Here is an excerpt from a guest post that I recently contributed for IsUtility® is a turnkey Houston Computer Services and Consulting solution that brings accountability back to the IT services industry. You can view it at Houston Cloud Computing or read it now directly below…

I am a big fan and user of cloud computing services/providers – of the hundreds that I have tried over the years, only a small percentage of them turned out to be shams or charlatans. Spotting a good or bad provider is a lot easier than you think and I want to share with you a few valuable tips that I have learned which can SAVE you a lot of time, heartache and money.

Beware of “hard sell” websites
Look for websites that DO NOT rely heavily on affiliate marketing and video to promote their wares. This hard-sell, “so-and-so uses us” approach is a sure sign that it is not a reputable company. Pages and pages of sales copy, clichés, crazy low price act-now offers, and “look wait, there’s more” hype says to me that the company is not legitimate.

If a brand is promoting their service heavily through a group of authors and speakers that I know have a tendency to get caught up in high pressure sales and affiliate marketing schemes, I can almost guarantee that the service will not live up to what you have been promised. There is nothing wrong with using affiliate marketing – however, some people do not care what they promote as long as they make a dollar off of it. Beware of marketers who send an email to you every week promoting someone else’s product. I don’t know about you but when I sign up to receive communications from someone it is because I want to learn from their knowledge – not receive an endless list of offers to buy their friend’s latest workshop or book.

Look for sites that follow best practices in layout
There are many cloud sites that are presented well and offer great service. They stand out. I look to these as a guide when evaluating potential new cloud providers. The more time that has gone into clean design and ease of use (navigation), the more confidence you will have in their underlying service.

Security next
Look for safety – assurances that your data is kept safe from hackers. I expect to see seals, guarantees etc. in plain view.

All proof is not created equal
Anyone can claim that their website is “the BEST provider in the world of X” but it’s another thing to back it up with proof. Client testimonials are the most powerful form of proof. I look for real results from real people. “Debbie for Texas said…” doesn’t cut it in my world. Unfortunately, you cannot simply rely on someone’s homepage claim which says how many customers they have – many companies fudge the truth to suit their own purpose and there is little recourse to protect the consumer from false claims.

Do your homework
One of the most valuable tools at your hands for research is Google. When in doubt, I check what others are saying about this service. Charlatans cannot hide forever. You’d be surprised how much is out there on companies who are not good operators. In fact, last year I took on a monthly subscription service with Traffic Geyser who claimed to be able to syndicate my articles and videos to over 100 sites each month. What they neglected to tell me was that over 50% of my attempts to syndicate would ultimately get rejected and that I would have to spend hours to manually chase up all the bounce backs. The ROI on my investment was appalling and their customer service was the worst I have ever experienced online. Bottom line, their software doesn’t work properly and it is just easier to use something cheap or free like Tube mogul.

Conduct a customer service test
Send a note to customer service and see what you get back. Their willingness to answer your questions completely, promptness and attention to detail will tell you a lot about who you are dealing with before you hand over your hard earned money. Also, make sure it is easy to unsubscribe from the service. Cloud services that make it difficult for you to get help or quit, are not to be trusted.

Also remember to verify the claims and credentials of the person running the business – what qualifies him/her to provide this service? Who is behind this company? Is it a one man band? Can you trust them? Do the look like they know what they are doing? Sometimes watching 1-2 videos of them on youtube can give you a very clear perspective on whether or not they are the real deal.

Selecting a vendor online is no different than doing your due diligence off line. Luckily, many cloud services are reasonably priced and you are less likely to get locked into a long term contract with a charlatan. However, the exposure (financial, personal and strategic) is much greater than the actual cost of the service, and therefore, you need to be much more vigilant before you hand over your credit card number.

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