When you’re in need of a new doctor, mechanic, hair dresser, etcetera, do you just flip open the phone book or conduct a quick Internet search and go with the first name you find? Perhaps you do take this approach if you’re in a rush, but it likely won’t net very good results. In the end, you’re usually better off doing more thorough research before making a selection.

The same goes for choosing a cloud solutions provider. Prudence will reap better results than just signing on with the first cloud service you come across in your search. Whether you receive a referral or decide to conduct research on your own, consider composing a list of questions to ask your new service provider to guarantee you’ll receive the best service possible.

When developing your questions for a potential cloud services provider, I recommend focusing on the following three areas of consideration:

1. Cost and Value:  Yes, cloud solutions can save your business money, but many come with cost-cutting promises that don’t apply to every business. Carefully evaluate how much the solution will cost you in the long run and whether you’ll have access to all of the features you might need. Keep in mind that you still can benefit from the cloud when using it in tandem with traditional software, so don’t feel pressured to move everything to the cloud all at once.

2. Security:  The safe storage of sensitive data arises as a key concern whenever I talk with customers about cloud computing. Since the cloud is still relatively new territory in the computing industry, this is a legitimate concern. The good news is that your sensitive data can reside securely in the cloud when you’re using cloud-based technologies that have robust security measures in place. Ensure any cloud solution you select offers comprehensive security features. Also, do some digging into your provider’s track record when it comes to security and determine if it has a history of providing high levels of security to customers and a deep understanding of the latest security threats and measures for protection.

3. Reliability:  I often compare investing in a cloud computing solution to renting an apartment, in that you become dependent on someone else should issues arise. Therefore, choose a well-staffed provider that can easily manage any potential problems. Look for 24/7 support, a high-availability guarantee in the service-level agreement and a demonstration of the provider’s ability to respond quickly in emergency situations. Microsoft, for example, promises 99.9 percent uptime and will provide a reimbursement for anything short of that promise. You’ll likely have additional questions for a potential cloud services provider, and rightfully so. The issues just mentioned, though, should be at the top of your list and not go undiscussed. For more information about cloud computing and how it can help your business succeed, visit

About the Author(s)

Cindy Bates

Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMB's in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.

Vice President, Microsoft SMB
cloud computing