By Donna Airey, Fasthosts Internet Ltd

Do you have a thriving small business? Could now be the right time for you to scale-up? You know your audience better than anybody else, so it would be presumptuous to tell you what you could do to make your services a more attractive proposition to a mass market or how to grow your share of voice. However to make sure that the technology underpinning your company will continue to support you regardless of how much your business grows or how demanding your business becomes.

By hosting your business in the Cloud you can scale resources such as RAM and memory, depending on what you use and your business requirements to help you to work more efficiently. The workload is spread over several servers, so even if you use up your allocation of the Cloud, functionality is never compromised. It’s because of this in the hosting world; Cloud has become synonymous with flexibility- ideal for businesses considering scaling up.

Establishing how you will use the Cloud before approaching vendors is important as this will shape your communication with them. Answering the below questions will help you to make sure you have this straight in your mind:

What is the main function you need hosting for? Is it to host your website, a web based application, backup or another service

What features do you need? Pay-as-you-go, burstable RAM, security features etc.

What type of contract would you prefer? pay-as-you-go, monthly, 12 month contract

Would you prefer a managed or unmanaged solution? Do you or someone else you employ have the skills to do this? Or might you be better outsourcing and using external expertise?

Do you require a solution that scales on demand? You should think about future proofing your business- do you think your answer to this question will be the same in six months, one year or five years?
Now you know what you’re looking for, you just need to find a provider that meets all of your criteria. It’s important to remember that each vendor approaches Cloud in a slightly different way and you need to find one that matches your business requirements.

Follow these four steps to find the right provider for you:

Step 1 Consider vendors based on their technical competence and their existing technology partnerships. Find out if they can deliver a Cloud offering that will create real efficiencies and support your business’ growth (for example some providers offer burstable resources to cope with periods of high demand).

Step 2 Your business is your livelihood so before committing to any vendor it might be worthwhile checking how they approach network redundancy, reliability and compensation- just in case your services are down for any significant period of time.

Step 3 Even those of us with a good understanding of technology may require support from time to time. It’s best to know upfront what level of support is offered by the vendor’s support team and if there are any additional costs associated with it.

Step 4 Make enquiries into the financial stability of the provider(s) you are most interested in. If they’re investing in the business and developing their infrastructure it can be a positive gauge of their finances.

As a final check and for peace of mind, you could check to see if they have signed up to The Cloud Industry Forum’s Code of Practice. This is a voluntary code that advocates trust and transparency and is a good indication of credibility.

If you keep the above steps and tips in mind you will be well prepared to steer the conversation with vendors. With the technology side of scaling up your business covered you can now focus on what you do best, managing your business and nurturing its growth- good luck!