In today’s digital age, a lot of businesses have begun adopting cloud computing services to maintain robustness. Many of them have begun to outsource their IT infrastructure, such as servers, storage, databases, networking software, etc. to cloud service providers in the bid to become more flexible and versatile in fulfilling their organisation’s computing needs.
This increase in demand for digitalization and cloud computing services has attracted a lot of cloud computing service providers into the sector. The cloud computing market is now vast and flooded, having over 800 certified public cloud service providers offering a wide range of services with Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and Google (Cloud) as the leaders in the sector.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated digital transformation with up to 90% of organisations taking up cloud solutions in order to support remote working. This has seen even the biggest businesses and fortune 500 companies jumping onto the bandwagon of cloud computing.
With all this happening, picking the right cloud service provider is critical for long term growth.
But how can you choose the right cloud service provider from such a myriad of cloud computing service providers? In this article, we’ve put together 7 key considerations which can help you to select the most suitable vendor for your organisation.
Choosing The Right Service Provider
1. Certifications And Standards
Even though certifications and standards achievements alone are insufficient in helping you determine the best cloud computing service provider to opt for, they still help a great deal when shortlisting potential suppliers.
Service providers who comply with the sector’s standards and quality frameworks demonstrate adherence to industry best practices. There are a good number of standards and certifications available for cloud service providers, for example ISO and Cyber Essentials Scheme which have great emphasis towards security issues. The image below illustrates other commonly known organisations responsible for providing good guidance, certifications and setting standards for cloud computing service providers.
Generally, focus on looking for cloud computing service providers which have achieved such certifications. Additionally, try to understand and find out how the service provider plans to ensure continuous adherence to these standards as well. This shows that the vendor is serious about their business and has a mid to long term plan moving forward.
2. Cost Of Services
We know that cloud computing service providers can leverage on the economies of scale from servicing multiple clients. And because of the economies of scale enjoyed, they can pass on some of these cost savings to the clients and offer them rather attractive and competitive rates.
However, this doesn’t mean that all of them are willing to charge a low fee for their services. Therefore you need to pay careful attention to the fine print of cost of use when signing a deal with them. The last thing you want is to have a service provider that has you digging deeper into your pocket than their competitors.
While costs should never be the most important factor, there’s no denying that they will play a huge role when choosing your cloud service provider. Always look at both the sticker price as well as the other variable costs that will add up.
Pricing structure will vary amongst service providers. For example, major players like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud determine their pricing by rounding up hours used with a minimum of one hour use time. Most instances the services can be purchased either as Pay-as-you-go or pre-paid upfront billing. Most of them will also offer volume discounts as your company grows and your consumption increases.
In your research for pricing, try to weigh the costs against factors like performance and other customer support. Also consider if there are any service minimums that will be billed regardless of your usage. You will need to carefully analyse your usage patterns and determine which best fits your business’s budget.
Watch out for service providers that offer aggressive pricing to first timers. These tend to take advantage of the client’s amateur level of knowledge. It probably also reflects how they run their affairs. So do take note of that!
Assessing the service provider’s levels of data and system security is of paramount importance! This is, in fact, one of the main concerns people tend to have when they begin to adopt cloud computing solutions. Be sure to ask detailed and explicit questions that relate to regulatory requirements, recent incidents, case studies, industry best practices, or any other concerns you may have. Do not feel obliged to fully trust your cloud computing service provider and neglect to evaluate this essential feature because the last thing you want is to have your data lost, mismanaged, stolen, or accidentally deleted!
You should also clearly understand and state your security goals and weigh them against the service providers’ security measures and data preservation mechanisms. Make sure that the service providers have robust security systems and policies in place that are aligned with your own organisation’s goals, policies, and processes.
Consider their system’s identification features such as identity management, access controls, authentication, and where they store and process the data. This will also help to give you an idea on how secure your data is preserved.
Also, don’t forget to assess the provider’s disaster management policies. Make sure to understand their data loss and breach notification processes and ensure they are aligned with your organisation’s risk appetite and legal or regulatory obligations. This way you are guaranteed data recovery in case of accidents or security breaches.
Lastly, the cloud service providers you are considering should be transparent about their data centre locations. Nevertheless, it remains your responsibility to dig deep for this information. You can do this by paying attention to the documentation since most service providers detail security features and integrations available.
It’s one thing having all the most robust security systems and policies in place, it’s another when it comes to being reliable in delivering the standards in the services promised. It certainly wouldn’t be beneficial for you and your organisation if you choose a service that is undependable and unreliable, as it may bring more harm than good when you adopt cloud computing with them.
Several methods can be applied when trying to determine the reliability of a service provider. A sneak peek at their performance within the last 6 to 12 months should be sufficient in providing you with an idea of their dependability levels. Whilst some service providers publish or furnish potential clients with this information, some do not, so it is still your personal responsibility to ask for it, or to make use of your research skills and dig up their old data. However, it is unrealistic of you to expect ultimate perfection from every service provider. For example, server downtime scenarios are inevitable sometimes, and every service provider is bound to experience it at some point.
