As the economy continues to thrive, more businesses are admitting that cloud-based services offer many benefits. These services can help provide your company with flexibility and scalability. In order to help you make an informed decision on a cloud service provider, our experts have created this list of things to consider.
1. Type of Cloud Services offered
The first step is to determine which type of services you need for your company based on the sensitivity of your data, budget, in-house resources, and growth plans.
- Public Cloud: Entire physical hardware in a public cloud setup, is regulated and owned by the cloud services provider (e.g., AWS) in their own convenience. The major advantage of this model is its cost. The infrastructure is paid for and operated by the provider, and you just have to pay as you go. The possible disadvantage is security, since you will be sharing computing space with other clients of the service provider. There is a little chance of data leakage.
- Private Cloud: A private cloud is a server that is set up by your company with services for the use of just your company, guaranteeing security and privacy. The advantage of a private cloud is that it guarantees the highest level of security for all your company’s data and services. A drawback is that it is expensive to maintain and run.
- Hybrid Cloud Services: As the name implies, hybrid cloud services combine a private cloud with one or more public cloud services, using secure communication from application to the use of the public cloud and back. This is a good approach if, for instance, your data doesn’t require highly sensitive processing, meaning you can store it in a public cloud and use a private cloud for your sensitive information.
When selecting a company that offers cloud services, you’ll need to consider the security risks associated with their data, other customer and employee identities, applications, and devices. With their risks in mind, you’ll want to consider any service provider that offers encryption, firewalls, antivirus detection and more. Ideally, any service would also allow flexibility for your bandwidth needs as well. Depending on where you do business, local laws may require security standards. Look for providers that can meet the local government and law enforcement requirements for your data to be stored and processed safely and securely.
Things to consider:
- Encryption: Does data leaving the cloud services facility automatically use encryption at the physical layer before it leaves? What are other encryption layers available? Does data in transit and at rest have encryption? Would you be able to control your own encryption keys if required?
- Firewalls: For instance, private cloud providers allow businesses to set up a firewall in just a few clicks and must protect your network using a preventive system. Is it easy to define rules for specific network traffic? In addition, does the firewall have an intrusion prevention system?
- Antivirus Detection: How does the virus scanner identify threats? Is it automatically updated or are there many false positives? How often does it detect new viruses?
- User Authentication: The process of logging into websites and apps is one of the fundamental security features of any system. You’ll want to make sure your site or app prevents unauthorized users from accessing it, while giving control over who can access and alter the accounts-which could be important if you’re paying with company money or credentials. If your needs differ from those across the board, make sure that your provider meets your individual needs along with industry standards so you don’t get locked out of your own app.
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3. Infrastructure Design
- Data Center Setup: To improve how the network delivers data to their applications, companies should opt for different location-based data centers. With a minimum of latency, this facilitates faster access for services. In case of a disruption with the data centers due to natural disasters, power storms, or other factors, such as those that may result from hurricanes, the cloud service provider will have an intact back-up plan in place. It is important to examine how strong and reliable their data center network is.
- HPC: Operations today are too time-sensitive for waiting. This can cause performance issues, simply because you have many different users working for your organization at once. In this case, High Performance Computing servers with high-Performance Computing clusters are used for their processing power, throughput and flexibility. They can withstand heavy workloads and still provide reliable performance. In order to make sure that your cloud-based system is performing optimally, you should make sure that the provider you choose has already deployed HPC servers into their infrastructure.
- Multi-layer Security: Three layers of security are necessary with a reliable cloud service provider. Host security, network security, and physical setup security must all be monitored and managed to keep your data safe.
- A perimeter layer of security that allows or prevents employees and contractors from accessing a company’s facilities.
- Infrastructure layer, which includes the systems and equipment that keep the center running smoothly, such as power backup systems.
- Separate privileges for the data layer by restricting access to only that given by the data layer.
- The environmental layers make sure the data center doesn’t end up in an area of environmental catastrophe.
4. Data Governance and Information Security
If you operate in any country where data privacy and security regulations are in effect, you’ll need to ask about a specific cloud service’s data governance and security policies. Your legal department or procurement vice president may ask for proof of compliance because many regulations hold the data controller or agent liable for violations by vendors in the supply chain processing, collecting, or storing data on your behalf. The best providers provide the ability to select which jurisdiction your data is stored, processed, and managed, as well as encryption for data in transit. Depending on where you’re located, you may also want to look into data loss and breach notification laws before making a final decision on your provider. As a company you’ll want to choose a provider based on the security and data practices they have in place, their maturity, and certifications such as ISO 27000.
