Trusting the cloud to scale your start-up

During the Dublin Web Summit, Zack Weisfeld, General Manager of Microsoft Ventures Global Accelerators, took a look at the steps start-ups need to take to put their faith in the cloud and grow their business.

So you’re running your own business – congratulations! Now the challenge is how to scale, and equip yourself with the tools needed for long term success. With startups amongst the 64% of Western European small to medium sized businesses (SMB) already using cloud-based software, it’s no secret that the cloud can help save on costs while providing the flexibility to cope with demand as it fluctuates. However, despite the established value of the cloud, security, privacy and compliance concerns are holding many back from adopting further cloud services.

With a company’s data one of its most valuable assets, embracing the cloud demands a high level of trust that a third-party will provide the required protection. So, what questions should you ask to ensure your start-up’s data remains safe while taking advantage of the cloud to build your business?

How secure is the cloud for my business?

Risk of a security breach is the main factor limiting European businesses from increasing their use of the cloud. However, in practice, customers typically benefit from enhanced security when they move from on-premise solutions to a top cloud provider. Cloud computing offers enterprise-level security that is beyond the reach of most start-ups and would be impractical for the vast majority to implement and maintain internally.

As a startup in a highly regulated industry, the team at needs to be able to trust its cloud provider. Offering an online doctor and prescription delivery service seven days a week in Ireland means handling large amounts of patient sensitive data on a daily basis. That’s why retaining control of customer data and offering total availability of the service at all times is critical for Webdoctor. The company relies on Microsoft Azure to create a safe environment to securely connect virtual machines to one another and provide access to Webdoctor’s customer data at any time. Now that the company is an established healthcare online services provider in Ireland, it has plans to expand through other European markets adding more doctors and additional healthcare services as they grow – all powered by the cloud.

But who can access my data?

As a young start-up, protecting your intellectual property is vital to ensuring long term competiveness and success. But using the cloud might lead to questions about where your data will be located and how easy it is to access it. Before choosing a cloud vendor, it’s vital to have reassurance of your privacy, and that the integrity of your data will be protected. Ask questions about where your data resides, who has access to it, and how it is used. And look out to ensure that key industry standards – such as ISO / IEC 27018, the world’s only international standard for cloud privacy – are being adhered to. Overall, ensure there is transparency in how your data is used, and don’t forget to ask what happens to it if you choose to stop using these services.

And how do I know my cloud provider complies with local laws?

Along with protecting your data and who has access to it, it’s important to make sure your cloud provider meets local compliance laws. Why? This protects your data in the case of government data requests and provides increased transparency over exactly how company information is used. Look for a cloud provider that works with its customers and local regulators to help them meet compliance needs, as well as receiving independent verification and backing up claims with clear contractual commitments. For example, Microsoft’s cloud services have been recognised by the Article 29 Working Party as meeting the high standards for international data transfer in the cloud. These independent verifications provide reassurance that the cloud can be used with confidence, without compromising data protection.

So how can the cloud help my start-up take over the world?

In the early days of many start-ups, infrastructure requirements can change at a moment’s notice. So, once you’re confident that your data is safe, it’s vital that the cloud provider you choose will help you to easily scale to meet demand or expansion plans. As a fledgling business, it allows you to save money and effort on your technology platform requirements and focus on your core business. Your cloud provider should be your partner, with the ability to accommodate spikes in IT usage in a cost effective manner and according to your business goals.

For young and ambitious start-ups like yours, the cloud holds many benefits in helping to easily scale, compete with established companies, reach new customers and fuel innovation. But its full potential can only be realised if you ask the right questions to cloud providers. Then – and only once you’re confident these have been answered – are you ready to move to the cloud and take your business to the next level.


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