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Choosing a Cloud Provider

As is the case for all the hypes, there are many companies who have jumped on bandwagon: competent or not, many companies offer cloud solutions. From an IT professional’s perspective many of them offer services that they cannot properly deliver. Even worse, business owners are bombarded with features they will have when they choose from a certain company. But how can a business properly choose a cloud provider that fits its needs?

Moving to the cloud means giving your data to someone else. Make sure that you choose your business partner right.

A business, no matter if it is moving to the cloud or not, must know its current conditions and what it wants to achieve at the end (I have seen companies who fail to mention their geographically dispersed working environment in their documentation). There is no excuse for the businesses who do not know what they want but prepare requirements that seems like documentation. Before negotiating with the cloud provider, at the very least the business has to lay down its requirements properly, make sure that all its departments share the same point of view and interdepartmental conflicts are left behind. Failure to do so will result in incomplete projects, inflated requirements, the contractor working on less meaningful work, overtime (consequently overcharge) and at the end, failure.

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Next, the cloud provider has to have expertise: filling a datacenter with lots of servers and storage and powering them on does not mean that the contractor can provide an IaaS solution, let alone meeting its Service Level Agreements (SLAs). If you have your business requirements properly laid down and if your cloud provider cannot reply you with confidence but trying to convince you that it can do anything that you ask, then your alarm bells should be ringing. The contractor is trying to cover its inexperience.

With inexperience I do not mean only experience in the cloud business, but also in your company’s industry. If you are running a manufacturing plant and the cloud provider is experienced in e-commerce, you will need to wait for a long time for the cloud provider to understand your business, your market and the industry dynamics. It is better to prefer a cloud provider that has expertise in your market, if not in your industry.

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The cloud provider has to make your data compliant with the regulations. If you have moved your data’s responsibility to another company, then they have to comply with the regulations. They have to provide backup, security, identity management, authorization, authentication and everything that regulations and common sense dictate. And since it is your data in other company’s hands, then it is your right to ask for third party audit reports to verify that the company both complies with the regulations itself and on behalf of you. Make sure that this is properly covered in your contract when you choose your cloud provider.

As an IT company, the cloud provider has to be working with well-documented, established policies and procedures. They have to have service management in place, covering at least event and change management. You need to make sure that your support requests are properly received, followed, resolved and documented as per the service management (I am not necessarily speaking about ITIL or Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) here nor about specific service desk applications but rather about a structured IT organization.)

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Of course with support I mean 360 degree support, beginning with the first meeting on the cloud migration project, migration phase and the cloud phase. Think about how you can receive support if you happen to choose another cloud provider for a different service in the future and you want to integrate this service to your environment? To what extent will you be able to receive support from your cloud provider?

Finally, everything will boil down to costs. How will the cloud provider charge you? Per user, per device, per incident, per change, per gigabyte, per service, per CPU, per additional server? You have to have a good understanding of all the features and their charges. Make sure that you do not have any open items in your contract. And make sure that you are doing your best to make the contract a basis for your long term partnership with the cloud provider you chose. It is your data and in the information age, it is your data.

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