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Benchmarks for Comparing Cloud Providers

11 benchmarks to help you find the right cloud services partner
Hamish Haldane
July 02 2015

Cloud computing use is exploding in business today. With so many businesses moving ERP, CRM and other workloads to the cloud, this has led to tight competition in the managed services sphere. As it is often difficult to differentiate between cloud providers, many customers make the mistake of basing their purchase decision on price.

Of course, price is important but if it is the main consideration we have seen many customers come to use because they ended up with a contact and service that didn’t match their business needs.

To help avoid these costly mistakes we recommend considering these 11 cloud computing benchmarks when choosing between cloud providers.

Service Level Agreements
The first thing to look for when comparing cloud computing providers is an effective service level agreement. This is important because it clearly defines many aspects of the service in unambiguous ways. You want an agreement that will guarantee the cloud services and performance that you want from a provider. Start by looking for uptime and reliability guarantees, detailed service descriptions and responsiveness. You also need to review the agreement for restrictions, reporting procedures and the consequences when conditions within the contract are not met.

Uptime Guarantees
A second benchmark to compare is the uptime guarantee of each provider. You want to choose a cloud provider that has an uptime guarantee of as close to 100 percent as possible. Additionally, you need to know what the guarantee encompasses. Some providers guarantee only infrastructure as a service, or IaaS – the servers your applications are sitting on. Others guarantee application uptime – which is far better, because it’s no good having a working server when your application isn’t working. Disaster recovery is also more difficult if the provider has no application uptime guarantee.

Security, Compliance and Privacy Standards
Your business needs to meet appropriate industry standards when it comes to security and privacy. Choose a cloud provider with recognised certifications showing that the infrastructure and cloud network are compliant with the latest regulations. Annual independent certification audits, such as ISAE 3402 and SSAE 16, ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your data.

Data Ownership
It is important to understand that ownership of data in the cloud is not always clear. This is especially true for data that is generated within the cloud by software or platform elements as opposed to being uploaded. You want to check that you are going to be able to retain ownership rights to any data stored with the provider. This improves security and eliminates potential legal complications in the future.

Straightforward Pricing Model
Look closely at the pricing model of each cloud service provider before making any decisions. You want a straightforward model. Many models are available including simple flat monthly fees, metered pricing depending on your usage or per performance billing. Look at the needs of your business and your expected volume. Choose a provider with straightforward pricing plans that are not confusing or full of hidden fees.

Where the Data Centers Are Located
The next thing to look at is the physical location of the data centers, or indeed of the services provider themselves. It can reduce latency if the data centers are located in the same part of the world as you are, regardless of whether you are working with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or Private Cloud. This will improve your access and eliminate any potential language barriers. Another point to consider is that you do not want data centers located in areas that are prone to severe natural disasters. Think about where the data centers are located before making a choice.

Geographical Data Storage, Replication and Recovery
It is very important to be sure you are not relying on just a single server to protect all your information. This would allow one failure to potentially cause catastrophic data loss. You want to know that your data is stored in multiple geographic locations. This is usually done through a process called data replication. Your data will be replicated frequently across multiple locations to make certain that a single failure will not destroy all the information.

Multi or Single Tenant Setup
Be sure to check whether the cloud provider is offering multi-tenant or single-tenant setups. A single-tenant architecture means you will have a wide range of customization options. The downside is that it can be more expensive to lease. A multi-tenant setup costs less although you are “sharing” the infrastructure resources with others. This can lead to maintenance issues, and possible issues when you want to deploy customisations or industry specific add-ons.

Upgrade Control
A benchmark that is often overlooked is whether you have control over what upgrades and patches are applied to the cloud system. If you are customizing or integrating your cloud infrastructure or software, then a stock upgrade could cause conflicts and break your setup. You may need a cloud provider that does not force you to upgrade so that you can maintain the integrity of your cloud system.

End of Contact Data Recovery
While at the start of the contract it seems counterintuitive to consider the day the contact ends, however, at some point you will likely consider migrating providers and this process should be as smooth as possible. Look at your data recovery options when the contract is over. You will want to know that the data will not be in a complex proprietary format in order to prevent vendor lock-in. Find a provider with the easiest data recovery possible at the end of service.

User Access Methods
A final cloud computing benchmark is how the services can be accessed. Some providers are highly restrictive and allow access through only one or two methods. A good provider allows you to use several different access methods. These can include standard browsers, lightweight web clients, tablets or remote desktop apps. The provider you choose should allow access through the methods or devices that your business uses the most, and that your software is capable of supporting.

We hope you found this look at Cloud Service benchmarks useful. Many businesses also have a whole host of other considerations that are relevant to their situation, so always be prepared to ask the questions that are relevant to your business!

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