A cloud service provider is a company that provides a service or a set of services from a computer infrastructure that is located in a data center somewhere in the cloud effectively.
The cloud is a figurative term that means the equipment is not physically on-site at your location. You connect to it remotely, through the internet.
Examples of cloud service providers include Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce. But even checking your bank balance on your phone is effectively using a cloud service provider.
It’s hard to determine the ‘best’ cloud service provider per se. it's really about what problems you’re trying to solve, and what the best company is to provide a solution.
Cloud Service Providers Solve Problems
There are many different variables for cloud service providers. Solving the problem, or identifying the need, is the first step.
For example, do you need a single sign-on? Microsoft does that really well with Active Directory. We've set that up quite a few clients, but we also make sure that we can enable two-factor authentication too.
Two-factor authentication is interesting in today's security environment. That authentication process uses two different types of information. First, something you know, i.e. your username and password, and then something you have, which could be a code or a text to phone.
When you're looking for a cloud service provider, it's really important to identify the need first. Then look for a company that can fill that need and evaluate them from that standpoint.
For instance, Microsoft Office 365 might be the perfect cloud service provider for you if you need:
- Hosted email
- Unified communication
- Chat function
- File sharing
- Microsoft Office applications
If you need to manage your salespeople, keep in touch with your contacts, and track activity, then you should be looking at a cloud service provider that provides a Customer Relationship Management solution like Zoho or Salesforce.
There are almost as many different platforms as there are companies and industries. There is management cloud software for procurement, shipping, tracking inventory, and that's also available through Microsoft with Dynamics. And many other cloud-based shipping or management software systems can handle that too.
In short, most vendors these days have some sort of cloud offering. You don't have to buy the software and have it on-premises running on a computer. With software as a service (SaaS), you're paying a monthly fee per user.
Security of Cloud Services
The security aspect of the cloud makes managed IT services extremely important.
The average company has somewhere between four and 10 cloud services already. Typically clients won't even know they're in the cloud. But when we start peeling back the layers, evaluating their material and requirements, we find that their planning and MRP solution are in the cloud, their email is in the cloud, all these different vendors are already providing services.
We look at all the vendors and the security on a layer-by-layer basis. I believe you have to make a base assumption that the cloud service provider is doing everything they possibly can to protect your data, but you don’t have much visibility into that. You can look online to see if the provider has the proper certifications, like a SAS 70 data center and things of that nature, but you really don't know. You need to really take precautions on your side.
Single Sign-On & Two-Factor Authentication
Your computers need to be protected. A single sign-on, which we mentioned earlier, and two-factor authentication are key.
A single sign-on service allows you to connect to multiple platforms through one username and password authentication experience. You also need two-factor authentication so that people who are not you, or are impersonating you, can't log into those services and gain access to them.
With two-factor authentication, again, that’s a piece of information that you know, and then a piece of information from something you have, i.e. an app on your phone or a number sent via text.
Having a managed service provider service like CyberTrust handle security is the best way to get peace of mind.
When people think of the cloud, it's this big, invisible thing in the sky and they don't really know how it works. It's essential to have a partner with the knowledge to say we know this for certain because we know these platforms and so many others.
We know how to help and make sure that that security is streamlined. Your cloud will be protected and managed every day. It's really important to have a managed service provider who has that knowledge.
The managed service provider is there to determine what cloud services you have and then look at all of them individually and collectively and craft a security solution and policy around them to protect you and your company's data.