Six things SMEs should consider when selecting a cloud provider

By Renette Lombard, Managing Executive, Midmarket CSO at BCX

The cloud is, undoubtedly, the best way for a startup or small business to access all the IT infrastructure and enterprise-grade tools they need without having to invest heavily upfront.

However, the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. While South Africa now has a wealth of excellent cloud options available, it is important to ensure that the cloud service providers, specific solutions, and support agreements you choose align 100% with your business’s needs and budget.

Here are six key factors to consider when selecting cloud services for your business:

Costs - Cloud costs can escalate alarmingly if not carefully planned and managed. It is important to determine what cloud resources you’ll need and how you will be billed. You’ll also need to consider whether public, private or hybrid cloud is the most cost-effective for you and whether it makes sense to move all or some of your data and workloads to the cloud. Cloud service providers typically offer a range of products, which can be billed by time, gigabytes, executions or instances. Some offer volume discounts, while others provide free tiers. If comparing the options proves daunting, an expert cloud partner can help you analyse your needs and select the right services to meet them.

Governance and compliance - It is vital to ensure that the cloud service provider you choose aligns with best practices in data protection and cross-border data flows. If data sovereignty is a concern, check that the provider is present in-country and will retain your data in the country.

Standards and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) - If you’re entrusting mission-critical systems and data to a cloud service provider, you will need the assurance that they offer best practice security, standards and SLAs. Consider the provider’s certifications, regional footprint, redundancy and resilience, guaranteed uptime, and levels of support.

With load shedding an ongoing concern in South Africa, the service provider should offer data centres with resilient power and backup.

Disaster recovery and backup - Service providers’ backup and disaster recovery provisions and processes differ: consider their testing, recovery-time objectives, SLAs and exclusions to ensure these meet your business’s specific needs.

Tools and features - Hyperscalers such as Azure, Google, Alibaba, Huawei and AWS offer tools and features to enable integration and migration of existing business tools into the cloud, as well as ever-growing ecosystems of value-adds. When selecting a cloud service provider, look at the products on offer, such as developer tools, AI and machine learning, analytics, web and mobile apps, API management, dashboards and security.

Exit provisions - It is also essential to consider how you will exit the agreement if you choose to. Consider the level of vendor lock-in and the possible complexities of moving from the service provider, before taking the leap.

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