I wanted to share a post from our WhyMicrosoft.com site by Ron Markezich, Corporate VP, Microsoft Online, which provides 5 questions CIO's should be asking when considering a cloud solution for their business.  I've linked to the post here and included the full text of the post below as well.  Let me know if you have questions or comments. If you're looking for more information on Microsoft's cloud offerings, please check out the Office 365 and Cloud Power sites.

-Allen

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There is no question that being CIO is a demanding role that has been made more difficult by facing tough decisions about cloud solutions. Two weeks ago, I shared five key themes I consistently hear from business leaders who are considering moving their business to the cloud.  As a follow up, here are five questions I think are key to making an informed decision on the best cloud provider for your business.

  1. Do you have a proven track record?

Exactly four years ago, Google launched Google Apps for Business.  However, (even after a lot of "Gone Google" hype and a low price), the vast majority of businesses using Google Apps are not paying for them.  Why?  The businesses I talk to want solutions that work with what they have today and provide a bridge to the future at their pace. They hesitate to pay for solutions that don't fully meet their needs. At Microsoft, we believe the best approach is to help organizations move to the cloud on their terms, not ours.  Our track record in helping enterprise customers achieve their goals speaks for itself.  Does Google's?

  1. How much will it cost to get my people productive?

Announcing a "win" and actually deploying the solution for the customer are two very different things.  Providers like Google are great at the former but often fail at the latter.  Why do businesses resist fully deploying Google Apps?  Because it means retraining users who are used to Microsoft Office, accepting limited interoperability with other line of business applications, and dealing with Google's limited features is expensive.  In the long run, the total cost of ownership for even "free" solutions is costly and time consuming. Can your business afford this "unstated" cost?

  1. What are your privacy policies?

Do a careful review of the company's privacy policy; will you always know where your data is? Microsoft designs its solutions from the ground up for security and privacy and they are backed by two decades of meeting enterprise needs for secure, private solutions. If productivity isn't a significant contributor to a cloud provider's bottom line, you should ask yourself what line of business is and whether it's consistent with your privacy needs.

  1. What is your long term roadmap?

Organizations need to plan for the future without questioning a cloud provider's long term commitment to their business.  Despite the need for customers to understand their roadmap, Google and others often surprise their customers by unexpectedly removing important features - or adding new ones - which increases both headaches and cost.    We understand you operate a business, not a lab for our latest experiment. 

  1. Can you support all of my people with what they need

Most businesses have a variety of people working in different roles.  Not all of them sit in Silicon Valley campuses with high-speed Internet and not all of them even need a dedicated computer. What they do need is access to your businesses resources.  At Microsoft, we provide a variety of options for the different roles people play in your business. Your business does not exist in a one size fits all world - is your cloud provider one size?

Being a CIO is tough enough without uncertainty from your cloud provider. Before you put your business on the line, ask the hard questions.  Be tough and diligent and dig through the hype to find a partner, instead of just a service provider. You'll be glad you found a partner committed to you and your business' success.

 

Ron Markezich

Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Online