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Selecting a Cloud Vendor By @Connectria | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Six things you need to know

In today's highly connected world, the benefits and widespread adoption of cloud computing are not just limited to enterprises and government agencies; its transformative impact has prompted changes to a variety of businesses across several verticals - both big and small. In fact, a recent study by Emergent Research, ‘Small Business Success in the Cloud,' found that the percentage of U.S. small businesses using cloud computing is expected to grow by more than half, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent, by the year 2020.

The increased momentum toward cloud computing demonstrates that more and more companies are benefiting from the cost benefits associated with implementation, as well as the ability to streamline and revolutionize business models. The growing dependence on the cloud to house everything from banking information to other personal data has made it critical to identify a reputable, secure cloud vendor. But where to start?

Cloud computing relies on real computers with fast processors, memory, and storage to deliver their virtual computing resources. Powerful and reliable software is important for consistent performance and scalability, as well as fast and reliable networks to give users access to the virtual computing resources, software, data and services. What makes these all work together to deliver a successful and secure cloud solution isn't magic (while it may seem that way sometimes). Rather, it's a smart, experienced cloud vendor that has these six qualities:

1. Proven track record of successfully keeping customer data safe
No matter what industry you are in, the importance of security in the wake of (seemingly) regular data breaches is a threat to us all - and a costly one at that. According to recent research from the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach to a company has risen 15 percent over the last year, totaling $3.5 million dollars globally, and the average cost paid for each stolen or lost record has increased more than 9 percent from $136 to $145 million. When searching for or vetting a current hosting provider, make sure they have a proven and safe track record. It's also important that the provider be willing to disclose what their security measures entail - if it feels like they're keeping you in the dark about their practices, move on.

2. Moves in lock step with the latest security standards
The number one concern to migrating to a cloud environment is security. Meeting the latest security standards can prove to be a daunting task for any company - especially as they are constantly evolving. For this reason, it's essential that your hosting provider has a reputable and expansive knowledge of the latest security standards. Two timely examples include SSAE 16 (a standard for how security is audited, and breaches are reported) and Safe Harbor (a streamlined process for U.S. companies to comply with the EU directives). When vetting a prospective or current hosting provider, make sure that they have provisions in place for regularly updating their security standards.

3. Experience addressing Governmental Compliance (HIPAA/PCI)
With costly penalties - both fiscal and reputational - stretching across a variety of business verticals, the need to trust one's hosting provider to meet stringent security requirements is an integral part of today's IT business plan. If you are a company that accepts, processes or stores credit card information, you are likely very familiar with PCI data security standards. Or, if you're a company within the healthcare and dental industry you are aware that you must comply with the HIPAA and HITECH Act security standards surrounding the storage of Protected Health Information (PHI). When it comes to meeting these security requirements, there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Flexibility in hosting options is essential to ensure you are getting the right coverage necessary to comply with governmental standards as well as meeting your business needs.

4. Has private cloud infrastructure for added security
Many companies that want to adopt cloud computing while mitigating their security risks should look for a hosting provider who can offer private clouds. A private cloud offers all the same benefits of a public cloud but dedicates resources (e.g. servers, firewalls, etc.) to a single customer. Private clouds prevent other companies with poor security practices to share your data center resources - even by accident. Demand a provider that performs background checks before allowing customers to host.

5. Employs tenured engineers
Data centers are the heart of an organization. When a company entrusts their data to a data center hosting provider, they need to be sure that the engineering and operational support teams have excellent knowledge and execution skills in specific areas; one of the most important being security.

6. Maintains sound financial standing
You may be just getting your business off the ground or have recently gone through a round of funding - but the last thing you want is for your hosting provider to go out of business. Choose a company that not only has a strong history in the hosting community, but also has a proven track record of being financially sound. Look for things such as long-term growth and profitability.

More Stories By Rich Waidmann

Rich Waidmann is Chairman, President and CEO of Connectria. He founded the company in 1996 and brings more than 30 years of experience as a successful entrepreneur and senior manager of both Fortune 100 firms and technology start-ups. He began his career in sales with NCR Corporation (acquired by AT&T) and years later established companies ranging from Disaster Recovery Services to Enterprise Systems Management.

Rich holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.

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