So, you’ve browsed dozens of cloud providers websites; their feature sets are strong, the user agreements look good – you may even have one already picked out. But wait. How much due diligence have you really done?
Remember: your choice will mean huge changes in the way your accounting firm runs, and if the provider you opt for isn’t up to scratch, you might be making a decision that results in:
- Painfully slow access to company IT services
- Risks of losing company data, or worse, breaches of security
- Downtime, and loss of revenue for your business (and if this keeps happening, probably a loss of irritated clients!)
So what should you be looking for? What considerations should your business be making when looking at how effective a provider’s services are? Let’s go through them now.
First and foremost, your cloud platform needs to be reliable. It’s no good having your cloud environment going down every other day. As a business you need to be able to rely on the hardware and software you use to work and do business with clients.
This is fundamental, and is the cornerstone of any decent provider worth their price tag. Uptime should have a minimum guarantee of 99.9%. Typically, this means that their service remains online indefinitely; only in very rare fringe cases will their service suffer a disruption.
If you see a provider offering higher than 99.9%, even better; it means they have more than enough servers and back-up systems to support virtually any kind of disruption in service.
So, step 1: Find a cloud provider that’s reliable and stays up and online.
Security is the next big focus. You want your cloud platform to stay online consistently, but equally, you want it to remain secure. Your accounting firm likely handles huge amounts of sensitive company and client data – and that kind of data should be kept safe and out of reach of intrusions and data breaches.
Security covers a range of areas.
Firstly, you’ll want to ensure the cloud provider you choose is ISO 9001 compliant; ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, and being ISO 9001 compliant essentially gives a cloud provider a badge of approval for quality management.
It indicates how well a business runs, and informs customers that the company abides by guidelines set by the ISO.
The next thing to consider is how strong their security features and protocols are. Do they regularly patch their cloud service to minimize security risks? What kind of encryption protocols do they use to protect your accounting firm’s data? Do they offer multi-factor authentication?
Find the answers to these questions in the cloud provider’s feature page, their FAQ section, or failing those, ask them directly. You should know what measures the provider is taking to secure your cloud environment, how often they update security, and what features they provide to help you protect your business.
Another aspect of security to consider is which cloud type your accounting firm is considering; private or public? If you decided to opt for a private cloud, it’s possible your cloud servers will be hosted on-site. What implications does that have for security?
Consider what having your cloud platform means for both the physical and digital security of your company data. Typically, cloud platforms are much more secure on a public cloud. Why? Because most public cloud providers have bespoke data centres that they manage. Your data is stored in a place where people have little to no access, short of the cloud provider’s staff.
You also should bear in mind that the cloud provider’s business is to provide a secure and stable cloud environment; it’s in their best interest to deliver peace-of-mind, and will be able to invest far more heavily in adequate security than your accounting firm is likely to be able to.
#3: Back-Ups: When, Where, and How Often?
When choosing a cloud provider, you’re putting huge amounts of trust in that company. You’re handing the keys to your accounting firm’s data to them, and expecting them to maintain and protect it.
That’s a big risk, and one you don’t want to regret later down the line. When choosing a provider, look at their back-up protocols:
- How often do they create back-ups of your cloud environment?
- What is stored in those back-ups?
- Are the back-ups stored off-site or on-site? Where are they stored?
- How long does the cloud provider keep those back-ups for?
- How often do they refresh back-ups?
- How easy is it for your firm to recover using a back-up?
When it comes to your company data, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Take the time to ask all the questions you need. Ensure the provider is offering a service that takes the protection and maintenance of your data seriously, and makes every effort to keep copies of your data, in case the worst should happen to their servers.
#4: Disaster Recoverability
If the worst should happen, you want to know that your cloud provider has things covered. When considering your chosen cloud provider, look at how they can help you get your accounting firm back up and running.
If your office loses power or a similar disaster affects your business, how can their service help your company continue to run effectively? How quickly can they help you recover? What is the quality of the recovery process? How comparable is it to the level of service you received before the disaster?
No company wants to consider what to do should the worst come to pass, but you need to know you can rely on your cloud provider to deliver if things do go wrong.
#5: Do They Let You Manage/Access Your Service?
What we mean by this is, do they offer a portal where you can view and manage your cloud service? Many providers offer such a service, where you’ll be able to view system and application performance and usage, giving you an insight into how your company is using the cloud, and what for.
It’s a great way to adjust your cloud usage if you notice your staff are focusing on a particular usage, and not using parts that you’re paying for, but not getting much usage out of. In essence, it’s a great way to gain insights on how your accounting firm works with the cloud.
If you can, see whether your cloud provider offers this kind of service. It’s not essential to running a quality cloud environment, but it adds a new layer of accessibility to your cloud service, and enables you to see and do more with it.
And that’s it! The five technical factors your accounting firm needs to address when picking your cloud provider. Not got anyone right in mind? Speak to OneSpace today, and see how we can help your accounting firm get off the ground and into the cloud.