoring systems should check a multitude of points in their servers – anti-virus, hardware, software, security patching, and disk space. These audits should be consistent and frequent to ensure the safety of your data.
  7. Do you have options for dual-authentication security?
    Security is always the main concern for users. For some, firewalls, data encryption and anti-viruses are not enough. Some vendors are able to implement a dual-authentication code for you. One example is having your mobile number linked to your cloud login. Once you login, the server will send a text message to the linked mobile number with an access code, the access code is then used at the login screen. This will greatly reduce the risk of your account being hacked by making sure only the owner of the cellphone will be able to receive the login access code. It’s takes a little longer to login but this will give you a peace of mind.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into when you talk to cloud hosting providers.  They range in experience and certifications. A good place to start is understanding what your expectations are but if you are unsure about that you can always ask them. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or testimonials to get a better understanding of how they can help you grow your business.

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