With cloud a hot topic nowadays and with a large range of choice around, knowing what to look for and more importantly, what questions to ask cloud providers will ensure you are making the best choice for you and your business. There are a number of considerations when it comes to choosing the best cloud provider to meet your requirements and the following 5 top tips on choosing a suitable cloud platform should go a long way to ensuring you are making the most informed decision possible.
Location is vital when selecting a cloud provider. Sometimes the word “cloud” causes confusion regarding the actual location of data. Regardless of whatever cloud provider you select, the servers will always reside in a physical datacentre somewhere. It is important to know where the datacentres are physically located for a number of reasons. Often, data stored in datacentres in another country or region could potentially fall under the jurisdiction of that location. This means that potentially your data could be accessed by local authorities should the cloud provider be required to do so. Therefore knowing where the datacentres that hold your critical data are physically located becomes essential. Another benefit of knowing the location of the datacentre is to gain an understanding the geographical area – is it subject to flooding? Have there been any natural disaster or incidents (earthquake etc) in the vicinity? – are all good questions to know the answer to. In addition to this you might want to pick a datacentre that is a certain distance away from your primary offices. Using a cloud provider whose datacentre is located on the same site as your offices for disaster recovery for example, would typically be a bad idea. If in doubt, ask the cloud provider for a tour of the datacentre and see for yourself.
Storage is key in choosing a good cloud provider. Rarely, some cloud providers will cut back on storage redundancy in order to maximise their storage space. Ask the cloud provider if they will tell you what storage technology they are using and ask them if the storage that they are running is redundant and if so how do they handle disk failures. In addition to storage redundancy ask the cloud provider what types of disk types they are using. Check if SSD is available, if it is, does it come as standard or do you need to pay extra for it?
Another question to ask the cloud provider is what hypervisor they use and what features they have in place to deal with hypervisor failure? Also many applications are only supported when being run on a compatible hypervisor. Not all hypervisors are made equal, some can provide high availability features that can protect your server even in the event that the host it is running on fails. Check with the cloud provider if any of these are available. If you already have a service with another cloud provider and are looking to move, check if your existing service can be easily moved over, or imported quickly. If you are looking to extend your on premise or private cloud with the cloud provider, then having hypervisors that match will be a huge benefit.
Networking is crucial to the operation of any cloud provider and could be the difference between how much uptime your service receives. Ask the cloud provider about their external network connectivity. As a good starting point ask if they have more than one uplink to provide the connectivity? This is important as it helps limit any single points of failure. Expanding on this, also ask the cloud provider if they rely on a single carrier or ISP to provide the connectivity? Even with multiple uplinks for redundancy, there will still be downtime if the cloud providers carriers or ISP network has an outage. A huge tick in the box is if the cloud provider has its own ASN using BGP routing, this often means that the provider can keep your systems online even in the event that a particular carrier has an outage. In addition to network uptime, it is also worth checking with the cloud provider on their policy regarding bandwidth charges. Sometimes the real total cost of ownership of hosting is hidden behind bandwidth charges, meaning that at first glance the price of the hosting seems cheaper than it actually is.
Sometimes an afterthought when buying into a service of any kind is the ongoing support of that service. This is very true of cloud service providers. When you decide to use a cloud provider it is essential that should you require it, the support is there when you need it. Check with the cloud provider how to raise support tickets – is it email only or can you phone in and speak to a real person? If your service needs to be running 24/7, check if the cloud provider provides 24/7 support, and if they do, check if they have a service level agreement (SLA) in place and what it is. If you can, check the cloud provider’s website to see if they have any testimonials or case studies. Also check to see if they are members of any bodies or codes of practice. Evidence of this indicates a commitment to customer care.