Thursday, 20 June 2013

How to Choose Best Cloud Storage / Hosting Service Provider?

How to Choose Best Cloud Storage / Hosting Service Provider?

As the market demand for cloud hosting is increasing day by day. A lot of cloud hosting service providers have jumped into the cloud storage market who claim they are best in cloud hosting. Major cloud storage service providers are Amazon, Cisco, Citrix, Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Rackspace, Salesforce and Verizon. So I think this is the time to compare the cloud hosting services provided by various cloud hosting providers. There are a lot of factors like security, reliability, storage space, cloud hosting cost, technical support to be considered before choosing a cloud storage service provider.

Factors to be considered before choosing any Cloud Storage / Hosting Service Providers

As we know Amazon, Cisco, Citrix, Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Rackspace, Salesforce and Verizon are the big cloud storage and hosting service providers in the cloud market. Before choosing any cloud service providers you need to keep some points and features which you need in your cloud service provider. Lets discuss them first.

1. Cloud Storage Security

As you are going to host / store your critical business operations like emails, documents, business services etc on the cloud to reduce your software maintenance cost and streamline your business operations, you must think of security first. Is your critical data which is stored on the cloud secured? If yes, then think for other features, otherwise if you have doubts, don't go for that cloud storage service provider. Cloud providers should have several standard security measures in place and constantly update them.

Security measures to look for include firewalls, anti-virus detection, multifactor user authentication and data encryption, and routine security audits. It's also important to ask who at
the cloud company will have access to your data in the cloud and whether the cloud provider does employee background checks to weed out potential cybercriminals or identity thieves.

Cloud service providers also should answer questions about compliance with government legislation specific to your industry. For example, if your business is in the healthcare industry, you'll want to be sure your cloud provider is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which deals with patient data privacy and security.

CSA (Cloud Security Alliance) is an organization which provides certificates to the cloud service providers if CSA feels that cloud service is secure. So must check for these kind of security certifications that your cloud service provider has.

The location and security of the data centers and servers where your company's information will be stored are as important as online security. You should ask how a potential cloud vendor protects its data center from natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes and storms. Also, find out how the facilities are protected from thieves who could walk away with your sensitive data.

You must ask for SSAE 16 certification of cloud hosting provider. SSAE 16 certification demonstrates that a company's products, systems and data are compliant with the industry security standards for customer access and privacy, data center physical security and data redundancy.

On the off chance your cloud provider accidentally deletes or loses your precious data, you need to know how it will rectify the problem. Will the provider compensate you for losses? What data redundancies does it have in place to mitigate the risks of data loss? It's also important to ask if the company has experienced any significant issues resulting from the loss of customer data.

2. Cloud Storage Reliability

Reliability for cloud storage is another consideration. Your data, documents, emails, business services should always be available and accessible to you at any time. You must read SLA (Service Level Agreement) of the cloud service providers carefully and enquire about the service outages. Cloud service provider should compensate you in case the outage is longer than mentioned in SLA. So you should have this idea in your mind that how much outage is feasible for your business.

Because cloud outages can be disruptive and costly for your business, it's best to choose a provider with as few as possible. Some vendors post their downtime history logs online. If not, be sure to ask for a cloud provider's track record.

3. Cloud Storage Space

You must ensure how much storage space is provided by the cloud hosting service provider and is that much storage space is okay for your business needs. What if in future you need more space? What would be the extra cost for that space?

To ensure that you're choosing a flexible cloud provider, find out what additional storage capacity and other services can be offered over time and for how much. If you plan to increase your staff, you'll want to make sure that you can easily add additional users to your account.

4. Cloud Hosting Cost

After ensuring all above, consider cost of the cloud service. Is that cost comes into your budget or not. The cloud storage cost can be based on pre-user utility model but there can be many other factors and variations. The physical location of the servers may also be a factor for sensitive data. You should confirm the pricing structure beforehand. You should only pay for what you use. The pricing scheme should be pay-as-you go from the outset, with the ability to add services as needed. Fees can typically be charged hourly, monthly, semi-annually or annually, depending on the vendor.

5. Customer Support Service

Technical support should be available to you online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day, including holidays. You should also inquire about the average response and resolution time, and whether you'll be interacting with knowledgeable engineers or customer service reps reading scripts when you call the customer help line or use a live chat feature.

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