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When an organization decides to move some or all of its computing environment to the cloud, selecting the right provider is of paramount importance. Making the right choice can lead to a fruitful relationship with a cloud partner that benefits your business. Selecting the wrong provider may result in unfulfilled expectations regarding the financial and operational implications of the move.

There are many cloud providers from which to make your choice. While Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure are currently the biggest players, many smaller and more specialized providers exist that may make sense for a particular implementation. This post offers some guidance as to what to look for in a provider and some questions to answer before entering into a contract with one of them.

Differentiating Characteristics of Cloud Providers

Getting past the marketing hype can be difficult, as every provider believes they have the best solution for your needs. Here are some specific factors that should be considered before committing to a cloud provider. 

Security and compliance - The security of your systems and data are critical no matter where they are located. Trusting them to the cloud requires you to determine how basic security will be provided and if there are additional protections that can be obtained at an extra cost. There are shared security responsibilities in a cloud implementation, with both customer and vendor sharing the burden of protecting the environment. Compliance is also performed in a shared manner and the details need to be fully understood to avoid the inability to provide evidence that your systems are complying with security and privacy regulations.

Management responsibilities - Varying degrees of customer involvement in managing the cloud platform result from adopting different cloud models. A Software as a Service (SaaS) implementation will usually require very little customer management, whereas they may have significant responsibility for a move that employs the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model.

Architecture and storage - The underlying architecture used by the provider may influence your decision to use them for your cloud computing needs. Certain providers may use tools and applications that facilitate integrating your environment into their infrastructure. For instance, if your business relies heavily on Microsoft products, you may benefit from discounts and licenses offered through Azure. The method used to store your data and the flexibility afforded in how and when you can access it are other factors that need to be clarified.

Pricing structure - Billing may be done in a variety of ways and some of them may work better in a particular situation. Most providers offer on-demand payment plans with some also providing discounts for long-term or volume usage.

Other considerations - You may also be concerned with the physical location and safety of the data center that will house your environment. Other important factors include the history of downtime and level of support you can expect from the provider when a problem arises. 

Putting it All Together

A thorough investigation of the factors outlined above will help your organization make a good choice when selecting their cloud provider. You need to enter the relationship with a full understanding of what you are getting, how much it will cost, and the expectations that will be placed on your team. Taking the time to determine these facts before the engagement begins makes it much more probable that your journey to the cloud will return the benefits you desire. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2019
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 Robert Agar

I am a freelance writer who graduated from Pace University in New York with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Over the course of a long IT career I have worked for a number of large service providers in a variety of roles revolving around data storage and protection. I currently reside in northeastern Pennsylvania where I write from my home office.

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