With so many Cloud service providers to choose from, selecting the right provider can be a complex process. Migrating business applications to the Cloud may be the ideal long-term solution for storing and managing applications, but it can also be a weighty undertaking. Choosing the wrong Cloud service provider, or selecting the wrong services from that provider, can be a mistake that is not only expensive, but also very difficult and time-consuming to reverse. If you want to feel confident in your selection of a Cloud provider, here are some key areas you will need to consider in your assessment:

1. Track Record

First and foremost, it is essential to assess each provider’s reputation and capabilities. When evaluating each Cloud provider, organizations should consider the following criteria:

  • Does the provider’s vision and financial viability align with the firm’s business and IT objectives?
  • Does the provider have a track record of service, either with the firm or in the industry marketplace?
  • Does that track record show a positive history of the provider’s after-sales support, customer service, management and technical support?

2. Technology Capabilities

Decision makers should clearly understand all the Cloud service solutions that the provider offers and its record for implementing new technologies based on business and market needs. Also, it is a good idea to evaluate the provider’s technical expertise beyond customer support to better understand its capabilities in the architecture, design and management of Cloud applications.

3. Provider Resiliency

Of course, the right Cloud service provider is one that provides top system availability on service-level agreements. Virtually all providers promise at least 99.99% system availability on SLAs. Many service providers, however, lack sufficient transparent mechanisms to measure this figure. To assess the system availability and resiliency of a provider, it is essential to review its uptime and outage history, and the overall resiliency of its data recovery and data protection processes. Decision makers should consider what each provider’s targeted Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) levels are, and how these levels impact its business, before making a final selection.
4. Security and Compliance

Decision makers should also assess each Cloud provider’s security capabilities in key areas, such as: anti-malware protection, data eradication encryption mechanisms, forensics analysis, government and industry regulations, identity management, physical security compliance controls, and Role-Based Access Control (RBAC). One excellent resource to turn to is the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), which has established a Security, Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR). This publicly accessible registry is designed to improve transparency and assurance in the Cloud, and includes a useful questionnaire to use when evaluating potential Cloud providers. In addition to completing this questionnaire, it’s also helpful to learn whether the provider participates in and complies with the CSA’s STAR guidelines.

6. Open vs. Proprietary

Understanding the extent to which a Cloud provider’s infrastructure supports or utilizes an open source platform, such as OpenStack, is a key evaluation factor. Open Cloud platforms can minimize vendor lock-in and associated pricing issues, and ease the migration of applications from one Cloud provider to another. Open Stack also fosters a greater degree of innovation than a single-supplier, proprietary Cloud environment, and protects a firm’s investment in Cloud computing by providing a greater degree of flexibility and choice.

7. Associated Costs

While cost is a significant factor when choosing a Cloud provider, it certainly shouldn’t be the primary basis for this crucial decision. When considering costs, decision makers should not rely solely on simple pricing charts that only show the cost of renting Cloud resources, without considering the firm’s long-term strategies. Instead, it is better to focus on current and near-future business needs and IT objectives and the overall pricing structure of a providers’ Cloud solutions, and match the firm’s objectives to the provider that offers the most appropriate solutions. The provider you ultimately choose should offer solutions that align with the firm’s current and long-term pricing model, with a cost that is within budget and appropriate for the services rendered.

Co-Authored by: Rupen Shah