Top 5 criteria for choosing a cloud service

The cloud pricing wars are heating up: Be sure to look under the hood!

by Karl Sand on 4/18/2014

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Choosing a cloud solution has never been harder, and you need to know what to consider when you're making a decision. Of course, price is an important factor, but it isn't the only one. Let's look at the situation.

You can tell that cloud hosting and cloud computing services are making it into the mainstream when the price wars begin. The Big-3 providers, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, went at it with matching price dives a few weeks ago. On Monday, March 31, Microsoft announced it would cut prices on several of its cloud computing services. The announcement followed Amazon’s price drop on its Amazon Web Services (AWS) from the week before, and Google’s price cut a day before that. These cuts were part of what The New York Times called a “watershed week” for cloud computing services.

The 3 heavyweights can afford to be aggressive, though, as their cloud computing offerings are (for the time being) secondary to each of their respective core businesses. It’s no surprise that they are clamoring to gain market share. And with these plans for expansion across the board, it has become clear that cloud computing will soon become part of virtually every business in some way.

“What is surprising to us is how long it took,” Adam Selipsky, vice president of marketing at Amazon Web Services, said, according to The New York Times. This is a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. We assumed from the beginning it was unlikely we’d be the only participant.”

But what do these price cuts mean for the companies and businesses that use cloud computing — and those that haven’t yet made the switch? It means that the on-ramp for trying cloud computing, and the retention of current services from existing consumers, has gotten more attractive as the Big-3 are growing their infrastructure and need customers.

Comparing the options

The problem for organizations interested in moving to cloud computing is that an unbiased comparison from an expert, third-party entity doesn’t exist. When you go shopping for a new car, kitchen appliance, or a flat-screen TV, it’s likely that you've done your research ahead of time. And odds are that you read up on the best brands in Consumer Reports. Hey, it’s great information, and it’s inexpensive.Their tagline is “Expert Unbiased Product Ratings & Reviews.” They include all the specs for the products, along with customer reviews, and they provide the details on features and functionality. Don’t you wish we had that type of ratings report for cloud hosting/computing service providers?

Well, sorry, but you’ll have to do your own research. If you're planning a strategy to migrate some of your company’s on-premises services to the cloud, who do you ask for guidance? You have to trust the experts in the IT world, and they are usually consultants who get paid by the hour. So the old Latin phrase, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware), really applies in this scenario.

What are the most important criteria to evaluate the different service providers? Cost, of course, is one category to look at. But some other very important items are necessary to consider, as well.

The top 5 criteria

I’ve been talking to experts in the IT community over the past six months to get their opinions on the most important criteria for choosing the best cloud hosting/computing services provider. In no particular order, these are the top five criteria (after cost) when deciding on the best cloud provider.

  • Service Level Agreements (SLAs), especially for support and availability
    • You should read the SLAs of your potential provider carefully, including the fine print. And ask questions before finalizing the deal. However, rather than looking for the best SLAs, the terms of which often may not suit you, you should try to get the terms that are most beneficial and meaningful to your business.
  • User and Administrator Experience: Responsiveness Matters
    • Your potential provider should offer a responsive customer service desk that helps you resolve any technical or other issue quickly, thus helping you enjoy optimal cloud performance.
  • Integration and Interoperability: Wicked Smart
    • By selecting a provider that lets your workload span across multiple environments, you can optimize the value of your cloud services. Cloud providers that offer a common infrastructure platform for private and public hosted clouds, in addition to your on-premises private cloud, can offer you the greatest interoperability value.
  • Flexibility of Service Offerings: Chinese Menu Options

    • Your short-listed cloud providers should offer different options related to performance, resiliency, and security, from which you can take your pick based on what parameters and configuration suit your workloads and IT environment the best. Your chosen provider should also offer you the flexibility to pay for just what you use and not force you to pay for a package, most of whose features you won’t need to use.

  • Security and Management Controls
    • Using the cloud means entrusting your business’ confidential and crucial information assets into the hands of a third-party provider. So your provider should make security a priority. Check whether your provider’s cloud architecture is built to provide maximum protection and includes steps such as isolating business workloads on physical servers, has administrative access controls in place, and uses security measures such as 2-factor authentication, against attacks by hackers, malware, virus, spyware etc.

It comes down to maturity

What you notice from these five categories is that they all represent the maturity of the service provider. That’s right; providers don’t have this stuff unless they have proven, rock-solid services and are willing to back it up on paper!

Additional Reading:

Comparing Cloud Service Provider SLA’s

Blog: Comparing Windows Azure and Amazon

Topic: Business Productivity

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