Seven Considerations to Clarify Your Cloud Selection

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Published: 03rd April 2015
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You may be sold on the value of moving data and applications to the cloud, but choosing a provider is a weighty decision. Hereís what you need to look at before making the jump.

Even if youíre certain you require cloud services to round out your IT infrastructure and support your organizationís critical business operations, selecting the right provider can be a daunting, complex exercise.

What can make this decision easier is having clear criteria for selecting a cloud provider based on your requirements now and in the future.

Uptime is everything: If web applications are essential for employee productivity and you engage with your customers through digital channels, your cloud service providerís uptime track record trumps all other considerations. Service providers will outline their uptime guarantees in their service level agreement (SLA), but you need to know if theyíve had outages, for how long and how they handle them. If they donít have dual data centers for primary production and secondary failover, they are not adequate for your mission critical apps and data. Ideally, you should conduct a third-party compliance audit and look for an SLA with teeth: Donít settle for anything less than four nines of reliability.

Financial viability: This is closely tied with uptime, but itís worth noting separately. Any provider should be able to show it is financially stable and healthy with a diversified revenue stream as well as a roster of other customers similar to your business or using similar applications. An SLA that outlines uptime and redundancy is meaningless if your vendor isnít profitable and doesnít have a sustainable business model.

Security is everything: Security is just as important as uptime, both physical and logical. The former can be ascertained by a tour of their facility and seeing with your own eyes what security practices are in place. From a logical perspective, user access to information systems and data, whether itís yours or theirs, must be governed by well-established and documented policies and procedures, and be supported by standards-compliant authentication and data security audits such as SSAE 16 and PCI DSS.

Can they grow with your business? A service provider may meet your needs right now, but what about a year from now? Five years from now? You need to understand your long-term deployment requirements and whether your provider will be able to scale to meet or evolve with them. Just as important is the ability to scale down if your business changes. In addition, can they support a hybrid approach if you want to use the public cloud for only certain applications and workloads? How do they handle service change management?

Whatís under the hood? Not all clouds are the same. Some are built on open source while others run on proprietary technology. Open source can provide a great deal of flexibility and choice of service providers, even enabling you to quickly and easily move workloads from one vendor to another, but bear in mind that clouds built on open technologies such as OpenStack are relatively new and require technical expertise that you may not have. Other things to consider are their support for multi-tenancy and their approach to virtualization.

Itís about people too: The best technology means nothing if itís not accompanied by technical expertise. If moving some data or applications to the cloud is in part driven by lack of internal staff to manage them, you need a cloud service provider who not only understands your technical requirements, but your line of business too, whether itís retail, financial services or healthcare.

What about cost? If youíve made the decision to move some or all of your IT into the cloud, youíre probably already sold on the economics. However, cost should not be the only driver and you must not compare commodity providers with differentiated providers, for example. Thatís comparing apples and oranges. You should look for a provider that offers consumption-based pricing and resource pooling to realize the financial ROI of moving to the cloud.

Understanding your requirements for moving to the cloud is only your first step. By keeping in mind these seven key considerations you will be able to select a cloud service provider that is aligned with your long-term business and IT strategy and will ultimately become a long-term, valued partner.

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