Cloud backup is steadily becoming a standard for small and large businesses alike. When cloud backup options can be affordable while also offering lots of options for quick recovery, it’s easy to see the benefits. But with vendors ranging from heavy-hitters like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, or Google, to smaller cloud providers and data center co-locations, choosing the right one is no small feat. They’re all a little different, so how do you know what’s right for you? Whether you need a simple place to store backup images, or a more complex system that allows for super-quick recovery if equipment fails, here are some things to look for as you search for a cloud vendor.
ReputationTake the time to find out what the experience of working with a provider is like. By asking peers and reading plenty of reviews, you can start to understand what people like and dislike about a provider you’re considering. Outside of people you know, you may choose to ask people in online forums like Reddit (the r/msp subreddit is a great community) or Spiceworks, where you can find scores of people to offer helpful advice. Remember, that you may hear the most noise around big providers, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best – even the biggest ones have issues. Plenty of small or medium-sized cloud providers can offer you just much as the big ones can, and many of them also provide more personalized service, which leads us to the next section.
ServiceIf pricing and features are similar, service is especially what counts. If you need quick access to backups, there’s a good chance you’re in trouble, which is why you need a provider you can count on to lend you a hand the moment you need it. You won’t always have time to wait on hold and systems don’t always give you trouble during regular business hours. Make sure whatever provider you choose is going to be there when you really need them. Service agreements are at least one way to know how quickly they’ll guarantee a response, but you may also get a feel for their level of care based on how helpful they are during the pre-sales process. Slow replies while you’re evaluating a company might be a bad sign.
SpecialtiesClouds are all built for different things. Some may be fantastic for hosting your virtual servers and some excel at basic storage, but specific backup and recovery options aren’t something you’ll find everywhere. If you need a cloud storage option that helps you meet recovery objectives, you’ll want to look for someone that specializes in everything from file and folder recovery to instant cloud failover. Processes like these aren’t a given for every cloud solution, so if your goal is to keep systems running when the worst happens, you’ll have to find a cloud built specifically for recovery.
SecurityBackups often include sensitive data, which you can’t keep just anywhere (particularly if you’re storing electronic health records). As you’re vetting vendors, get to know their security practices. Is data stored in an encrypted state? What type of encryption? Are they using two-factor authentication to prevent unwanted access to your systems? Do they give the option to setup various user roles so people who need access (but not all access) can get what they need? And what about physical security? What protections keep people out of the data center? Some data centers, such as those built by Switch, have an incredible level of security, including everything from biometric access points to fully armed guards. Get to know their security practices before you start sending data to them.
Reliability and UptimeLast but not least, cloud backups don’t really matter if you can’t access them. The elusive 99.999 percent of uptime is what many look for, and some cloud providers even claim to have 100 percent uptime. Note, however, that these numbers refer to unplanned outages. Many cloud solutions occasionally undergo maintenance, and as a result, they’re taken offline for various periods of time. As you evaluate vendors, speak with them about how often systems go down for maintenance. Updates are necessary, but constant planned maintenance can hamper your plans if you happen to need access while the cloud is down.
ConclusionThere are dozens of potential cloud providers. Your needs will differ based on your own goals, but reliability and service are often what matter the most when you’re selecting any vendor to work alongside. Also, cost is a factor in any decision, but low-cost backup options won’t help you stop the high costs of downtime. If you think of backup more as an investment in uptime rather than a necessary expense, it’s much easier to justify a higher budget. Don’t let backup be an afterthought when data loss and downtime can be so crippling. Find something that works well, and don’t be afraid to invest — it will save you in the long run.
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