Ensure that the service provider has established, documented and of course proven processes for dealing with planned and as well as unplanned downtime. Also make sure their communication plan, monitoring and reporting tools are sufficient and compatible with your overall reporting and management systems. This will determine how they plan on communicating with their clients during times of disruption of services.
More importantly, understand the service provider’s data recovery plan and their ability to support data preservation. You will need to know what will happen in case of data loss and how your data will be preserved.
5. Migration And Exiting Plan
While there are compelling benefits to sticking to one service provider, you must constantly analyse the benefits against the risk of remaining entangled with any supplier. Therefore, even at the initial stages of your relationship with the supplier, you should plan and make sure that you are able to exit and transition to other suppliers in the future, if that need arises.
The name of this situation that we want to avoid is called “Vendor Lock-In”. Simply put, this is a situation in which clients find it extremely hard and costly to transit to a competitor service provider. Contract constraints, proprietary technologies and inefficient processes are among other things causing the “Vendor Lock-In” phenomenon. Cloud services that rely heavily on unique or bespoke proprietary components may greatly impact your migration to other service providers. In this case, “Vendor Lock-In” is a very real situation that you must look out for.
To avoid Vendor lock-in, try and examine each cloud computing service provider for the services it offers for migration. Consider avoiding using services that limit your ability to migrate or transition to other parties in the future. Some of them may make use of attractive discounts to tie you in and lock you down. Make sure not to be enticed by the attractive upfront discounts, only to realise that you are stuck with a vendor that does not meet your requirements and unable to change to other providers easily.
6. Service Roadmap
It is critical to ask questions concerning the service providers’ future endeavours and plans because you will want to know if they have any plans for growth and improvements. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with a service provider who has no clear vision of the future whatsoever, or one who is unable to keep up with the ever-changing, dynamic digital world. You also do not want to find yourself committed to a service provider whom your business will eventually outgrow.
Whilst it is possible to migrate to other service providers, you may not prefer to do it as often. So, ask yourself, how do the service providers plan on continuing to grow and innovate over time? But most importantly do their plans match yours?
When selecting cloud computing service providers, simply ask them straight on their business future roadmap. Ask for materials or decks that talk about this topic. They should be able to easily share these materials with you because these are what keeps everyone excited. In fact, it should already be in the sales deck which was presented to you.
7. Customer Support
Customer Support is paramount. Don’t be smitten by the sweet words and over-promises that the cloud computing service provider’s sales team says to you. You and your team will be spending a great deal of time communicating and working together with their support team instead. And you will probably not see the salesperson who woo-ed you into signing their services until perhaps when they launch a new promotion or new product, or when it’s time for contract renewal.
Hence, customer support is an area that needs careful scrutinization as well. How simple and fast you get help when in need of it is essential for your business success!
For some cloud computing service providers, the only support available is chat service or call centre which may not be preferential to you. Some of these virtual supports are even based overseas, and even outsourced to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies. While we are not saying that BPO companies are bad, it remains the fact that these BPO agents may not have the in-depth knowledge and specialty that only the service provider’s in-house technical team will have. In this case, you may have to think twice if you are comfortable enough to only get this level of support.
So, make sure to ask the service providers questions up front concerning the types and levels of support that will be made available to you. Do they have a 24/7 team on standby? Will they have people who can come on-site for assessment and rectification?
To determine which cloud service provider will work for you, consider doing a thorough analysis of your organisation’s requirements to discover factors that will help you make an informed decision.
While the tips shared won’t give you all the information you need, they will help you build an analytical framework you can use when you are weighing cloud service provider(s) against each other in a bid to choose one you will trust with your data and applications.
Exiting or moving on from a service provider may seem trivial or perhaps something you perceive as a future activity but predetermining your exit plan should be something you bring up in your initial talks with any supplier. You do not want to find yourself failing to move on from a supplier because you cannot transfer your data.
We advise that you take your time and do thorough research to arrive at a concrete decision on which service provider to opt for. Don’t worry about sounding too demanding or aggressive. It pays to be thorough than sorry!
If you need s to choose the right cloud service provider for your company right now, you can start to look for a trusted network service provider to assist you with the transition; and that is exactly what the professionals at Vallous can do for you, just as we have done so for companies big and small, local and overseas over the past years!
At Vallous, our team of IT professionals will be able to assess and prescribe suitable hybrid cloud solutions that cater to your business IT operations needs. We offer enterprise-grade data services that you can rely on to transit your data-centric business from a traditional on-premise data centres model, to a hybrid cloud model, or even a full-on cloud computing model.
We are dedicated to assisting our clients in storing and protecting their data, and in keeping your enterprise network ecosystem operating at its best capacity, fueling growth and eliminating downtime, so your business can be a beneficiary, rather than a victim, of the digital ecosystem. We understood and foretold early on the importance and significance of adopting cloud computing and have expanded our cloud data services product line by working together with the world’s biggest cloud computing providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Huawei Cloud, as our partners to enable our clients with cloud capabilities.
To learn more about how to successfully implement hybrid cloud, contact our in-house professionals at www.vallous.com