In an effort to save space, many businesses are trading in their big and bulky file cabinets for storage space in the cloud.
Whether it's so they can access their files from anywhere at anytime or the security online storage offers, small businesses are seeing a wide range of benefits from their move to the cloud. However, with so many online storage providers, figuring out which one will best fill your needs can be a difficult task.
"Online data storage is a broad term that can mean lots of different things to lots of different people, so it's really important for businesses to properly understand what's right for their needs and what's being offered by different providers," Gytis Barzdukas, a senior director of product management for data storage provider Mozy by EMC, told Business News Daily.
Barzdukas said nearly all small businesses have data that can be cost-effectively stored in the cloud. The key is finding which service is right for you. To help small businesses, Barzdukas noted there are several key elements they should be looking for in an online storage provider.
- Financial stability: If the cloud provider is not in a profitable financial position or is still trying to establish a successful business model and/or customer base, there is a high degree of risk this will be a losing venture and the company will fold.
- Proven infrastructure: Although innovative technology and hardware can help streamline an industry or establish new industries, in the case of cloud backup, the infrastructure being implemented by the cloud provider must be a proven one for an enterprise customer to entrust the cloud provider with critical corporate data.
- Established customer base: When looking for a provider, it helps to know which other businesses are using their services. A small customer base, although growing, would indicate more of a start-up. Loss in customer base would indicate something is wrong and making clients leave. Ensure that service providers that quote thousands or millions of customers are referencing business customers, not just customers. Use your internal or peer network to speak with customers of a given service provider.
- Geographically distributed data centers: Geographically distributed data centers become important to ensure that there are failovers if constant uptime is mandated and there is an unforeseen problem with the primary data center where data is located. Location is important to diversify risk, especially in the case of natural disasters, but also to comply with regional jurisdictional requirements for data location. For example, some geographies have requirements that data not leave regional borders, which necessitates a service provider have physical facilities in that region.
- Security: Make sure the cloud provider has a security program in place and that it is well documented and meets all mandates. This will help establish the security credibility of the cloud provider.
- Robust encryption: Since security is the top concern for most cloud storage users, small businesses should look for a provider that offers personal key encryption. The ability for customers to set and manage their own encryption keys means the cloud provider cannot decrypt their files. They should also find a service provider that encrypts the data while it is both transferred to the cloud provider's system and while it is being stored in the system. The combined use of these two encryption types helps establish stronger data security that if only one was used.
- Third-party validation and accreditation: Periodic, successful audits of a cloud provider's security procedures are essential to verify the cloud provider's processing and hosting of customer data is done safely and securely. SSAE 16 is a widely recognized auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that verifies whether a service organization has been through an in-depth audit of its control objectives and control activities to ensure safe and secure process and hosting of customer data. Additionally, ISO 27001 certification establishes a potential cloud provider as having met international standards for measuring information security management systems.
- SLA terms and execution: Established service-level agreement (SLA) terms and execution are integral not only to establishing how a customer's data will be processed and hosted but also to setting a transparent level of service the customer can expect from the cloud provider. This helps set expectation levels and establish the anticipated level of service.