This article originally ran in Forbes. You can read the original version here.
When using any cloud-based platform, safety and security are important. When using a cloud-based platform powered by people, safety and security are critical. In recent memory we’ve seen T.J. Maxx, LinkedIn, Sony, and even the Pentagon victimized by hackers and online theft, amounting to millions in lost revenue and tax dollars — and millions more in lost consumer confidence. Simultaneously, we’ve seen the rise of crowdsourcing platforms like AirBNB, Kickstarter and ZocDoc, which run on trust between users within cloud-based platforms.
Luckily, you do not have to be a developer to know what kinds of technical questions to ask before committing to new software. The general rule of thumb is that the technology should provide a seamless user experience and assuage your security concerns every step of the way. To vet the technical safety and security of any cloud-based platforms for your business, ask these three questions first:
Question: How much work can the platform handle?
Answer: Arguably one of the single biggest benefit of cloud-based platforms (and the crowdsourcing platforms for that matter) is the ability to scale. Cloud-based platforms that cannot meet the needs of your growing business are not worth your time. The best cloud-based platforms expand and contract to meet your company or client’s needs without sacrificing confidentiality or quality.
Example: Uber, a car service company that connects you to drivers at the tap of a button, has taken scalability to a new level. A professional driver of your choosing can be alerted to your need anytime and in a few minutes, you’ll have the ride you need without losing any of your confidential information.
Question: How does the platform educate you on how to use the product?
Answer: Cloud-based platforms that allow you to submit your own work are great; cloud-based platforms that allow you to both submit your own work and address your questions along the way are even better. Be sure to look for platforms that do not merely tell you what to do, but show you as well.
Example: Optimizely is an A/B website testing platform with a first-rate onboarding tutorial and ongoing customer service. It’s clear how to use their tools from day one and becomes more intuitive each time after that. Look for software companies that are constantly teaching you to be a better user.
Question: What analytics do they track and what test do they run?
Answer: Any good cloud-based company should constantly be testing their systems. It makes no difference what software platform the company is running on. What matters is that they are constantly improving every side of their company — think customer, crowd, and technology — through rigorous analysis.
Example: Companies like AirBNB and Khan Academy are using MixPanel’s powerful analytics to learn about their customers’ activity, make adjustments to their offerings, and ultimately create a better product.
Startups that ask these questions upfront before investing in new software will drastically reduce their security risk, not to mention gain reliability, stability and more accurate data.
Ryan Frankel is the co-founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt.
You can follow him on Twitter at @rvfrankel