5. Technologies and Service Roadmap
Make sure the cloud provider aligns with the technology needed by your company and allows access to recent releases. How easy is it to work with their cloud services, IT standards and policies? Ask if they can change their cloud services so they better suit your workloads or needs. Some providers’ platforms may need extensive changes to deliver your content successfully. You may have opportunities to use a service provider to help with your migration problem. With this, you’ll need to pay attention to the services they offer and what tasks they can complete for you. They might be able to contribute staff with skills that you might not have in your own company. This is considered the norm, so be prepared to need additional 3rd party support in order to fill any skills gaps. Large scale public cloud providers often offer limited support and it’s advisable to ask for recommended 3rd party partners.
Ask the provider if they have a long-term plan – how will they improve their service to grow over time? How does their timeline fit with your needs in the long run? As you examine your options, be sure to pay attention to vendor commitments and their technological choices. You also want to make sure that the functionality matches that which you need. For SaaS providers in particular, a roadmap of key features and services can be highly beneficial. If you are evaluating cloud service providers and your preference is to only use a few of them, then it is beneficial if those providers offer a wide range of compatible services and features.
6. Support Services Offered
When choosing a hosting provider, you must be made aware of how much support they are able to provide. Some providers offer minutes of support at set hours and limit the number of instance packages that can be deployed. Security is a concern, especially when computers are running your business needs. It is important that you ask the vendor if they provide tech support during weekends, holidays, or 24 hours a day. Other issues may arise as well without requiring immediate attention. Ask about their ticketing system, response time for queries, and so on. How you’ll get support – email, live chat, phone – can be important to your team. Make sure the provider’s customer service representatives are ready to work with your team via your preferred channels.
With the markup it takes on services, a cloud provider willing to offer at a low cost may not offer the optimum level of services. It is important to evaluate your needs and budget in order to find the best service. The best thing you can do in the face of a price war is to find all of the websites offering their products and compare them. Then, bargain for the best possible deal and ask for special offers. It’s always a good idea to review the company’s refund policy in case you don’t like their services after you sign up. It’s easy to cancel your membership or trial without any previous agreement.
8. Help in Transition to Cloud
When you need new cloud hosting services, it’s important to know what services your provider will offer and how affordable they are. Some of these services can include migrating your data, installing programs, and much more; some of the services offered may be free or at a reduced price. Without using a cloud provider, you will be stuck and will have to hire your own help for deployment and setup. This whole process can be very inconvenient and time-consuming for you.
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To define a service level agreement, you can create a document that clarifies how well your hosting service will perform and what compensation plan the company has for any downtime. This exclusive SLA lets you prevent any potential performance issues. Before choosing a cloud hosting provider, it is important to evaluate the SLA thoroughly.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. If you are a business hosting services, BCDR can help recover your service after a disruptive event such as a natural disaster or service outage. By understanding the risk of the business process and mitigating them, the CSP can successfully maintain an efficient operation. One of the ways to measure BCDR standards is through replication of data and redundancy at various levels across different providers. It is one of the key features of a cloud hosting service, and it’s usually accompanied with no extra fees.
11. Certifications and Standards
Ask the cloud service which recognized best practices they adhere to in order to determine the degree of their adherence. The ISO/IEC 27001 standard outlines the requirements of an ISMS as well as a rigorous annual audit. Look for suppliers that are accredited with this standard. The cloud service provider industry offers many standards and certifications. The important thing to note is making sure the company you choose meets such a standard with their structured processes, effective data management, good knowledge management, and service status visibility in place.
The cloud service is the essential foundation for your technology infrastructure. The right provider will be affordable and resolve issues quickly, with support round-the-clock. Partnering with a data center that has high-end infrastructures, having servers that are HPC-capable, and security of utmost importance ensure that your business process will be protected. CSPs should capitalize on the highly capable technology by partnering with a company specializing in server infrastructure and security. But you need to make sure that your business deals with confidential data and can offer private server hosting. They should also have a high service level agreement, so that you are aware of all the terms and conditions included. Ensure that your CSP offers the best processing power and uptime for a more efficient solution for your business.
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