How much are you thinking about the cloud? Maybe not at all, but chances are you’re already using it in some capacity across your business, and you will do to an even greater extent in future.
Research from US management consulting company McKinsey found that currently, nearly one-quarter of retail industry workloads are in the public cloud, but retailers expect that to rise to one-third in the next year. Most are choosing to take a step-by-step approach, migrating single applications or specific workloads to the cloud depending on how they want to take advantage of advanced cloud capabilities such as big data, artificial intelligence/machine learning and application-programming-interface platforms.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We know that the decision to move your IT operations to an external cloud provider is not one to be taken lightly. Even if you have moved some of your functions to the cloud, such as email and online meeting hosting, maybe you’re not ready to shift your POS or your enterprise resource planning system. Perhaps you’re concerned about the risks involved. Or you are wondering, how costly is it? Will it take ages to implement and cause huge disruption? Maybe you think it’s a fad and question whether it’s really worth it.
We get it. And we believe the best way you can address those concerns and find a solution that suits your exact needs is by working with a technology partner you can trust.
When it comes to selecting the right cloud provider for your business, you probably have specific requirements and evaluation criteria that are unique to you. But there are also some common areas to consider when making any service provider assessment.
1. Certifications and standards
Look out for providers that comply with recognized standards and quality frameworks. This demonstrates that they adhere to industry best practices and are taking the necessary steps to provide the highest quality service.
Compliance with international standards like ISO/IEC certifications should give you confidence that your provider is committed to providing a secure and compliant cloud environment for your business. Our cloud-based services and solutions are all offered via the Microsoft cloud, which leads the industry with the most comprehensive compliance coverage, enabling customers to meet a wide range of regulatory obligations.
2. Technology roadmap
Ensure your technology provider’s platform and technologies are capable of growing with your business. Are their cloud architectures, standards and services able to handle your current and future workloads and management preferences?
How does their roadmap match up with yours? Have a look into how they plan to innovate and grow over time. Consider important factors such as their commitments to specific technologies or vendors, and how they ensure interoperability. Critically, can they demonstrate similar deployments to the one you are planning?
You should also find out how they will support you during the migration process and beyond. What support do they offer, and how does this map against your expectations?
3. Data governance and security
Leading cloud providers deliver robust physical security and protect everything from the virtualization layer down. You’re likely to already have your own data security policy, so make sure their capabilities match up with your own policy and, hopefully, go above and beyond.
You should also look into how your data will be stored and managed. Be aware of regulatory or data privacy rules governing personal data. If you have specific requirements in terms of the location your data resides in, look for providers that give you the choice and control you need.
Critically, your cloud service provider should be transparent about their data governance and security policies and their data center locations. Ask about their data loss and breach notification processes, and see whether they marry up with your organization’s risk proneness and legal or regulatory obligations.
Take the time to find out about your provider’s relationship with key vendors, their accreditation levels, technical capabilities and staff certifications. If they partner with leading vendors like Microsoft, what level of partnership do they have, and how long have they been in partnership for? Have they won any recent awards for innovation and service quality? This information will help you determine the quality of the service and technology they offer.
Knowing their relationship with key vendors will also help you if you want to integrate existing technologies or plug in new ones. If everything runs on the same technology stack, integration should be seamless and straightforward.
Why your business is ready for the cloud, even if you think you’re not
Today, retailers face tremendous pressure to deliver new business capabilities faster. For many, the obvious answer lies in adopting cloud technologies. McKinsey’s report “The cloud as catalyst for retail,” confirmed that an increasing number of retail leaders recognize the critical role of the cloud in facilitating their technological reinvention.
That’s because while the cloud can reduce the cost of computing and data storage, it can also do so much more. Ultimately, cloud technologies enable retailers to connect with consumers in an agile and scalable way, and create the seamless shopping experience your customers now expect.
If you’re still not convinced about shifting all your workloads to the cloud, here’s some good news: you don’t have to. There are several ways you can take advantage of cloud technologies without migrating all of your critical functions to a cloud platform. If you choose the right provider, you can make the cloud work for you, on your terms.
To find out more, read our latest e-book, “Deliver unified commerce with cloud solutions infused with intelligence” to discover just how important cloud technologies now are in retail, as well as determining which cloud consumption models will work for your business. And if you’d like to discuss your requirements or understand better what possibilities you have, you can always get in touch with our business experts.