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23 Critical Targets to Hit When Choosing the Best Cloud Provider

The quality and fit of the cloud provider you choose directly impact your organization’s success. In response to our rapidly evolving IT ecosystem, more and more businesses are migrating to the cloud and discovering improvements in operational efficiency, scalability, and performance. Where companies used to be fully dependent on local servers or software restricted to personal computers, you can now remotely access these same powerful resources through a cloud service provider. These are the most critical factors when selecting a cloud services provider.

1. Timing

You'll want to start by understanding your specific business needs. This includes clarifying requirements and minimum expectations before looking into providers. This ensures that comparisons will be made using consistent criteria, yielding a shorter, more manageable list of candidates. To effectively evaluate providers, we suggest clarifying your requirements for security, service, integrations, compliance, and management.

Once you've got your business needs and cloud migration candidates outlined, it's time to select your provider. At the same time, it's important to analyze and prepare the migrating workloads. The configurations required, the work needed, and the level of support available from the cloud service provider will be determined by the specific environments and services offered.

2. Security

It's essential to prioritize robust security when choosing a cloud provider to protect your data, applications, and infrastructure from potential threats and vulnerabilities. Important security considerations include physical security measures like strict access controls, security personnel, surveillance cameras, and biometric authentication. Additionally, make sure the provider follows standard encryption practices to safeguard data both at rest and in transit. Choose providers with strong identity and access management (IAM) solutions, including multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls. It's also crucial to have security monitoring tools for real-time incident detection and response, DDoS protection to filter out malicious traffic, and data privacy features to comply with regulations. Keep in mind that cloud security is based on a shared responsibility model, so due diligence is essential to ensure the safety and integrity of your data and applications.

3. Service Offerings

Make sure to check if the cloud provider offers the specific services and tools your organization needs. Typically, cloud services include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which provides servers, virtual machines, storage, and networks. Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers the hardware and software needed to develop and deploy applications, while Software as a Service (SaaS) hosts and manages software applications accessed via web browsers. When choosing a provider, consider the type of workloads and applications you need to run, as well as your organization's technical expertise.

4. Cost and Pricing Structure

It's important to understand the pricing model and associated fees before choosing a provider. Cloud providers usually offer different pricing models, including pay-as-you-go, fixed pricing, and hybrid approaches. The pay-as-you-go model charges based on actual usage, while subscription-based models offer fixed costs. Reserved instances offer cost savings for long-term commitments.. Thoroughly evaluate the costs of different resources and storage options and consider fees for data ingress and egress. Ensure that clear and detailed billing statements are provided. Understanding the costs upfront will allow you to make an informed decision that fits your organization's budget.

5. Scalability

Scalability in cloud computing enables you to adjust resources as needed to meet changing organizational demands. There are several key aspects of scalability to consider:

1. Vertical scaling: This involves upgrading or downgrading individual resources such as processing power or storage.

2. Horizontal scaling (scaling out): This adds more instances or resources for efficient workload distribution.

3. Global scaling: This is essential for businesses with a global presence, as it allows resources to be scaled across data centers in different geographic regions.

A good cloud service provider should offer a range of scalable options, allowing you to add or remove resources on demand.

6. Performance

Remember to evaluate the provider's track record. Ensure that their services are reliable and high-performance. Key factors to consider are uptime and availability, found in the service level agreement (SLA) in the guaranteed service availability section. Evaluate the provider's network infrastructure to ensure minimal latency for applications. Consider storage options that balance performance and cost, and choose instance types that match your computational requirements. Choosing a reliable cloud service provider ensures that your organization's data and applications are always available when needed.

7. Contracts, Commercials, and SLAs

Cloud agreements can get complicated, so it's important to understand the terms and conditions, service delivery, data policies, and other business terms. Be sure to look for clear definitions of services and expectations, including roles and responsibilities. Assess the provider's security and data management policies, especially their data privacy regulations. Additionally, consider the contractual and service governance, renewal policies, insurance, and auditing operations and how they align with your company's needs. When evaluating service level agreements (SLAs), be sure to review the service level objectives (SLOs), remediation policies, exclusions, and any caveats.

8. Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

To guarantee the safety and accessibility of your data and applications, you'll need to evaluate your provider's data backup and disaster recovery capabilities. This involves assessing the available methods for data backup, understanding data retention policies, and verifying data security through encryption and access controls. Automated backup and recovery processes drastically minimize the risk of human error. It's also important to examine recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) metrics and ensure the use of built-in redundancy features across separate locations.

9. Technical Capabilities and Processes

To make IT simpler, check that the provider has uncomplicated deployment, management, and upgrade mechanisms for your software and applications. They should use standard APIs and data transforms to make integration smooth and easy. They should also have formal event management systems integrated with monitoring and management systems and documented processes for requesting, logging, approving, testing, and accepting changes. Your cloud provider should have a strong portfolio of hybrid cloud solutions, products, and services for you to choose from.

