Trusting your data to a cloud provider is a big deal. When it comes to choosing one, you should ask some tough questions to make sure the company you select deserves your confidence.

As Accounting Today reports, CEO of Diverse Technology Solutions Clay Hart recently spoke in a session at the American Institute of CPAs’ Practitioners’ Symposium and Tech+ conference. Hart outlined several questions your prospective cloud provider should be able to answer readily. Here are nine we feel you should ask your cloud services provider:

    1. Where will my data be located? “Everyone’s a cloud provider these days, and you don’t want your data in someone’s garage,” Hart said. Ideally, your information will be stored in several locations with instant fail over in areas remote from your own location so it’s not subject to the same regional risks as your company. While a provider should not disclose the exact physical location of their data center, the organization should be able to assure you your data is safe with general information of that nature.
    2. Are you sharing hardware resources between clients? You want to know whether your processing is being dedicated just to you, or if it’s being shared out among all the provider’s customers.
    3. What are the specs of the data center you operate out of? This would include physical and electronic security measures, redundancies, and so on.
    4. How much Internet bandwidth is needed for the solution to perform correctly? This is one of the most crucial questions to ask — and you want to make sure you know the figure per user. You’ll also want to check with your Internet service provider to know both your upload download speeds.
    5. Is my data automatically redundant across multiple data centers? This will give you a strong idea of their backup and security procedures and their ability to recover from a total data center loss.
    6. What is the recovery time if the systems hosting my data are completely destroyed? And don’t forget to ask what kind of secondary backups they have, how often they’re made, and how often they’re tested.
    7. Do you have documented data security policies? “Every cloud provider has employees,” Hart said. “One of the fears is, ‘Doesn’t someone else have access to my data?’ Knowing what kind of formal security policies they have in place will give you an idea of how secure your data is from the provider’s own staff.
    8. What is the average total downtime for the services I’m subscribing to? They should be able to tell you how often during a particular period of time — annually, over three years, over five years, etc. — their services are unavailable. It should be a relatively low percentage.
    9. Do you outsource your help desk? “Is it offshore? Outsourced?” Hart asked. “Will it give you the support you need on the schedule you need?”. Obtaining your cloud services through a knowledgeable local company who provides the work themselves and with more than one certified network engineer is ideal.

Hart also noted a number of items you want to make sure are included in the provider’s service level agreement, including a clause clearly stating who owns the data (you), a confidentiality clause, clear identification of where primary and back up data will be located; an insurance clause; guarantees of up-time; and a “change of business” clause covering what happens if the provider is acquired by another company.

LBMC Technology Solutions offers cloud consulting, deployment, migration, and disaster recovery services using Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS offers a broad set of global compute, storage, database, analytic, application, and deployment services. LBMC Technology Solutions provides the following cloud services via AWS:
•    Replacement of on-premises network infrastructure
•    ERP software migration
•    Fully Managed Disaster Recovery Services

Contact us to discuss your cloud computing questions and needs.

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