How much does cloud computing cost?

As you would expect, prices vary from service to service and vendor to vendor. Although many online services are free, they come with adverts and may not be suitable for business use. Business class services and applications start at a few pounds per-user, per-month and some applications can cost a lot more. However, the price and conditions should be clear up front.

How do I evaluate different cloud computing services?

Don’t look at any single factor. For example, price is important, but if the service doesn’t do what you want, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is. On the other hand, don’t fall for bells and whistles you don’t need. A good place to start is to carry out a basic requirements analysis:

- What are my business needs?

- What will my employees do with the system?

- What benefits am I looking for — must-have and nice-to-have?

- What are the alternatives? Including ‘do nothing’ and ‘buy in-house’.

What is my budget? Remember that cloud computing can give you access to new technology, new business models and new ways of working. It isn’t only about finding cheaper ways to do what you already do today. So, working with a trusted IT partner, the final criteria for evaluation are to ask:

- What new capabilities can it bring my business?

- How can I make use of new features and opportunities it creates?

How do I evaluate cloud computing suppliers?

There are some basic questions you should ask about any provider that offers online services:

- Size and reputation: Will the supplier be around for the long haul? Do they have a good reputation? Has anyone recommended them?

- Business focus: Do they have a track record of working in your industry sector or with small and medium-sized businesses? Is this a scaled-up consumer product or a built-for-business service?

- Support: What support options do they offer? Do they have a partner network which can give you local support, if you need it?

- Future options: Does the supplier offer options to move to in-house systems or other platforms if your business changes or grows? For example, can you move your email from a hosted system to an in-house server?

- Familiarity: How much training will your staff need to use the new service? Is it like anything that they already use?

- Data protection: Look for detailed information about how your data is protected, backed up, stored and how you can get it back if you want to move suppliers.

- Service level agreements: Look for a strong commitment to meet promises, such as money back guarantees if the provider fails to meet uptime requirements etc.

- Pricing: Are you paying per month or per year? What happens if you change the number of users?

Find out more about Microsoft Cloud Solutions

Watch the video below featuring Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, explaining how Office 365 addresses the challenges that small businesses face.


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