Six Factors to Consider while Choosing a Cloud Service Provider

Are you planning to move to the cloud?

There is no doubt that cloud-based services provide flexibility, scalability, and added security; even cloud-based application development saves time and effort by offering tools and features for specific requirements.

Among all the steps to transition to the cloud, the most challenging stage is to choose the correct service provider. No two cloud service providers are the same, and don’t even share a common framework. Moreover, the cloud provider evaluation criteria are unique to your requirements.

So how do you choose?

Here are some factors to consider when looking at cloud service providers.

Cloud Security

Above all, your customer or company information needs to be protected. What level of security you need is directly proportional to the sensitivity of your data. Based on your security goals, research the measures offered by each provider.

Both network and application-level security are essential. Assess all the provider’s features for password policies, permission, multi-factor authentication, firewalls, penetration testing, HTTPS encryption, threat detection, IP restrictions, third-party certificates, and disaster and backup recovery.

A few questions to ask: 

  • What encryption layers do you offer? 
  • Can you manage your encryption keys? 
  • How quickly and easily can a firewall be implemented? 
  • How do you define the rules applicable to network traffic? 
  • How often is your antivirus software updated?

It is crucial to ask all questions related to your business use cases, regulatory requirements, industry guidelines, and other concerns.

Evaluate which security features are free and paid or which are available through third-party integrations. Read about the providers’ approach and responsibility to security. Also, research the maturity of the operations and governance policies. Most providers publish this information, and if not, they should be able to provide it when requested.

Security is the first and most vital factor to consider while choosing a public cloud platform.

Manageability and Scalability

As the business grows, the infrastructure should be flexible enough to scale. Look for tools that can support data and user ramp-up.

Discuss the provider’s development and innovation roadmap. What is their commitment to specific technologies and vendors? Does the provider support interoperability? Can they share deployment examples similar to yours?

Innovation tends to disrupt the existing market. Features like predictive intelligence, continuous DevOps, at-rest encryption key management, API management, machine learning, and automation will help you to stay relevant.

Each of the service providers supports different orchestration tools and integration with other services. It will help if you evaluate how much time it would be required to manage your cloud and how easy it would be to integrate with the services you use.

Look for time-saving features such as visual prototyping, model-driven business logic, available APIs for data and app integration, testing capabilities, analytics capabilities, direct deployment through mobile or web containers, and low-code or no-code development options.

What happens when you plan to move to a different provider? Many cloud providers use proprietary technologies that don’t translate to another provider. Think about a list of alternate options in case you need to change providers down the road.

Support

When you need help, how will you get support and how long will it take? Will you have a dedicated account executive? Getting a clear answer to these questions up front will prevent unpleasant surprises when you have an emergency.

Be sure to ask about the provider’s issue ticket tracking system. What will be the average response time? Get a complete list of what is covered under the support offered–administration, configuration management, technical help, service requests, etc.

Establish clear Service Level Agreements for availability, response time, and capacity. How will the data be stored, protected, and encrypted? What will be escalation procedures and time frames? Establish clear definitions of issues, roles, and responsibilities.

If the provider is hosting your data, they need to be especially trustworthy. Also, have legally enforceable agreements in case if something goes wrong.

If you know you want to move to the cloud but you’re not sure what type of services you would need, ask each provider for guidance and compare their answers. Good providers should tell you what they offer and help you pick services that best meet your business needs.

Migration to a cloud-based service is not a lift-and-shift process. What happens if you don’t have the required expertise in-house? Ask your provider how it will support the migration process.

Compliance

It becomes mandatory for all the regulated industries to follow compliance like HIPAA, SOX, PCI DSS, GLBA, GDPR, FISMA, CCPS, and others. Make a list of the industry regulations you need to comply with, then see which ones the provider will check off and which will become your responsibility.

If you operate from a location where data privacy and security regulations are in effect, you will have to review your provider’s governance and security policies. Choose providers which offer you the flexibility to select the jurisdiction for data storage, processing, and management.

Ensure your provider adheres to standards for data management, knowledge management, structured processes, and service status visibility. See if your provider is accredited with certifications like ISO 27001,  SSAE 16, and SOC 2. These certifications require annual audits to maintain accreditation, and indicate if the provider complies with industry standards.

Infrastructure and Architecture

The infrastructure and architecture design impacts the quality of service you will receive.

Some considerations include the data center location and capabilities. A data center close to your site helps reduce latency, and offsite backups give you the ability to preserve your data in case of a disaster. The provider’s capability to quickly scale up their infrastructure ensures high performance during a time of need.

Study the provider’s storage offerings, as most providers offer similar storage capabilities in terms of amount of data, but may have different options for retrieving and storing your data.

How reliable is the provider’s ecosystem? Does it get constantly upgraded? Does the ecosystem use prebuilt components and third-party apps that enable rapid growth? A flexible, reliable ecosystem saves you time and cost by adding functionality whenever you need it.

Use one suite of technologies for easier integration and consolidation. For example, if your application belongs to the Microsoft universe and uses .NET Framework, MS SQL, Visual Studio, SharePoint, it would be better to use Microsoft Azure. It will seamlessly sync the architecture into the workflow. You may also benefit from free licenses and credits. Similarly, if your organization uses Amazon or Google services, go for Amazon Web Service or Google Cloud Platform.

Cost

There is no denying that cost becomes one of the main deciding factors. It always helps to see a complete picture of direct and indirect costs, including the cost of resources you would need to manage your instances.

Due to the number of factors involved, there is no “one size fits all” pricing structure. There are some guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating provider costs.

Giving a single pricing structure for the cloud is difficult. Most providers keep changing the price of a cloud instance. These slight cost variations may not look that big initially, but could have significant cost differences in the long term.

The top three service providers–AWS EC2, Azure VMs, and Google Cloud VMs–offer an intricate pricing structure based on general-purpose, compute-optimized, memory-optimized, and accelerated computing VMs. Keep in mind that 75-80% of the cost is represented by computing resources.

Also, all of these platforms provide substantial businesses discounts. AWS calls it “Reserved Instances,” while in Azure it is “Reserved Savings,” and Google calls it “Commitment Price.” So the business discount is another part to look at from a cost perspective.

Additionally, all the providers give different pricing structures based on On-Demand, Spot Instances, Dedicated Needs, and Per Second Billing. Here are some of the respective pricing structures:

Conclusion

Cloud computing is on the rise, as more and more businesses start to rely on it. You have to consider many factors before choosing which platform to use.

The three dominant players in the space are Amazon Web Service (32% share), Microsoft Azure (19% share), and Google Cloud Platform (7% share). The other two which look promising are Rackspace and IBM Cloud. Which one suits your needs depends on specialization, cost, risk management, new features, ongoing promotion, etc.

Keep in mind the software companies in Cleveland or cloud service provider should manage the infrastructure, and you should only focus on what is in your cloud– that is, your data and applications.

These factors will help you build a solid analytical framework to determine which cloud platform will best serve you. You can further improve on it by analyzing your organization’s business, operational, security, and compliance needs. Mapping your organization’s needs against the offered features will help you make a more informed decision.

If you’re looking to migrate to a cloud platform, you want to get a cloud application custom-developed, or you’re struggling with existing infrastructure, help is available from a managed cloud service provider like Taazaa.