For a company that relies on cloud computing power, finding an effective and reliable cloud computing service provider is of paramount importance. With so many different cloud service providers on today's market, getting down to it and finding an appropriate service provider can be a difficult and sometimes confusing task. A cloud hosting article on Macquarie Telecom's website also offers excellent advice on choosing a cloud service provider.
Identify Your Needs
Identifying your own cloud computing needs should be the first step. Even if a service provider ranks very highly, they will be of no use if they do not offer all of the services and support that you require. For instance, Dropbox is an extremely useful and versatile file storage service on the cloud. Several tech companies like Amazon and IBM offer their own cloud computing services, including a variety of relatively specialized tools. Since these companies are already successful outside of their cloud services, they are much safer from suddenly going out of business and taking your precious data with them than recently formed startups. Keep this in mind.
Security is the single most important factor to consider once you have found a few appropriate cloud service providers to compare. A competent cloud service provider should employ multiple layers of security against data theft including firewalls, encryption of data, and user authentication methods like passwords and security questions. Furthermore, they should ensure that data is regularly backed up so that the service is not vulnerable to the loss of data. You can read a paper by RSA Laboratories if you want to really deeply understand cloud service security and vulnerabilities to drive crashes and this article from Technet Magazine on cloud services security.
Of course, a cloud service provider should be completely reliable as well as thoroughly secure. It is wise to check and see how many other customers that a service has, especially if it is not yet a well-known and reputed provider, and finding out how satisfied their customers are, what, if any, concerns their clients have, and especially if there is a history of service outages. You should be able to expect that a cloud service be available 100% of the time except in extremely unlikely circumstances. A recent CIO article outlines a major, industry-wide concern about the dearth of comprehensive and thorough reviews and security checks by users of cloud services. One of the most important and infrequently done checks the article cites is to ensure that the cloud service providers understand the intended functions as well as the limitations of their product and generally have the technical expertise to maintain and update it and that they also understand your business. Otherwise, the cloud service that they provide may diverge from or not entirely live up to your needs and expectations.
Finally, pricing is another critical concern. Services that demand an up-front cost should be avoided. Rather, the vast majority of reputable cloud service providers charge as you go and usually allow you to pay only for the services you actually need to use, so that is the kind of pricing structure that you should look for in a provider. The actual prices of different cloud service providers that offer equivalent services may vary greatly, but it would still behoove anyone comparing two differently-priced services to investigate why one may be significantly cheaper than the other before making a snap decision.
Essentially, the most important things to look for in a cloud service provider are security, competence, reliability, and a proven track record. Good providers will be able to make the first two readily apparent, but the last two depend more on their past and current clients so they will take a little more research. By paying attention to these key principles and staying abreast with the latest developments in the cloud service industry, finding the best service provider does not have to be a difficult task.
Featured image by Bruno Pedro (Flickr).