Small, medium, and large businesses are increasingly embracing cloud computing, which gives them the ability to access computing services over the internet. They quickly discover the benefits of moving to the cloud, including reduced hardware expenses, and ease of administration. Additionally, since cloud providers set up and maintain the necessary hardware and software on data centers over the internet, a cloud initiative can generally avoid upfront and ongoing costs associated with purchasing and maintaining certain assets like servers, storage, databases, networking, software and analytics.
When considering a move to the cloud, it may be helpful to use an experienced cloud services provider that can offer fast, reliable application updates with greater flexibility. Such a provider will also enable a business to only pay for the cloud services it uses — but with the flexibility to add new features as needed.
Experienced cloud providers can also easily scale a client’s computing power or software up or down as needed. The scaling ability was dramatically illustrated during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic when large gatherings were banned. The National Football League, for example, was able to tap its cloud computing partner to rapidly scale up its resources, which enabled the league to safely and efficiently conduct virtual drafts while more than 100 live feeds were running simultaneously for three days.
In addition to security, scalability and potentially lower upfront capital costs, there are plenty of additional reasons to go with an experienced cloud provider. A cloud computing environment can offer improved reliability with efficient data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity services; and data will be mirrored (or copied) in multiple sites on the cloud provider’s network. Additionally, reputable cloud providers can offer robust policies, technology, and controls that help protect data, apps and infrastructure from potential threats.
However, business owners should “trust but verify” a potential or existing cloud provider, since all cloud providers are not equal. The challenge is that even a well-meaning cloud provider may unintentionally serve as a “honeypot” for cybercriminals who can crack a single digital “safe” and access reams of potentially valuable passwords, personally identifiable information and other data. So before signing a contract with a cloud provider, a business owner may wish to take such steps as verifying their claims, and ensuring the provider has the ability to meet the security and other needs of an individual business.
A good way to begin is to scour the provider’s contract and confirm exactly what they are promising. Will the company move your information into the cloud and secure it? Or will they just move your data? A contract that limits a guarantee to a data transfer is like hiring a moving company to transport your household goods, only to find it all dumped on the lawn of your new house because the agreement did not state that they would place it within the house.
And find out just who is verifying the provider’s claims. For example, a company that performs services should not be the one that checks them — the best practice is when a qualified independent third party reviews the provider’s cyber-practices.
It is also important to consider whether a provider’s cloud architecture, standards and services align with your business’ workload and management preferences — and will a significant amount of re-coding or customization be necessary to prepare your business’ legacy workloads to mesh with the cloud provider’s platforms?
Another significant point: Cloud providers will say they can safeguard your sensitive data — but that claim is only valid if their cyber-defenses are robust. One way to check this is to have an ethical hacker test the provider’s defenses. Another approach involves inquiring about the provider’s network of secure data centers, since a provider that maintains multiple regularly upgraded data centers will likely offer more benefits — including the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware, reduced network latency for applications and larger economies of scale — as opposed to a provider that operates only a single corporate data center.
There is no question that cloud computing can offer significant benefits to businesses of all sizes. Still, selecting the right one, and successfully migrating your data may involve some time and work. However, businesses that work with a trusted IT services consultant, and prepare by gaining a thorough understanding of the issues involved, will likely find that the process is smoother, while ensuring that their data is efficiently migrated and safely maintained.
Carl Mazzanti is president of eMazzanti Technologies in Hoboken.