How to Pick the Right Cloud Service Provider for Your Business?

Information Technology (IT) was treated merely as a back-office activity just a few decades back. It was a not-so-important part of an organization’s planning and operations. However, there has been a rapid paradigm shift in how modern companies perceive their IT services. One cannot afford to overlook its importance in a digitally advanced world like ours. Technologies like cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are critical to a successful business in the present, hypercompetitive world.

Cloud computing provides you access to all your data and computing resources, whenever and wherever required. It is an essential technology in a world that virtually consumes all the services without looking at the clock. It has saved millions of businesses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing remote access to billions of employees across the globe. Even in the pre-pandemic world, the cloud’s popularity was nothing short of extraordinary.

“A ResearchAndMarkets.com report expects the worldwide cloud computing market to attain a value of $832.1 billion by 2025 from $371.4 billion in 2020. The market is expected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 17.5 percent through the five-year period.”

While a decision to adopt the cloud needs no contemplation, choosing the right cloud service provider according to your business does require significant deliberation. Let us look at some of the major factors that you must consider while finding the right cloud service provider.

1. Supported Technologies and Service Roadmap

The first and foremost thing before selecting a cloud service provider should be to access the technologies that the platform supports. You must make sure that the cloud platform and its technologies fulfill your cloud objectives and align with your present business environment. Whether or not your business workloads and management preferences are taken care of by the offered cloud architectures and services. At this point, you may also evaluate the customizations or modifications you may have to make to align your workloads with the cloud provider’s platforms.

Numerous cloud service providers are there who proffer comprehensive services including assistance in the planning and evaluation process. You need to have a sound understanding of the assistance on offer and assign various tasks to your staff accordingly for ensuring a smooth migration. Many of the service providers even offer a technical workforce to help you bridge skill gaps within your migration teams.

It is equally important for you to evaluate the roadmap of services offered by the provider. You must know about their future plans. About how they strategize to innovate and grow further. This will give you a clear sight of whether their upcoming services will be able to accommodate your business vision or not.

2. Data Security and Governance

While you may have already defined your data on the basis of various policies and sensitivity, it is critical for you to be aware of the government rules and regulations of the location your data will be stored at. You must shortlist those cloud platforms which give you the freedom and control to choose the jurisdiction where your information is kept, processed, and managed. It is important for a service provider to be transparent about the location of their data centers.

You must also enquire about the data protection capabilities of the cloud service provider. The provider should be able to encrypt in-transit data whenever you move your data to and from the cloud. In order to limit any unauthorized data access, the at-rest data must be encrypted as well.

The provider’s data security policies must be well defined and should be in line with your security standards. You must have clarity on all security roles and responsibilities mentioned in the business policy documents. Additionally, you should be able to audit all user access and activities through all routes.

3. Contracts and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Cloud Service agreements are often complex with unnecessarily complicated and deliberately misleading sentences. However, this is being addressed to some extent with the new revisions in the ISO standards for SLAs. They help you assess the cloud service provider’s contracts and service agreements in detail.

In addition to the mentioned ‘terms and conditions’ contracts, there may be mutually negotiated agreements. It is important for you to discuss how the provider plans to support these custom agreements and what are the processes that will govern them.

You must have complete clarity on various services and deliverables as well as different roles and responsibilities associated with them. It will help you have a clear vision of important services like delivery, provisioning, support, monitoring, service management, and escalations, etcetera.

Some of the major components that you must look for in the SLAs are service level objectives, remediation strategies & penalties or rewards associated with these objectives, and possible exclusions & warnings. It is important to scrutinize critical terms in agreements and request worked examples. You may even choose to present an imaginary downtime plot for various service providers and evaluate their responses to differentiate between those who suit your requirements and those who don’t.

4. Performance and Dependability

It is important that you measure a cloud service provider’s reliability and performance before finalizing it for your business. For doing so, you may check the actual performance of a provider against the promised services in its contracts and SLAs for the past year or so. This information should normally be published. In case it is not, you may ask the service provider to supply you with it. This should help you see how the provider deals with both planned as well as unplanned downtimes.

You must understand the Cloud Service Provider provisions for disaster recovery and management. It will help you evaluate the provider’s ability to meet your data preservation requirements. Some of the important disaster recovery processes you must assess should include:

a.Criticalness of data

b.Data sources

c.Data scheduling

d.Data backup and restore

e.Data integrity checks

In case the recovery costs are not included in the cloud service provider’s terms and conditions, you may consider buying additional risk insurance.

5. Support for Migration, Vendor Lock-ins & Exit Plans

Vendor lock-in is a condition where a customer using a particular product or service is not able to move to a competitor. It may arise due to proprietary technologies that are not compatible with your competitors. It may also happen because of contract constraints, inefficient processes, or other related issues.

It is always advisable not to choose a cloud service provider that relies heavily on unique proprietary elements that restrict your portability or in-house processes. Therefore, you must select a provider that incorporates minimum proprietary components or minimum services that curb your ability to transition away. In short, the provider should offer better support for migration.

Likewise, make sure that you have a transparent exit plan before locking the deal with the provider. As it’s not always easy to move away from a cloud service provider, it is critical that you learn about all their processes prior to starting the deal. It is also important to have additional information about how are you going to access your data and resources, what condition the information will be in, and how much time will the provider store it for.

Conclusion

There is numerous cloud service provider in the market at present. Hence, it becomes extremely important for you to choose one that best suits your business requirements and aligns with your vision. Your overall assessment of the prospective services must include all the hard as well as soft elements. You should not only identify and confirm the standards they practice but also check for their historical performances through various testimonials and case studies.

Additionally, you may consider checking the LinkedIn and other such network profiles of the service provider’s management to see if their previous roles testify consistent performance and superior corporate command or not.

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