Businesses across geographies and verticals continue to look for technologies that increase efficiency; and cloud offerings remain at the top of the list. While there is no question as to the benefits of embracing the cloud, there are major differences in the cloud services provided by different vendors. Variations in capabilities, technology, infrastructure, and security can differ greatly from one provider to the next. This makes it your decision on which cloud provider to work with as important as the decision to move to the cloud. There are several factors to take into consideration when identifying a cloud services provider and questions to ask before making a final decision. Understanding these items will help your company select a partner that will maximize your investment in the cloud. Here are some basic questions to start:
- “Who owns the cloud infrastructure?” There is a lot of buzz and confusion about different types of cloud offerings and the continued debate over public vs. private clouds. Only Infrastructure –as-a-Service (IaaS) providers own the infrastructure. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, subcontract it. What difference does owning the infrastructure make? The answer is control. IaaS providers own the network, cloud architecture and platform, and the physical and logistical security around it. If something breaks, the IaaS provider has a full view of the solution and should be able to fix the problem, quickly. Additionally, providers that own the infrastructure and the cloud architecture, usually have the team and experience in place to resolve unforeseen circumstances.
- “Who is your team?” The right team makes a difference. This is also true with your cloud service provider. When selecting a service provider it’s important to ask for information about the team that will work with you on a day-to-day basis. They should have relevant experience and certifications. When possible, look for teams that have worked together before on similar projects. Don’t be afraid to request the “A Team.”
- “Where’s my data?” The natural answer to this question is in the cloud. While this is accurate, it is also true that cloud infrastructure is normally housed inside a data center. Many providers will tell their customers that their data is in one of their X facilities but then don’t proceed to offer much information about these buildings. The physical environment that houses the cloud matters, and questions regarding the location, accessibility, management, and operations of these buildings should be asked—and most importantly, answered. One of the reasons why the environment that surrounds the cloud is important is for security. In order to successfully complete the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) assessment, cloud providers must showcase their physical and virtual security controls, as well as their standards for storing, processing and transmitting credit card information. Any organization that handles credit card data is required to meet PCI DSS. When asking your cloud provider where their clouds are located, businesses should expect a full view of the cloud infrastructure, the data center and the way the buildings are managed and protected.
- “How do I move my workloads to the cloud?” Once you have chosen a cloud offering, you will need to move your workload applications to the cloud. Some providers require a complex re-architecting of workloads in order to move them to their cloud platforms. This reconfiguration can be time consuming and costly. In fact, it may end up offsetting the economic benefits of cloud computing. Be sure to understand what your provider offers in terms of portability and workload migration and what is required on your part to accomplish accessing your data when you want it.
- “What is the guarantee that your cloud will work?” Sooner or later, the Service Level Agreement (SLA) conversation becomes an important part of the cloud exploration and adoption process. It is important to explore what the SLAs mean and understand what would happen if things were to malfunction. For instance, the Verizon Terremark SLA is designed to cover multiple aspects of the cloud infrastructure with results measured on a monthly average basis and a commitment to pay penalties should the metrics be missed. Verizon Terremark provides availability SLAs of up to 99.9 percent, based on the customer’s configuration and the cloud solution chosen . If Verizon Terremark sustains an outage and does not meet this availability commitment, the company will provide customers with service credits. Making sure your provider is invested financially is the difference between real SLAs and a marketing SLA.
To take full advantage of the economic benefits and flexibility of the cloud, it is critical to take a proactive approach to understand what is behind the technology, how it is handled and protected, and who manages the offering. Getting the right answers to these questions at the start will set you up for success.