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What should a small business consider when choosing a cloud computing provider?

Alan Jones's Profile

Answers

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

HI Alan
What do you want them to provide? CRM, accounting, HR/Payroll, etc? Different providers offer different functionality, e.g. I would not choose SalesForce.com to manage my HR processes, for example:).
If you can frame some 3-5 key questions you need answers for, or state your problem, this Forum can probably help with some targeted feedback.
Regards
Len

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Alan, Len is correct, but regardless of what type, I'll add "exit strategy".

How do you get your data back should you decide to leave?

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Wayne- that's a key point, and related to it, is how does the Cloud app support integration with other apps (on premise or in another cloud)? This can make a big difference if some of your transactions are high volume or if you want to dump data from the Cloud app into a data warehouse.

Michael Silver
Title: Director - Partner Enablement
Company: Acumatica
(Director - Partner Enablement, Acumatica) |

And . . . . look at on-going costs, costs to expand user bases and capabiliteis. I would also consider flexibility - to piggyback what Wayne said - can I move my application and data if I need to. Can I integrate easily with products that might not be an intergral part of the cloud software provider?

Lynne Taylor
Title: Principal
Company: Cloud Accounting Services for Enterprise..
(Principal, Cloud Accounting Services for Enterprises (CASE)) |

Platform, platform, platform . . . if you are able to go first for the platform, you'll have the ability to "plug and play" any app needed for your business. So, as Len mentioned, you may not choose Salesforce.com to manage HR processes, but you could use the Force.com PLATFORM, and install Vana HCM on it to manage HR for example. Similarly, you could install Financialforce.com or Accounting Seed to manage accounting/finance, and any number of either free or paid apps that are built natively on the force.com PLATFORM and seamlessly integrate with one another because they all share the same "master" data. If force.com functionality and price is "overkill" for a small business (believe me I know since I work a lot with non-profits who have NO budget!), then you can get something similar with Sugar or even the Zoho suite of apps. But the key thing I advise SMBs I work with is: start small and simple but get something that is easily scalable and puts control in YOUR hands, not in the hands of programmers, coders, dev folks and app providers!

Chris Locke
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: SingleHop LLC
(Chief Financial Officer, SingleHop LLC) |

If what you are analyzing is a hardware decision (IAAS) and not a SAAS decision, consider the following:

There are a number of different types of Cloud Computing platforms out there, and before a small business can choose one, it should perform a needs evaluation on itself. Does it need the ability to scale rapidly? Does it need to be compliant with HIPPA or PCI DDS? What kind of data will it be storing? What kind of computing functions will it be performing?

Once it understands its needs deeply, it should then consider its usage patterns. Does it anticipate consistent, unchanging load? If so, does it even need to be on a Cloud platform to begin with? This is important because for consistent amounts of load, Cloud is often the wrong type of platform. On the other hand, if the business has spikes in its load, or a need to rapidly prototype, or other changing, elastic needs, then the Cloud is the perfect type of platform.

There are a lot more things to consider but the above will help a small business understand if it needs to be on a Cloud or a dedicated server, and if a Cloud it will help narrow down the list of providers to something a bit more manageable.

Once a list of providers is narrowed down, a Small Business should really test out the customer service and tech support of those providers. Most SMBs don't have a ton of technical people on staff--so good service and support, a highly accessible and easy-to-use self execution panel, and clear documentation are all keys to being able to properly use and leverage a cloud computing platform.

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