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Grow Your Business Technology

5 Things to Look for in a Cloud Service Provider

5 Things to Look for in a Cloud Service Provider
Not every cloud storage service is right for every business. / Credit: Shutterstock

While the first wave of cloud integration was driven by businesses' needs to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the next wave will focus on leveraging cloud services to expand company offerings and improve competitive positions.

Todd Benjamin, vice president of hosted services at Hostway Corp., said this is especially true for companies that provide technical services to businesses. He said a growing number of IT firms are now looking for partners with cloud delivery expertise so that they can deliver cloud services as resellers.

"Companies that provide IT services to businesses rightly want to focus on their core competencies to succeed in a highly competitive economy," Benjamin said. "They are looking for cloud experts as partners to round out their portfolio of offerings."

[Cloud Computing: A Small Business Guide]

Benjamin offers companies in the market for a cloud partner several tips for finding the right match:

  • Enterprise-class capabilities: Assessing the core proficiencies and infrastructure of potential partners should be a top priority. Make sure they can deliver on-demand scalability that allows the IT organization to seamlessly increase capacity for their customers as demand spikes. They should look for features like user-configurable firewalls and load balancing, IP address management, image cloning and snapshots, managed backup and other enterprise-class capabilities.
  • Industry experience: With the cloud services market growing so rapidly, new cloud services vendors are springing up to try to cash in. Look for a partner with a track record of success in the industry — one that has successfully provided cloud services to customers of all sizes. Take a look at prospective partners' customer lists, and ask for references.
  • Compliance and security capabilities: Safe data management is a crucial issue in any industry, but for companies with customers who handle financial or medical-records transactions, robust compliance capabilities are a must. Make sure the cloud services partner offers the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and PCI (payment card industry) compliance solutions customers need. Also look for cloud service partners that can prove that their data centers are compliant; make sure the partner performs well in compliance tests.
  • Portfolio compatibility: As the trend toward a partnership-based delivery model suggests, next-generation IT service delivery is about focusing on what IT firms do best. To find the right cloud services partner, IT companies must evaluate prospective partners' portfolios and compare them to their company's capabilities. They need to look for a partner that can help fill in the gaps and round out their portfolio so that they can offer customers a one-stop solution.
  • Customer ownership:When working with a partner to deliver services to customers, it's important to establish up front who owns the customer relationships. Some companies prefer to make the partnership as transparent as possible, while others would rather own the customer relationship, presenting branded cloud services to their clients. IT firms should make sure they understand partner expectations, and look for partners that allow automation and customization.

Benjamin said the technology community is evolving toward a collaborative service delivery model that has the potential to significantly increase the quality of services, as well as end-user satisfaction, with all players in the delivery chain able to focus on their core areas of expertise.

"The key to making this new service delivery environment work is to forge effective partnerships," he said. "IT companies that are looking to expand their portfolio offerings to include cloud services should, therefore, carefully consider all relevant factors before selecting a cloud service partner."

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.