Cloud computing is all the rage with small and large businesses alike, but don’t jump blindly into this technology.

Sure you can save money by adopting a cloud strategy, but there are risks to be considered.

“Before you sign on to the cloud you should stop and think for a moment about what you want to put in the cloud,” says Scott Hazdra, principal security consultant at Neohapsis, the cloud security provider. “You shouldn’t do it without thinking about it first.”

According to security experts, small businesses should have a cloud security policy in place before choosing a provider. With that in mind, here’s a look at three questions Hazdra says all small businesses need to ask before moving anything to the cloud -- even if it’s just email.

No. 1 What do you want to put in the cloud?

For many small businesses the idea of saving money is all it takes to start using the cloud. But often in a rush to get started, they don’t plan ahead and often scramble after the fact to pull data back or scale up.

To prevent any headaches down the road, Hazdra advises that you sit down and really think long and hard about what you want to reside in the cloud. If you own a medical or financial company, there may be rules and regulations governing the privacy of client data that also must be considered. The last thing a small business owner wants to do is run afoul of privacy rules and have to explain to customers why their sensitive data was exposed to potential security risks. 

Ask yourself “what do you want to put in the cloud, data, applications… or both,” says Hazdra.  “Based on that, you will be able to identify criteria to determine the best cloud provider and service required.”

No. 2 How will your company information get transferred to the cloud?

Being on the cloud can save you money, but getting there can cost you a lot more if sensitive data is compromised during the transfer. Because of that, Hazdra says it’s imperative that small business owners ask the cloud provider if the data being transferred is secure and is uploaded in a way that will ensure it doesn’t get compromised. Hazdra says find out ahead of time if the cloud provider offers a secure means for conversion, whether it’s an encrypted file transfer or a secure portal where everything is uploaded.

No. 3 What happens if I want to leave, or the service goes out of business?

One of the most overlooked questions when it comes to cloud computing is what happens to the data if the provider goes under, or the small business owner wants to use another service?

“When small businesses move in everything is sunshine and roses, then a year or two years later when things change and they want to go in a different direction they don’t know how to get out,” says Hazdra.

He says small business owners should be thoughtful about what they put in, and have to know how to get it out before they sign a contract. He says the business owner should find out if and how the data is destroyed once the contract is up.

“Having a clear exit strategy before you start prevents you from potentially large operational costs or downtime later,” says Hazdra.