10. Compliance

For organizations in regulated industries, compliance is non-negotiable. Important criteria for compliance include industry-specific solutions, such as HIPAA for healthcare and PCI DSS for finance. Stay informed of and comply with local or regional regulations. Verify security and compliance certifications, such as SOC2, ISO (insert number), and FedRAMP. Organizations should look for provider-supplied tools to track and document compliance-related activities.

11. Support

Consider the level of support cloud provider candidates offer because it will directly affect your ability to resolve issues and maintain operational efficiency. Look for a provider with knowledgeable customer support, detailed documentation, vibrant user communities, and dedicated account managers. Support should be available 24/7 through various channels. Excellent customer support gives you the confidence that you can get help whenever you need it.

12. Administration Support

Ensure the provider offers adequate administrative support, including basic service level guarantees, comprehensive performance reports, and mechanisms for monitoring services. To further prevent disruption issues, be sure the provider has automated billing systems with billing support.

13. Documentation

Beyond ticketed support, detailed documentation will be necessary for self-diagnosing issues with your cloud infrastructure. Look for product documentation, active community forums, and easy-to-follow instructional tutorials.

14. Data Center Locations

The location of the provider's data centers impacts performance, compliance, and resilience. Geographically dispersed data centers enhance disaster recovery. Shorter distances between users and data centers reduce latency. Additionally, adhering to data residency requirements is crucial for regulatory compliance.

15. Vendor Lock-in

Vendor lock-in occurs when an organization relies too much on the services of one particular cloud provider, making it difficult and expensive to switch to a different provider. To avoid this, consider using multiple cloud providers for different tasks. Workload management and infrastructure provisioning tools modify infrastructure, making it easier to move between providers. The key is to use as few proprietary technologies as possible.

16. Networking and Connectivity

Networking and connectivity directly impact the performance, availability, and security of your services. Assess the provider’s network infrastructure, making sure it has a robust geographic presence. For data-intensive applications, high-speed connections are crucial. Private network connections permit low-latency links between on-premises infrastructure and the provider’s network. Efficient traffic distribution across multiple instances enhances scalability, fault tolerance, and performance. To accommodate the more connected devices and offer redundant network connections and failover mechanisms, confirm that the provider supports IPv6.

17. Certifications and Standards

Providers should adhere to best practices, including demonstrating compliance with recognized industry standards and high-quality frameworks. Look for security certifications such as ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials. Verify the use of structured processes, effective data management, and continuous adherence to standards.

18. Integration and Compatibility

The provider’s services must integrate well with your current infrastructure. Look for strong APIs and SDKs for custom integrations. For your organization to operate seamlessly, compatibility with your tech stack, including operating systems and third-party applications, is essential.

19. Service Dependencies and Partnerships

Assess the provider's vendor relationships and service dependencies. This might include evaluating their accreditation levels and technical capabilities. Beyond ensuring compatibility with other services, you'll want to understand the implications of subcontractor relationships on SLAs and accountability.

20. Monitoring and Analytics

We suggest you choose a provider offering monitoring and analytics tools to gain insight into performance, security, and health. Real-time metrics for resource utilization and performance are essential. High-value features include:

  • Automated resource scaling to optimize allocation

  • Tools for tracking resource consumption and identifying cost optimization opportunities

  • Timely alerts for security incidents and performance deviations

  • Machine learning and predictive analytics for proactive recommendations

  • Integration with DevSecOps pipelines to ensure real-time insight into the health and security of applications and infrastructure

21. Business Health

Your cloud provider must run a healthy organization to support yours. When evaluating a provider, it's important to assess their financial stability, reputation, and long-term viability. A financially stable provider will invest in infrastructure, security, and innovative technologies. Look at customer reviews, case studies, and industry analyst reports to evaluate their reputation. Additionally, research their ecosystem and network of partners to ensure compatibility.

22. Company Reputation

The integrity of your cloud provider validates the assurances they provide, including security. Investigate the provider's legal history, planned corporate changes, and competitive position. Past legal challenges and how they were addressed can indicate the provider's reliability. Planned mergers or acquisitions may affect service continuity. Gain more insights by reviewing the management team's history and performance, along with the provider's customer base and market presence.

23. Exit Provisions

While often overlooked, it's important to ensure a clear exit strategy from the start. Understand how you'll access your data at the end of the contract. To minimize disruption to your operations, assess the provider's exit processes and conditions.

To Be an IT All-Star

  • Select the right cloud service provider by carefully considering your organization’s specific needs and priorities.

  • Prioritize these factors to find a cloud service provider that meets your needs and helps you achieve your goals.

  • Regularly assess your choice of cloud provider to ensure alignment with evolving requirements and industry trends.

  • Invest the necessary time and effort to make an informed choice or hire the right IT advisor to make the best use of your resources.


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