Like most companies, you might have some assets in the cloud to simplify file-sharing, offload expensive infrastructure or save on storage costs. You’ve come to know a holistic cloud implementation won’t happen overnight — and maybe even enlisted the help of a cloud computing provider.
Whether you have a documented cloud strategy or not, transitioning to the cloud is an ongoing process. Your servers, folders and files must be moved and organized to align with the way your employees work. Your cloud consultant can make or break your cloud investment. Working with an experienced cloud consultant will help your team get the most value from cloud technologies.
Partnering With the Right Cloud Computing Provider
Effective cloud consulting partners closely audit your internal operations and IT inventory to unearth ways to make data work for you.
Your cloud partner will help drive the strategic direction for your company now and in the future. Don’t take the decision lightly. The team you choose should be invested in your business goals and on board with your vision.
Here are some questions to help you weed out poor long-term fits:
How long have you been offering cloud computing solutions?
Managed IT services providers have been around for a while now. But cloud computing solutions are newer, and many IT providers lagged to adopt the cloud.
If you’re trusting your cloud implementation to another company, it’d better be one invested in the cloud from day one. Cloud-first IT services providers understand the value of the cloud and will know how to design a cloud implementation plan that aligns with your long-term goals.
Don’t risk falling for a cloud partner that just recently made the switch. They often lack the historical knowledge and experience to recommend and execute a successful custom cloud strategy. Always ask when the company migrated to the cloud and how it overcomes cloud challenges.
Are you vendor agnostic?
Your cloud provider should offer leading cloud computing vendors and not force-fit you into one solution. Of course, you’ll need to verify the cloud IT provider is a Microsoft and Amazon Web Services partner so you don’t end up the guinea pig for an untested cloud architecture or solution.
What level of performance can I expect?
Your service-level agreement should outline the expected performance, availability and uptime and specific performance benchmarks. Press the company for details on application and help desk response time to hold them accountable to these metrics once work begins.
Can you point me to relevant case studies?
An easy way to vet a cloud computing provider is to go straight to the source: current customers. If you can’t find case studies online, ask the potential cloud provider for references. Talking to past customers will give you a sense of what it’s like to work with an IT company. If you’re looking for help with an enterprise-level cloud migration, make sure the cloud provider has worked with companies of similar size and scope.
Which services are included in a standard support contract?
The cloud is low maintenance, but your cloud services provider should offer ongoing cloud support to resolve problems quickly and plan new strategic projects. Beyond retroactive support, you also need a cloud consultant that will guide your cloud strategy as your business grows and pivots.
Ask to see a typical support contract beforehand and whether there’s a cap on hours and overage fees. Your partner should keep tabs on your business and where you plan to go in the future. Ask how often you’ll meet to discuss strategic projects and new business updates.
For instance, at Agile IT, we meet with managed cloud services clients each quarter to discuss the state of their business and how the cloud can help solve new business needs.
How would you describe your culture?
Companies vetting IT support providers tend to overlook one critical factor: the people they’ll be dealing with. A successful IT support relationship starts with people. If you’re looking for a strong, long-term partnership, you should get to know the individuals you’ll be working with.
A cloud computing provider that’s dedicated to bringing on the best and the brightest will likely offer superior services. You want to work with happy, productive technical team members who enjoy what they do. Evaluating employee retention and happiness will shed light on what’s happening behind closed doors.
Look for verbiage around the IT company’s values, or review sites like Glassdoor to see what past and present employees have to say. Search for employees on LinkedIn, and see how long they’ve worked at the IT company and where they came from. Or simply ask employees if and why they enjoy working there for reassurance.
How do you stay ahead of security threats?
Security in the cloud is on top of every company’s mind. Your managed cloud services provider should offer a comprehensive plan detailing how it manages security threats. Look for intrusion prevention and detection, firewall and encryption services in your contract. Your cloud provider should encrypt data in transit, at rest, in mobile devices and at the file level. Ask how the company manages each process and what to expect.
What certifications does your team hold and how do you promote education?
New cloud technologies emerge every day. Forward-thinking cloud support companies prioritize education. Find out what IT certifications the team holds and how the company promotes learning internally to further vet their technical skills.
At Agile IT, we offer learning budgets to employees so they constantly get exposed to new technologies. We also hold quarterly client meetups to bring like-minded business owners and CIOs together to work through cloud challenges.
What do your data retention policies look like?
Some state and federal regulatory bodies have data retention requirements. Your cloud services provider should be able to store your organization’s data according to your compliance or business needs.
Verify the cloud services provider can enforce your required data retention policies. You’ll also want remote wipe capabilities in case a computer or mobile device is stolen.
These are just a few questions that’ll help separate true business partners from ordinary cloud companies. Take the time to vet your cloud computing provider before signing the dotted line so you can fully capitalize on your cloud investment.