Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

Written By: By Amiee Keenan – Myappsanywhere

from September 5, 2013

What if your business had an extra $130,000 to spend over the next three years*? Would you hire a new employee? Invest in a new location? Spend more money on advertising?

Companies that have moved their business servers to the cloud are experiencing just this sort of economic windfall and a move to the cloud is easier—and safer—than one might think.

When considering the cloud, business leaders often think first of the benefits of hosted applications—business software delivered to desktops via the internet. As these applications have an internet delivery model, the most visible benefit of moving business software to the cloud is that the software will be available via any internet location, whether that means a local coffee shop, an employee’s home office, or from the road.

Hosting business software in the cloud offers a far greater benefit than just remote access. Because cloud applications are delivered via a secure internet connection, there is no need to sink valuable resources into hardware investments onsite and upgrades to business applications are often included in monthly costs; thus, eliminating expensive software renewal fees.

Since cloud services are typically offered on a predictable cycle, moving to the cloud also helps businesses budget for IT costs. If a business experiences major shifts in the number of users (i.e., tax season, holiday retail staffing needs or emergency response needs), cloud applications can enable businesses to scale up licenses for heavier traffic or scale down for lulls in action. The cloud enables businesses to pay for the software and services they are actually using rather than for peak usage needs.

Should You Move

So how does an organization start to get Microsoft Dynamics servers out of the office and into the cloud? Start by evaluating the technology and determining what the business will need. Before contacting a cloud service provider, prepare by answering these questions:

Is the organization a good candidate for the cloud? Companies with aging equipment, seasonal swings or 10 percent or greater expected annual growth are good candidates as are businesses testing new geographies and companies with a mobile workforce.

Is the organization subject to regulatory compliance demands? If the organization is subject to regulatory compliance demands (i.e., FFIEC, GLBA, SEC, HIPAA or PCI), look for a cloud service provider whose cloud operates in an SSAE 16 attested data center that could help the regulated business pass audits, inspections, and checkpoints to ensure security compliances are met.

How much uptime should be expected? Cloud service providers measure the amount of time their systems—and the organization’s cloud—will be available per year based on what is called uptime. Uptime is actually defined by downtime—the amount of time the cloud will not be available. Thus, 99.999 percent uptime means that an organization will have approximately 26 seconds of downtime a month, or 5.26 minutes of downtime a year. For 99.99 percent uptime, the numbers grow to 4.32 minutes of downtime a month, or 52.56 minutes a year. Determine what is acceptable for the business before searching for the cloud service provider.

Does the organization have enough internet bandwidth? The typical company should plan for 100 Kbps per user. If your company needs more bandwidth, high-speed internet is inexpensive, readily available, and no longer a costly roadblock for business owners.

Does the organization have or need custom applications? Depending on the industry, companies may need applications for project management, supply chain management, ticket printing, or point-of-sale. A good cloud service provider will be able to integrate custom software.

Choosing a Provider

With these answers in hand, organizations can begin to evaluate which cloud service provider is right for the business. Ask the following questions when engaging a provider:

Does the provider have a solid reputation? Look for a provider that is established in both the business and cloud community. Ask about their service record and talk to references to see if customers had a positive experience in their cloud migration.

What sort of support does the provider offer? Not all hosting providers offer around-the-clock support. Look for a provider that will be available to answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year—even on holidays. Be sure to ask if support is included in the costs or if there is an additional charge for after hours.

What are the associated costs? Check for all the fees (one-time fees, monthly fees, usage fees, etc.) and make sure they are clearly spelled out in the contract.

Will the organization own the data? Not all cloud service providers allow customers to maintain ownership of their data, so before signing, find out what happens if the organization decides to leave their cloud environment.

Does the organization understand the details of the agreement? Look for a service-level agreement that will ensure that guaranteed uptime and a financial penalty on the vendor in the event of failure to meet uptime.

The decision to move ERP solutions from on-premise to the cloud isn’t an easy one, but if cloud is a good fit for the business, the rewards can be substantial—both for the business bottom line and future growth.

*Myappsanywhere customers regularly record as much as 58 percent in savings over three years, with some saving more than $130,000 in three years. Cost savings estimates are for 33 users at 36 months using Microsoft Dynamics cloud-based solutions versus Microsoft Dynamics solutions hosted on-premise.