Cloud Computing: How to Choose Your Cloud Provider

By Rick Blaisdell

The cloud computing market continues to bring new options of cloud providers and services. If you have decided to pursue cloud computing for your company, you have to bear in mind that selecting the right cloud provider is crucial in this process.

First, you must prioritize your information and choose where you will be the focus. Make sure your IT department is up for the task. Your information and its security will depend in a large measure on how you communicate with the cloud provider and what settings you agree upon with them before doing the actual implementation.

I’ve assembled a list of what I consider to be the most important 7 elements to consider when choosing your cloud provider:

    • Reputation: Look into history and clients; read case studies and testimonials. Ideally, the cloud provider has a considerable experience in this field. Moreover, it must have a solid reputation. Many providers are now being acquired; NaviSite and TerraMark are two that were recently acquired by Time Warner and Verizon. This, in my mind, is a good thing. If a company has a lot of capital behind it, most likely it will be able to expand its cloud services rapidly.
    • Security: The provider should be a member of the Cloud Security Alliance and be SAS Level II certified. In order for you to trust the provider to deal with your confidential information, privacy and data security options must be top tier.
    • Flexibility: It must allow you the freedom to customize the applications or to let you create the interface that manages the virtualized servers, according to your needs, as well as being able to add and drop managed services when needed.
    • Pricing: Before starting the implementation, you should have a general idea of how much you will invest, versus how much you will save. Closely collaborating with the cloud provider might help you come up with this estimate. Also, make sure it doesn’t change pricing plans with little or no notice.
    • Recovery: Ask about data recovery in case of a disaster or if the provider goes out of business. Also, if the provider offers bad customer service or the quality of the service downshifts, you should have the option to switch cloud providers and recover your information.
    • Failover: Cloud Platforms have built-in failover. Get educated on how the provider plans for failures on premise as well as off premise, and make sure this matches your needs.
    • Environment: If you’re interested on the impact of your business on the environment, then you should know that cloud computing is green. Make sure that the cloud provider you pick is a member of The Green Grid.
  • Ability to test it: Make an implementation for something that is not crucial to your business — and see if you really made the right choice when selecting the cloud provider, before moving the entire business or most of it to the cloud.

Perhaps you might find that a cloud provider not entirely suited to all your needs, and you might choose one for applications and one for DNS services, for example. In the end, be sure to check the list above in order to select the right cloud provider for your company.
Originally published: Oct 10, 2011

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