10 Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Cloud Provider

January 3, 2014 5:00 am0 comments

airplane

Rest Easy When Your Up In The Clouds With These Provider Shopping Tips

Picture this: you’re about to board a flight and the pilot mentions the jet’s engine has just been replaced and upgraded. You ask the pilot how the new engine affects the flight. He replies “I don’t know—we’ve never tested it.”

At this point, you might have second thoughts about staying onboard. After all, it’s critical to have a good grasp on how new variables can affect performance. That doesn’t just apply to airlines—it applies to all kinds of business decisions, including cloud computing.

When choosing a cloud computing provider for backup and storage, it’s important to know how the rest of your technology infrastructure will respond. Failure to do so can cause a variety of unwanted complications.

With that in mind, let’s examine 10 key considerations for selecting your new cloud computing provider.

1. Security

When the words cloud computing are uttered, the word security usually isn’t far behind.

If you’re moving sensitive financial, medical, or business information online, security is perhaps your foremost consideration. As such, it’s important to know where your data will be stored, how your data is backed up, and whether your vendor provides necessary physical and logical security.

Reputation is another factor. If you’re going to offer them your most valuable information, it’s important your vendor has your trust. Examine your prospective vendor’s failover options, contingency plans, and physical security before you make a decision.

2. Performance and Latency

Air travelers know that a late arrival often means a missed connection. Too much network latency can lead to the same negative result by slowing performance.

There’s a good way to counter this—hire a provider who uses Layer 2 networks with <1ms server latency. Doing so will help your applications perform reliably both in the cloud and in the data center while providing transparent server location on the client side.

3. Flexible Deployment and Connectivity

If your airline barred you from bringing luggage and told you to purchase new bags after your flight, you’d obviously refuse. That, in essence, is what some cloud vendors ask of their customers. Some won’t let you use your existing applications, insisting you rebuild your applications to fit their system.

That’s not a reasonable expectation—after all, one of the reasons to go in the cloud is for added flexibility. You don’t want to be stuck with restricted options because your provider can’t handle your needs. Make sure your provider provides VPN, MPLS, public and private cloud options with public internet, and private line connections.

4. Meaningful Service-Level Agreement

Airline travelers understand that on-schedule departure doesn’t mean the plane pulls away from the gate only to rest on the tarmac for a half hour. That goes for cloud providers as well.

Your service uptime should be measured from your first day as their client, rather than a day assigned by the company. 100% uptime with <1ms latency should be the goal. Speak up and insist they deliver exactly what you need. A service-level agreement is important, but it’s also important to ensure you don’t have to fall back on it.

5. Customer Support Access

Customer support is usually a given with cloud platform providers. The value of that service can vary wildly, however, from perfunctory and slow to engaged and helpful.

Much like you’d take a first-class ticket over coach, why settle for slow and unresponsive customer service? Basic coverage should be included with your service agreement, and that should include web and phone support along with case management tracking. After all, technical issues can ground your business faster than just about anything else.

Why invite anxiety? Go with a trusted and responsive provider.

6. Managed Services

You might have the world’s most high-performance plane, but it won’t do you much good without a pilot. Similarly, you can have all the technical capacity you need in the cloud, but if you don’t have people to manage it, it does you no good.

Using managed services allows you to accommodate growth and complexity without taking up additional resources. Managed services partners who can provide server monitoring and patch and OS management can help keep your operation running efficiently.

7. Best-of-Breed Technologies

Everyone loves cheap airfare until you find out you’re riding on the oldest and least-comfortable plane you’ve ever seen. You want to avoid the same scenario when choosing a cloud provider. You might be tempted to go cheap, but that just means you’re trusting your most vital information to a provider who may not be entirely reliable.

Before you choose a provider, ensure that provider invests in high-end hardware and software infrastructure. The use of best-of-breed products and services are one key identifier. If a provider uses trusted brands, such as Cisco, VMware and EMC, you’re on the right track.

8. Flexibility in Purchase Options

Some of us need a cloud-equivalent of a seat on the Concorde. Others need a bargain seat on a regional carrier. Either way, it’s important that your provider provides flexibility in pricing.

Companies dealing with a bit of uncertainty or looking short-term could benefit from a pay-as-you-go usage plan. Businesses with more predictable costs could benefit from a longer-term usage plan. This can lead to lower rates and guaranteed capacity.

9. Scalability

If you’re growing fast or moving to the cloud to accommodate growth, you do not want that growth inhibited by your new provider. It’s critical to select a provider who has the capacity to scale with you. This means people, process, infrastructure, tools, and capital resources. Your cloud partner is there to help you grow, not the other way around.

10. Experience

Most of us probably wouldn’t want to fly in poor conditions with a rookie pilot. The same can be said for your cloud provider. It’s important to find a provider you can trust. That means shopping for a company with an established record that knows how to correctly transition your business and your applications to the cloud. This is one of the most important business decisions you can make, so it’s important to find a reliable partner who engenders trust.

 

We all want smooth, turbulence-free flights. There’s little worse than a bumpy, anxiety-filled plane ride. Similarly, moving your business to the cloud doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle experience. Follow these 10 evaluation considerations and your business can migrate to the cloud with minimal delays, costs and risk. With the right provider, you’ll have the efficiency, flexibility and reliability necessary to see your business take off.

Image: iStockphoto

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Zack Kirchin
Zack Kirchin is the author of TheTechFortress, a blog focused on the latest technology, gadgets, devices and know how. If technology can be used for personal or business, TheTechFortress wants to know about it. Connect with TTF on Google+ and Twitter.
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