Expert opinion

How to Choose Cloud Provider?

8 minutes

I bet you have heard so many praises for the cloud technologies and even are looking forward to migrating your infrastructure, in part or in full, to a public cloud in order to slash non-core costs.

  • How to migrate effectively?
  • What things to consider first?
  • How to choose the right provider you can entrust with your most precious services?

Sergei Zinkevich, Product Manager at CROC Cloud Services, will answer these questions and share some useful tips on the matter.

You don't have to be an IT expert to check, even before your migration, whether a cloud provider is qualified enough to ensure continuous service availability for your customers. Just ask a few simple questions.

Can I start using the cloud right now?

The key benefit always mentioned first when talking about clouds is how fast resources are provided. Whatever computing capacity you need for a business task, an earnest cloud provider will handle it in just a few minutes. No prompt answer to this question casts doubt on the provider’s service quality.

Is the cloud powerful enough to withstand high loads?

Cloud seems to have plenty of capacity. Customers believe it is a pool of infinite resources. Not to ruin this magic with provisioning delays, we always keep track of consumption growth rates and plans for the next month and quarter. Based on the acquired data, we procure extra equipment. This is an easy trick to make our customers happy.

How secure is the cloud platform?

No hardware or system is immune to errors or failures. They just happen. What really matters is how a provider responds in such a situation and what uptime it guarantees for systems hosted in the cloud. The latter parameter is provided for in a service level agreement (SLA) to indicate estimated performance during a year. The availability of 99.9 to 99.95% would be perfect, as it confirms a rather high disaster tolerance of the cloud platform. Another strong point is the number of data centers the cloud runs on. There must be two data centers at least: even if one completely dies, customer services in the cloud will stay alive. Data center certification is worth of attention too. Uptime Institute, the world’s most respected data center certification organization, categorizes data centers in Tiers. The Tier certifications are awarded in four levels, from the basic Tier I to the extremely reliable Tier IV used, for example, in seismically active zones. It might also be useful to find out at what stage the data center was certified, since different options are available: certification of design documents, constructed facility, and real-life operations. When choosing a cloud provider, look for the Tier III Gold Certification of Operational Sustainability — the best for commercial facilities — highlighting that the data center’s operational efficiency and maintenance schedule comply with international best practices, while the team professionally handles customer requests.

Will the cloud service run without interruptions? Will the provider inform about scheduled maintenance in advance?

Any provider, for example, a home internet service provider, claims that its services are always on, 24/7. Four hours a year is a tiny exception, a break for a provider to perform maintenance work. Indeed, it seems insignificant, but what if at that very second your customers fail to make a payment, or telemarketing staff fail to reach potential customers, and orders fail to enter CRM? Four-hour downtime at the worst timing ever might cost you at best your profits, at worst customer loyalty. A professional cloud provider will never let this happen by notifying users in advance or performing all maintenance so that no one would even notice. As a matter of fact, a maintenance schedule shall be described in a SLA as well.

Is the provider truly ready to operate 24/7/365?

Many market players boast non-stop operations, day and night seven days a week. Is that so? You can easily check how technical support works before you even start migrating to a cloud. Just ask for a document describing the request escalation procedure. It is supposed to include contact details of the assigned manager or entire cloud team. Getting no response to a request, customers may reach the contact persons, even on non-working days, using a communication channel at their own convenience (for example, a messenger).

How to tell that a provider works honestly without fraud traffic?

Cloud service billing is pretty simple. For example, our cloud can generate an hourly report on consumed services and show their price. The billing system is virtually the same as that of mobile operators. No consumption — no payment. Once a customer is back, billing starts over again automatically. What is important, however, is to tell whether such billing is fair. A certificate issued by the regulator is a good proof here. You may request it before sealing the deal with a cloud provider.

Will the provider help you with challenging tasks?

Finally, a qualified cloud provider is above all your partner you can talk to about your business needs. A professional will try to help you and suggest changes to improve cloud service performance — a more distributed architecture, for instance. To cut a long story short, let’s just say such architecture ensures more stable operation of services. Making your services cloud native is a challenge that you can and may forward to a provider. After all, a service provider is as much interested as you in ensuring greater service performance. This is a key to a successful cloud project.

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