Factors to Consider while Choosing a Cloud Services Provider

By CIOReview | Friday, June 24, 2016
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Cloud is undoubtedly one of the biggest buzzwords of the decade. Captivated by its flexibility and security factor as well as pay-as-you-go model, many firms have started implementing cloud solutions as an alternative to the redundant in-house storage. However, managing infrastructure and cloud can be formidable and intrusive to core business operations due to the striking eruption of the data and escalation of security, compliance, and support resources issues. Here are some essential factors the firms should examine before selecting cloud storage.

Compatibility with Existing Infrastructure:

How will new cloud systems work with legacy solutions? This question bothers many IT administrators and C-suite executives who are en route to make cloud implementation. It can be beneficent for an organization to check whether the technology offered by the vendor is supporting company’s existing infrastructure. Further the cloud services provider should be able to support multiple programming languages, databases for better compatibility. To avoid vendor lock-in and confusions of selecting from multiple choices for platforms and clouds, it can be a mindful effort to choose a platform-agnostic, infrastructure- agnostic, and hypervisor-agnostic platform that effortlessly allows moving workloads, whenever needed.

Industry Standard:

The vendor should be aware of with industry's privacy and security compliance needs. Before signing up, firms have to determine if the solution provider would help them adhere to new regulations such as SSAE 16 and  meet the requirements of global security standard. SSAE 16 is a critical audit standard, especially for companies with financial data and in public sectors, as well as other industries where data security and integrity are important.

Security:

Enterprises today prefer cloud over other data storage techniques as it provides them with a multitude of features such as multi tenancy, flexibility, adequate security, and more. However, security remains a foremost concern for any organization that is considering a move to the cloud. The security of sensitive data with strong encryption is important before taking a leap. Some service providers may offer server-side encryption, but encrypting the data on the owner side might be wiser. If the data is encrypted before it is transferred, then only an authorized user would be able to decrypt it. This way the chances of security breaches and data loss would be minimized.

Disaster Recovery: 

Cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR) is a backup strategy that necessitates storage and maintenance of copies of electronic data records in a cloud computing environment as a security measure. The goal of the cloud DR is to provide the assurance of data recovery or implement failover during events of data loss. This would help companies to devise a proper strategy for their next data storage system and minimize downtime. To avert the risk of technical or business issues with a single vendor, firms can use multiple cloud storage providers.

The Right Provider:

Before signing up with a cloud provider, it is a cardinal rule for firms to make sure the provider is fully committed toward understanding the business and its specific objectives with regards to cloud storage. Sometimes, companies can go wrong and simply choose the largest cloud providers based solely on their reputation and longevity. But there is value in choosing a provider that deftly grasps the needs and storage requirements. Underlining the importance of right service provider, IBM Vice President David W Glenn has said Before migrating to the cloud companies must ensure the network infrastructure can support the demand for higher bandwidth and sufficient redundancy for mission critical applications.” 

Bandwidth Limitations:

Looking beyond the advertising spiels and easier maintenance promises that are guaranteed by the service providers, cloud users will have to confront a nagging detail: bandwidth, or more specifically, how long it would take to move data to the cloud. It’s necessary to understand the bandwidth limitations both for the initial backup of a large amount of data, as well as for disaster recovery. Cloud storage also entails moving data outside, from the company’s datacenter to a Wide Area Network of the storage provider, often resulting in a higher cost and bandwidth requirement for cloud storage.

Bandwidth and transfer speeds drive the time expectations on how long it will take to move data over the wire. This can be minutes, hours or even days. Bandwidth cost, potential, and time are important factors that influence the choice of a company when selecting a cloud service.

Service-Level Agreement (SLA):

The service offering should include on-demand scalability to keep applications running, offline backup, disaster recovery, and high availability storage without disruption due to maintenance/upgrades. The vendor's SLA should hold guarantees for the applications and data that it hosts.  At the least, it should cover availability of data and systems, response times for normal-issue severity levels and when dealing with specific security issues. It’s needful to read all fine prints and understand them. SLAs offer guarantee on service delivery; and many providers offer compensation if facilities mentioned in the agreement are not experienced.

Price Structure:

When choosing cloud services, it is necessary to look out for hidden and unanticipated charges to get the best return value for the investment. But often, the users incur additional charges for activities such as 'put and get' (sending your data to the cloud and getting it back), DR testing associated with the service, and boosting bandwidth beyond a specified limit. It's best to perform cost analysis of a cloud service before choosing one. It’s essential to ensure that the chosen network solution has the ability to scale easily without long lead times and simultaneously assure that the service provider has the capacity to meet your future needs.

Some additional queries to throw light on whilst next procurement:

1. How long has the company been in business?
2. Where are their data centers located? (Storing the data in different regions around the world can help you grow local and regional business. It will save your time and money, and will help you to expand your business globally.)
3. What is their strategy for data security and encryption? Will they provide a copy of their policies coupled with the copy of recent security audit?