By Jennifer Marsh

Cloud backups let the business owner protect data without the worry of failed hard drives or natural disasters that often destroy servers. The cloud has plenty of storage to supply the business with entire image backups of servers and desktop computers, which means that nothing is lost in case of hardware failure or theft. With all of the cloud backup solutions out there, how does a business manager determine which one is the best? Before sending data to any cloud host, the manager should research providers first.

Security: How secure is the cloud host? Some hosts sell security in packages, so the IT manager can use only the security service he needs. The host should use SSL and firewalls, but the IT manager can choose to add antivirus and alerts to the monitoring services. The cloud host should offer the best protection for data, because backups usually contain private corporate documents and customer data. The cloud host should also guarantee the best security, and allow the IT manager to set permissions for who has access to the backups.

Mobile Access: Mobile computing is more than just cell phones. Business employees need to be able to access the documents from a smartphone or tablet. For backup solutions, the employee can back up contacts and data from a smartphone or tablet to the cloud storage device. This makes cloud storage convenient for businesses with salespeople or business managers who travel often.

Backup Automation: A good cloud host lets the IT manager automate backups in the cloud. This means that the IT manager can basically “set it and forget it.” Backups usually take up several gigabytes, and sending that much data to a backup storage device can take up much of the business bandwidth. For this reason, the IT manager should set backups to run during off-peak hours such as at night or after the business closes.

Speed and Bandwidth: When you need to transfer several gigabytes of data, the amount of bandwidth is important. The amount of bandwidth available for backups determines the speed and time at which the backups are performed. When the business only has a certain amount of time for backups, it’s important to ensure that the host bandwidth provides the fastest transfer rates. Fast transfer rates can mean the difference between an hour and several hours to perform backups.

Cost for Storage: Storage can be expensive for large networks. One advantage of cloud computing is the cost associated with storage space. The cost is only a fraction of the cost for full hard drives mounted in internal servers. Each host has its own associated costs for storage space. The IT manager should also check associated costs for add-on resources. If storage or resources run out, the IT manager can provision additional resources through the cloud host dashboard. Provisioning extra resources might cost more than adding these resources to the contract, so check the price for adding storage space to the contract after services begin.

These are a few of the items to check when choosing a host provider. The best way to find a cloud host is to check the provider’s website, research reviews and check online prices.

Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for open cloud company Rackspace Hosting.