Ok, yeah, we all know Bill Gates doesn’t run Microsoft anymore. But his name is synonymous with the sprawling corporation behind everything Windows.

So, we’ll just pretend he’s a Wizard of Oz and still sitting behind the scenes running everything.

Bill Gates wasn’t the first person to offer a cloud business solution to the masses. In fact, the first true cloud service dates all the way back to the stone ages of the internet: 1999.

Salesforce.com opened the way with their ability to deliver enterprise applications via a website. A few short years later, Amazon one-upped Salesforce.com with a suite of cloud based services that included human intelligence.

Today businesses face a nebulous array of cloud based services. And it’s patently difficult to choose the best option.

Today I’m going to clear the skies for you. Here’s how to figure out if Gates should get your business.

1. Is It Secret? Is It Safe?

Your first consideration should be security. And while they probably don’t have an enterprising young Hobbit on staff, they should still be able to keep your data secure.

If a cloud provider can’t show you multiple standard security measures, give them wide berth. This is the only way you’ll be completely comfortable with their approach to security.

What should you look for when it comes to cloud security?

Firewalls are one thing. These keep intruders from accessing your network. Anti-virus detection is a must. Multifactor authentication for access and data encryption should be there as well.

Internal security is another aspect you should pay attention to. Who will have access to your data? And how are they vetted?

Microsoft’s Azure is actually the perfect example of a secure cloud network. Their Azure compliance offerings are probably the most comprehensive of all the cloud services.

Not only do they ensure compliance with all governmental regulations on security, they even vett their security through civilian organizations like the MPAA.

2. Another Day Another Dollar

Some cloud services will try to gig you up front. They’ll tell you a massive cost to get started and act as if this is normal.

Don’t go for these “pay to get through the door” services. You’ll quickly find they aren’t reputable.

A great service will only charge you for what you use. And sure, it’s absolutely reasonable to charge for added services.

You’re essentially renting “server space” across the world. And you could be charged for varying periods of time. From hourly to annually depending on the vendor and the services.

And the price can vary significantly as well. You might have a service as low as a dollar a month and you might have services charge you over $100 per month. It really depends on the value they’re dishing out.

3. We’re Here to Serve You

Sometimes, what provider you choose will depend on what you need. If you only need the basics (a bed and a shower), why would you pay for a suite?

So, first evaluate your own business needs. Are you needing video and photo storage? Are you hoping for financial solutions? Or do you need file systems?

You can even outsource your customer relations to the cloud in software based offerings. This is called customer relations management or CRM.

The cloud is utterly diverse. You can outsource a billion functions. From IT networking to basic storage solutions.

4. Backup! We Need Backup!

Systems built by humans are bound to fail. Unless they’re the pyramids. Those things will probably outlast humanity.

And while your data will be more secure in the cloud rather than a local server, data loss happens. And the statistics show that most of these incidents are due to human error.

So, what can you do to prevent this? Go with a service with an excellent backup plan.

How will a service rectify the incident if you lose data? How many copies of your data are spread across their servers?

How many incidents have they had in the past year? And are there legal agreements that outline restitution if they lose all your data?

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask before you sign on to a new service.

5. “I Knew Nothing But Shadows and I Thought Them to Be Real”

While you may not be storing your aged self in an about-faced portrait, the cloud might seem just as magical. But it’s not.

Outages happen. And the smaller the cloud service, the more likely they are likely to experience one.

Downtime is expensive. It kills whole businesses.

Even if a server is up 99.5% of the time, that .5% represents over $9 million in lost revenue for most businesses. So, the margin for error with a cloud service is teensy.

You can’t afford to go with a service with any kind of major downtime history. But even the major services will have some, including Google.

If the service’s downtime history logs aren’t already in an accessible location, ask for a copy. Not only will their willingness to give you these help you determine their trustworthiness, you’ll also know whether they use stable servers.

6. “Scalability is About Building Wider Roads, Not Building Faster Cars”

Speed is important in some cloud services. Especially if you’re merely running a website. But you want to know that if you grow, your service can grow with you.

Again, basics are nice. And that might be all you need at first. But if you go with a service that isn’t scalable, you’re going to be stuck in that awkward position of transferring everything over to a new service.

This can be costly and possibly dangerous, depending on the data and service. So, it’s best to get ahead of future scalability problems by figuring out the growth possibilities now.

Issues might come up you haven’t thought of before. For example, what if you add staff to your team? Can you add users to the service?

Conclusion: Bill Gates Isn’t the Only Wizard

Jeff Bezos and other CEOs are now giving the Billionaire giant a run for his money. But as far as their cloud services go, you’re going to have to decide for yourself.

I hope I’ve given you enough to think on. Do you have advice on choosing a cloud service? Let me know in the comments below.


By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.