Consider these five criteria when deciding which scalable cloud solution works best for you
In 2021, the selection of cloud-computing solutions grew in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. Companies sought to build digital transformation and business resiliency strategies and improve operational efficiencies and lower costs.
Public cloud vendors have offerings to meet this new business need. Several cost-effective options are available, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and DigitalOcean. As a result of the intense competition in this market, you have a lot of good choices, and a few bad ones. Cloud computing is the definition of a commodity, where most of the offerings are more or less interchangeable. Due to this interchangeability, even system vulnerabilities have become standardized between hosted applications on different clouds.
By following the below five carefully considered criteria, you’ll have a proven approach to make the right choice that will meet your business objectives and maintain a competitive edge.
Cloud adoption removes the need to purchase hardware, and you pay only for the service you use. A flexible pricing structure is one of the top benefits of the public cloud. Most providers offer payment options by the hour, month, or some other time basis (some even by the second). Pay-as-you-go, reserving instances for one or three years, and volume discounts are just a few of the many options. It helps businesses, especially small and medium-sized, to control their costs by paying for the infrastructure only based on their needs.
Companies can run their applications without committing to a fixed price for servers, software, setup, or maintenance. The questions you should ask yourself when considering costs: can you pay upfront? Or do you want to pay over time? You can save money upfront with annual pricing options, but you must consider how much you want to spend upfront and what your needs may be down the road.
Performance and productivity
When IT staff don’t have to focus on performance issues, they benefit from a reduced workload to spend time on more value-added projects for the business units and end customers. And with the right cloud solution, your staff gain the agility to determine tasks that can be streamlined, simplified, or removed altogether. Try to map out the time and effort that traditionally went into server budgeting, planning, negotiating, and purchasing. Tasks such as longer-term capacity planning can be automated, as well as installation, upgrades, and software removal.
Ensure your chosen provider has established, documented, and proven processes for dealing with planned and unplanned downtime. The right cloud provider should deploy functionality like containerization, load balancing, and elastic storage to move your data off the server so it runs well. Ask the vendors you’re interested in the specifics about how their solutions can boost your own internal productivity as well as specific tools and techniques they have in place to ensure your application and infrastructure perform well.
Perform a rigorous assessment of your security goals against security measures offered by different cloud vendors. Ask questions about the technology, methods they use to maintain your data, how they handle encryption, data at rest, and infrastructure access. For instance, do you need to obtain ITAR, HIPPA, or PII level controls? Your cloud service provider should have comprehensive security documentation in place with in-depth policies and procedures for controlling access to your infrastructure as well as guaranteed up-time documentation.
When developing your cloud infrastructure, you need to determine the level of security that you require. Do you want your servers to be accessible by IP address? Do you have SH available externally or only in a Virtual Private Cloud. Should my servers be protected by a load balancer, firewalls, or access controls? Do you need a VPN to control access to my environment? Be sure you understand the kind of security protocols the cloud provider follows.
Redundancy and scalability
Think about how you want to handle system outages and growth. Can you recover from your data center going offline without affecting your users? What if your application gets so popular it needs to scale by 50%? These types of scenarios are things you need to consider when choosing the right cloud provider. If you cannot accept the possibility of downtime, you may want to think about having failover resources in a different geographical region. Distributed data volumes, databases, and virtual server offerings need to be evaluated in your selection. Plan for a power outage on the west coast, so you can automatically switch over to resources on the east coast.
In the likely event that you’ll need to scale up or down depending on a wide range of real-time factors, you’ll want to carefully consider several modern DevOps techniques. Ask questions about functionality such as containerization, container orchestration, managed databases, and elastic storage. By considering these, you can develop an infrastructure that can handle the unpredicted and manage your costs more effectively.
An acceptable use policy refers to a set of rules that regulate how the network, website, or system may be used. In the case of bring your own device (BYOD), this policy can be expanded to include applications and devices. You’ll want to ensure that your cloud provider allows you to set up a policy to specify what constitutes a violation and what is not acceptable when using corporate devices, applications, networks, or systems. When an employee transmits inappropriate content over the company network via a personal device, what sanctions will occur? What are the monitoring strategies and tools that both management and employees agree on?
The type of support you’ll require—and whether your cloud provider offers it—is crucial to determining the option that works for you. If you need technical assistance, does your provider offer support quickly and easily? Some vendors only offer a chat service or a call center, which may be less than ideal based on your own internal resources. Others provide dedicated support, but you’ll want to delineate any possible constraints on time and access. As you do your homework and investigate vendors, make sure to ask about support levels, provide them with your internal resources and support needs before you finalize the selection of a cloud provider.
Your choice matters
2021 continues the rise in cloud computing, as more companies take the leap to move from on-prem models to virtual environments suited in a pandemic-laden world where cutting costs, increasing scalability, and meeting new customer demands. Cloud services allow companies to develop virtualized IT infrastructure in redundant, scalable environments. It also leverages software that’s independent of a user’s operating system and enables better work in a remote workforce world. And for modern businesses providing exceptional service, it allows multichannel offerings that keep up with new expectations.
The biggest mistake any organization can make when choosing a public cloud vendor is not doing their homework. Deciding on the right public cloud solution for your organization isn’t easy—and it has ramifications small and large for years to come. Organizations should carefully investigate potential providers using the criteria listed above. By doing so, they will ensure the maximum performance and value that meets their business needs now and into the future at the right price.
Want to learn more about how to select the best cloud services provider for your business? Contact us today.
About the author:
Greg Mader is the founder and president of Open Source Integrators (OSI), a global leader in open source business consulting and IT services. He’s an Army Veteran and entrepreneur, adept at managing large teams and complex projects, delivered on time and budget. His background includes leading and developing large and small teams, with a focus on communication, mission relevance, and improved deliveries. His expertise spans across strategic planning, project management, ERP, GIS, and other enterprise technologies.