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Comparing Cloud Providers

11 benchmarks to help you find the right cloud services partner
Marinka van der Eng
March 30 2017

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. Therefore, it can be difficult to differentiate between Cloud providers, but many customers make the mistake of basing their purchase decision on price alone. Price is important, but when it is the only consideration, customers end up with a contract and service that don’t match their business needs. To help avoid costly mistakes, consider these eleven cloud computing benchmarks when vetting Cloud providers.

1. Service Level Agreements (SLA)
The first and perhaps most important thing to look for when comparing Cloud computing providers is an effective Service Level Agreement (SLA). It should clearly and unambiguously define all aspects of the service. You want an agreement that will guarantee the Cloud services and performance your business requires, so start by looking for: 

  • Uptime and reliability guarantees, 
  • Detailed service descriptions,
  • Provider responsiveness, 
  • Restrictions, 
  • Reporting procedures, and 
  • Consequences when contract conditions are not met.

2. Uptime Guarantees
When making your decision, 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 a working server is useless when your application isn’t working. Disaster recovery is also more difficult if the provider has no application uptime guarantee.

3. Security, Compliance and Privacy Standards
Your business needs to meet appropriate industry standards in privacy and security, but not all Cloud providers have the same standards in these areas. Make sure to 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. Also check out, for example, the Microsoft Trust Center for Azure cloud. 

4. Data Ownership
It is crucial to understand that ownership of data in the Cloud is not always clear. This becomes especially true for data that is generated within the Cloud by software or platform elements as opposed to being uploaded. Check whether you retain ownership rights to any data stored with the provider. This improves security and eliminates potential legal complications in the future. 

5. Straightforward Pricing Model
Look closely at the pricing model of each Cloud service provider before making any decisions. Many models are available including:

Look at the needs of your business and your expected volume and liaise with a cloud provider that can help you asses your needs/volume. Choose a provider with straightforward pricing plans that aren’t full of hidden fees. If you need help tailoring a pricing plan that fits your specific business needs, contact SaaSplaza.

6. Where the Data Centers Are Located
The next thing to look at is the physical location of the data centers and the services providers themselves. If the data centers are located in the same part of the world as you, it can reduce latency regardless of whether you are working with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or Private Cloud. TThis will improve your access and eliminate potential language barriers. You also do not want data centers located in areas that are prone to severe natural disasters as those events interfere with optimal service.

7. Geographical Data Storage, Replication and Recovery
Be sure you are not relying on a single server to protect all your information as this opens the possibility for one failure to cause catastrophic data loss. Have peace of mind knowing that your data is stored in multiple geographic locations. This is usually done through a process called data replication. As the phrase suggests, your data will be replicated frequently across multiple locations to make certain that a failure will not destroy all your information.

8. Multi or Single Tenant Setup
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 customisation options, but the downside is that it can be more expensive to lease. A multi-tenant setup costs less, though you are “sharing” the infrastructure resources with others. This can lead to maintenance issues, and possible deployment issues when you want customisations or industry specific add-ons.

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

10. End of Contact Data Recovery
At the start, it seems counterintuitive to consider the day the contract ends; however, if you choose to migrate providers at some point, this process should be as smooth as possible. Look at your post-contract data recovery options closely to know whether the data will be in a complex proprietary format which would lock you into that vendor. Find a provider with the easiest data recovery possible.

11. User Access Methods
Finally, some providers are highly restrictive, allowing only one or two methods of access. A good provider allows several different user access methods, including:

  • Standard browsers, 
  • Lightweight web clients, 
  • Tablets, or 
  • Remote desktop apps. 

The provider you choose should allow access through not only the methods or devices that your business uses the most, but also the ones which your software is capable of supporting.

Still Need Help Choosing a Cloud Provider?
Many businesses have a whole host of other considerations that are relevant to their situation, so it’s beneficial to prepare questions that are specific to your business. If you’re not sure what to ask, our team at SaaSplaza is happy to answer your questions and advise on the right Cloud solution for the business. 

Original post of this blog was on July 2, 2015, updated on March 31, 2017.

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