What to Look For When Choosing Cloud Services

Cloud this and cloud that. Private Cloud, Public Cloud, Virtual Servers so on and so forth – it is no wonder people find IT confusing to deal with. In reality business should not be concerned with the “what” rather the “end result”.

I believe that businesses obtain the most benefit from cloud solutions when all of their Information Technology is in the cloud backed by the right support.

Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Does my IT offer the right features, cost and peace of mind that I need?
  2. Does my IT allow me to concentrate on my core business?
  3. Does my IT provide the tools for me to help myself and/or get assistance no matter where I am when things go wrong?
In an ideal world the answer should be a resounding 'YES!' but some companies may call themselves cloud services providers but are more akin to online backup or file sharing services. While there is certainly some overlap between each of these services, cloud services are unique because they should also allow you to view, edit and share files saved in the cloud from almost any device. While no two cloud services are identical, each of the services provided should offer the same fundamental features and functionality.

One of the most important factors to consider in a cloud service is features, including the type of content you can store. The best cloud computing services are those that allow you to upload and save any type of file you would save on your local hard drive, from word documents to music files and everything in between. Some services even allow you to keep email, contacts and your calendar in the cloud. Any cloud service you consider should also allow you to view, edit and share your content regardless of what computer or device you are using. Other features to look for include automatic syncing of your files across all your devices, and password-protected sharing and file encryption to safeguard your content.

Mobile Access
Arguably one of the biggest selling points of cloud computing services is their wide-ranging access. Whether you’re on your work computer at the office or at home on your iPad, cloud services allow you to access your content anywhere, anytime and on any one of your devices. Look for services that offer the greatest range of mobile access, including apps for popular smartphones and the ability to log into your account from any mobile browser.

Ease of Use
Considering how often you will likely be accessing your content in the cloud, it is important to select a cloud service that is intuitive and straightforward. The service’s interface and tools should be easy to navigate and convenient to use.

Help & Support
Getting help when you need it is crucial when using any type of technology, including cloud services. Available support options should include technical assistance via telephone, email and live chat. The service should also provide a knowledgebase and user forums as resources.

Two of the major public Cloud providers, Google and Microsoft, both provide very good user forums and also a technical remote helpdesk.

However, for the average Small & Medium Business owner it can be difficult to work out which forum to jump onto or even feel embarrassed about phoning a provider’s technical helpdesk about a simple user question. In this situation it is worth considering a company that specialises in Cloud support services to get you started and provide you with a locally-based telephone helpdesk that will handle even your simplest and stupidest questions.

By Per Henriksen