If you're looking to start running your business in the cloud, there are plenty of companies vying for your attention. However, not all cloud computing service providers are created equal and selecting the right partner, one you can trust to provide the services you need well into the future at the standards you expect is a critical business decision.
True Cloud Competencies
With new companies springing up to offer cloud-based services every day, the first step is to choose a provider whose core competencies are centered on the cloud. On-premise system vendors have very different skillsets, business models, software design approaches, and infrastructure than those core competencies of a cloud service provider. For example, because so much of their business success is reliant on a positive system performance experience, true multi-tenant cloud computing companies put a significant resource focus and investment around building highly talented organizations with deep expertise around ensuring strong system availability, stability and security. You are probably going to have a more successful experience of a cloud-based system with a provider whose entire company is 100-percent focused on making their cloud solution a success and has extensive experience in implementing and tailoring a multi-tenant cloud system to their client's needs.
System Upgrades and Enhancements
On-site ERP software can be customized, but those customizations are tied to your current software deployment and are not easy to re-implement with future versions. As your ERP provider releases new product updates and enhancements, your previously implemented customizations will be wiped out when you upgrade and your IT team will have to start customizing from scratch again. That's the main reason many companies simply avoid upgrading their on-site ERP software and just settle for running their business on out-of-date technology. In fact, two-thirds of mid-size businesses are running outdated versions of their ERP software.
In contrast, cloud ERP solutions like NetSuite are continually upgraded by the provider so you can be sure you're always using the latest, most advanced version of your ERP software. Because of the cloud platform today's leading cloud applications are built upon, your previously implemented customizations and integrations automatically carry forward when the solution is updated without additional investment.
Leadership and Financial Viability
Because moving to the cloud is a long term investment, it's vital to choose a cloud service provider who will not only meet today's demands but can also demonstrate the market leadership and financial viability required to continue to meet your needs in the future.
Publicly owned companies are easier to assess for financial viability and usually are more well established and funded than their private counterparts. Be sure to evaluate the vendor's financial information, including cash reserves, annual revenue and growth, and profitability trends to gauge their ability to ride out inevitable market cycles.
In addition to strong financials, a reliable company will have a depth of knowledge and experience developed over time through working with a large number of and a wide variety of customers. Well-established cloud companies will have thousands of such customers, of different sizes and industries across multiple countries, demonstrating a clear track record of ongoing customer success and an ability to respond to scale. You can compare cloud vendors on their customer count, customer testimonials and references, industry partners, and awards or media coverage.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, it is always smart to pick a leader. Who is the leading cloud computing services provider for the type of business management solution you are looking at, based on number of customers, revenue, and according to independent analysts, such as Gartner? Is the cloud vendor outgrowing the top competitors in this space? Consider the types of customers the vendor has too for added insight. Innovative fast-growing companies tend to choose innovative partners, so testimonials from customers known for market—and thought—leadership positions is a good indication of the provider's approach.
Security and Compliance
Once you've established the financial security and viability of the provider, it's time to consider the security they provide for your data. Specialist cloud computing services providers make enterprise-level security a priority and demonstrate that commitment with appropriate accreditation. Essential certifications to look for include SAS 70 Type II, together with compliance certifications relevant to your industry, such as PCI DSS. If your business operates internationally, the service provider should also guarantee that they meet required international standards with accreditations including EU-US Safe Harbor certification.
The security of your data, and your uninterrupted access to that data, also demand physical security measures. The right service provider will ensure effective data redundancy, automated backups, and mirroring across multiple data centers. They will also be willing to discuss how data is stored and isolated from other customers' information, and their provisions for ensuring your access in the event of a catastrophic event.
Service level agreements (SLAs) are a measure of how committed a cloud provider is to availability and security and how they plan to respond in the event of service interruptions. SLAs should include availability guarantees that meet the demands of your most mission-critical application. Make sure your provider gives you easy access to their real-time and historic uptime performance data. That will quickly tell you how often they need to rely on those response plans and how transparent they are when working with their customers.
Future performance is also important. Cloud computing is evolving rapidly and cloud service providers need to be nimble to adapt to the demands of technological and regulatory change. Look for a strong record of innovation and an R&D team focused full-time on cloud technology to demonstrate that your provider is positioned strongly to partner with you in the longer term.
Scalability and Customization
As businesses grow and needs change, you need a partner with the power to grow with your company, adapt to your needs, provide new products for you to grow in to, make it easy for you to expand to new sales channels and markets, and work across different browsers, devices, and countries.
The optimal provider will have a solution that allows you to easily customize applications and interfaces to your needs, and to scale with you as you grow or move additional functions to the cloud. The most effective companies offer a flexible cloud development platform open to a broad application development community. This will allow your business to easily leverage other existing applications that readily integrate with that cloud computing service or to develop, test, and deploy your own custom cloud applications without investing in additional infrastructure.
Ideally, you want a partner who possesses the cloud maturity, expertise, performance, and security traits to meet your needs today while also demonstrating the leadership, innovation, and financial track record that ensure its viability in the future.
To learn more about how NetSuite stacks up, visit us at http://www.netsuite.com.