Key questions when selecting a cloud-based provider

Companies should remember to align potential benefits with business objectives, and be prepared to ask vendors critical questions about the architecture and management of the service being considered.

Before selecting a cloud-based services provider, companies should be prepared to ask potential vendors critical questions regarding the architecture and management of the service they are looking for.

There at at least 3 key areas to consider when shopping for a new vendor, according to Justin Hill, director of Asia strategic accounts at Skillsoft, an online learning management solutions provider.

1. Secure environment

Make sure the provider can appropriately articulate the security of their systems which will house the organization's data. The security of cloud-based solutions comes in many flavors and it is important to ensure that each aspect is proactively addressed by the service provider.

The most trusted cloud-based service providers will address at least the following security areas:

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a. Application-level security ensures only authorized, authenticated users are able to access, view and report upon their own corporate data from within the learning management system. This level of access control is designed into the learning management system application and can often leverage existing corporate Identify Management solutions.

b. Data protection ensures the security of data as it moves from the user, across the Internet to the cloud provider, and back. It also covers the safety of data within the cloud provider's infrastructure including data backups to prevent the loss of data in the case of system failures.

c. A secure, monitored infrastructure ensures that unauthorized persons are not able to break in to the network infrastructure housing the LMS and harvest data, content, or disrupt service. This can often be verified independently, reported upon and even certified.

d. Finally, to be truly secure, cloud-based solution providers must assess vulnerabilities associated with their own employees that may have access to a customer's site and data. Cloud providers must implement organizational policies and procedures to minimize the possibility of any malicious activities by their own employees.

2. Enterprise integration

Cloud providers have to integrate with other corporate applications and are more likely to have well-established, standards-based solutions for integration. However, integration time and ease varies from vendor to vendor thus an organization needs to ask what types of integrations are supported and how easy they are to implement.

3. Support when you need it

Licensing should provide access to additional resources that act as an extension of a team. Support services can extend beyond just technical and customer support to include providing expertise to assist with delivering the skills development and behavior changes the organization needs.

Like any software solution, there are cloud implementations that are well thought-out and quite robust, and others that are not as reliable. Each business has its own set of learner needs that is often aligned to its business goals, therefore there is no fixed way of going about the decision making process.

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Checklist when shopping for a cloud solution. (credit: Skillsoft)