How to Choose the Right Cloud Provider
There are countless cloud offers out there. How can you pick the right one? Are you really doing the right thing by picking the cheapest provider? Here are some aspects to consider before you make your choice.
The Quality of Service
The first thing to consider is the quality of service offered by the provider. Not all uses require the same availability. It is therefore crucial to determine what are your needs for your particular application in order to judge if the proposed solution suits you. You should be able to obtain a detailed service agreement from any serious provider.
As well, a Tier 2, 3 or 4 certification from the National Uptinme Institute guarantees the redundancy of your equipment in their data center. An AICPA SOC 2 certified provider means they are using the proper data protection for their equipment, that it was audited, and that they are compliant in regards to security, availability, integrity, and confidentiality of their processes.
When you migrate your applications to the cloud, the network becomes much more important. On the one hand, you can build redundant links on your side so you can still access your apps even if one network fails. On the other hand, you should make sure your provider guarantees the same on their side.
You did your homework and made sure you are getting the level of service that fits your planned usage. Now you have to see if you are also getting the performance you need.
The quality of the equipment used has an impact on the performance you get. Low quality gear leads to service degradation. Just as well, some providers offer a certain number of vCPUS, without specifying their frequency. Ask around; you will see it varies from one provider to another.
Furthermore, if the applications you plan to host require have high storage I/O performance requirements, make sure you check what technology is used, what is the expected IOPS performance and, above all, if your provider can guarantee this performance. For example, what happens if one of your provider’s other clients’ database shows an abnormal peak in I/O? Will their problems impact your applications? Dependable providers should be able to guarantee this does not happen.
So, if the service and performance they provide are acceptable, what about the control you will have with this provider?
Cloud providers usually let their clients connect through a portal to manage their environment. However, the level of control they have varies from one provider to another. Some will let you see your bandwidth usage in real time, others won’t. Some allow a more granular control over your firewall settings. Some will even let you use and manage your own firewall. The control you have over your VMs will also vary.
Just like technologies can vary from one provider to another, so will the services they offer. If you need professional services, see with any potential provider what they are able to offer.
You need managed services? You need extra backups? You need help to prepare a disaster recovery plan? You need help to migrate your systems? These services cannot be improvised. If your provider offers these services, see how serious they are. How many years have they been doing it? How many clients have subscribed?
Some might even go as fare as to integrate your own equipment in their environment, if this is what you require. Two offers with comparable technology may in fact include completely different services. Compare them carefully before you choose.
Price & Contract
There are numerous factors that can influence the price you really pay. So be careful; some providers will be more upfront about the costs, while others may include many variables according to which the price will fluctuate substantially.
Verify on what basis your resources will be billed; monthly, daily, hourly? If you plan on scaling your resources up or down on a frequent basis, this can impact what you pay. As well, many providers are billing in USD, so a weaker Canadian dollar would mean you’re paying more.
The bandwidth billing also varies from one provider to another. Some offer unlimited bandwidth while others have certain limits, adding extra costs when you exceed them, and others still bill according to the total or sometimes outgoing data going through their link.
You should also consider how you will connect your organization to that provider. Through MPLS? Through a VPN? An MPLS link will definitely incur additional fixed costs, and so would a VPN with some providers.
Another point to consider on a financial and contractual basis is this: who owns the data you upload to the cloud? Some major players of the public cloud will grant themselves the ownership of the data you transfer to their infrastructure. In other words, should the data be lost or destroyed, there isn’t much you could do about it. In some cases, you could also be billed extra costs when you try to get your data back.
If you plan on subscribing to a security backup, some providers offer it for free, or at a low cost. As a general rule, the cheaper the backup service, the more expensive it is to recover your data, while other providers will charge you for the actual backup cost, but will recover your data for free.
As you can see, the lowest possible quote does not necessarily mean the lowest cost. To choose the right cloud provider, work with a knowledgeable partner who will help you save time and money, while avoiding headaches.