11 Tips for Choosing between Cloud Hosting Providers

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With the evolution of futuristic technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT), the demand for computing infrastructure has catapulted. Cloud services have emerged as a viable solution to this escalating demand. Incredibly scalable, flexible and convenient, cloud services help businesses manage, store, process and transfer gargantuan amounts of data and applications in the most hassle-free manner.

From global cloud leaders such as AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure to niche players catering to specific segments, today we have a wide range of cloud service providers to choose from.

Businesses looking for cloud services often have a tough time choosing the vendor that fulfills their needs in the best possible manner. If you are searching for a cloud hosting service provider, here are the 11 tips you need to keep in mind.

1)  Be Clear with respect to your Business Needs.

You shouldn’t move to the cloud merely because every other business is doing so. Before jumping on the cloud bandwagon, be clear on your objectives with regard to the transition to the cloud. Cloud solutions serve a wide array of business needs these days. To begin with, you can pick up a simple cloud collaboration tool (G-suite), cloud storage solution (Dropbox) or a CRM software (Zoho, Salesforce).

Such tools will help you gain a better understanding of cloud technology. As your business grows and your needs become more complex, you can switch to advanced cloud solutions.

2) Pay attention to Pricing

Many businesses switch to the cloud as they consider it far more economical to go for cloud server hosting than to buy, install and maintain physical servers on their premises. Cloud services typically do not have an upfront cost and operate on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model. It means the client needs to pay only for the resources consumed. Such a pricing model also makes for efficient utilization of computing resources.

So, when choosing a cloud service provider, opt for a service that comes with pay-as-you-go pricing. Be wary of cloud vendors that ask for a large upfront payment.

It is worth mentioning that depending on the cloud vendor chosen, you can be charged a daily, monthly or annual fee. Then pricing varies greatly between vendors: while one vendor may charge as low as $1 per month per user, another may charge up to $100 per month per user or higher, depending on the plan chosen.

3) Make Security a Priority

With cybersecurity breaches hogging headlines now and then, prioritizing the security of your data is crucial. It is imperative to ask explicit questions that apply to your organization and industry.

Make sure you go through the vendor policies regarding security, privacy and data-handling. Ask if the vendor offers the following: firewall, anti-malware, multifactor user authentication and regular security audits.

Does the vendor have robust data encryption measures in place? What mechanisms are available to back up your data? Who all on their premises will have access to your data?

What provisions does the vendor have to address the loss of data? Will the cloud vendor compensate you for loss of data? What redundancies does the vendor have in place to reduce the risk of data loss? And, does the vendor have a well-documented disaster recovery plan?

All such questions need to be satisfactorily addressed.

4) Carefully read the Service Level Agreement

A service level agreement (SLA) is a contractual agreement between you and your cloud service provider that stipulates the services they are expected to provide and the standards they are expected to meet.

The service level agreement should use unambiguous language. It should clearly state the roles and responsibilities related to the delivery, management, provisioning and support of cloud services. It should also specify how these are distributed between you and the vendor.

The SLA should also state how the issues will be resolved and managed, who will resolve/manage them and by what time.

5) Assess the Location of Data Storage

We all know that the cloud is not a nebulous, abstract place. Cloud providers in India keep your data in a physical location, mostly in data centers. It is imperative that you conduct a thorough assessment of these data centers before signing up for a plan.

The data centers housing your data should have robust physical security and cybersecurity measures in place. The data center building should be designed to withstand all kinds of physical challenges ranging from natural disasters, industrial accidents to thefts. It should have biometric access, CCTV surveillance, monitored alarms, fire protection and armed security personnel at all strategic points. Besides, there should be provision for monitoring network traffic within the premises to prevent unwarranted intrusion.

Many cloud providers in India keep your data in low-cost locations to bring down the cost of service. If your data is in a location that is unstable or has lax security and compliance standards, you may end up losing valuable information.

6) Track their Downtime History

Downtime is the period when the services of a cloud vendor are not accessible to its users. Every cloud vendor, including the most renowned ones experience downtime at some point or the other. Since downtime affects the continuity of your operations as well as your client experience, it is crucial to choose a vendor with a track record of fewer outages.

The cloud vendor should adopt a transparent approach to incidents as they happen. It is good to seek vendors that publish their downtime history on their website. In case you do not find any such details on the website, you can inquire the vendor about their track record.

7) Connect with the Existing Clients for Reference

The best way to assess a prospective vendor is to get in touch with some of their existing clients and ask pertinent questions.

How does the vendor overall fare in terms of performance? How often does their service experience downtime? Does the vendor duly and adequately address technical issues? Do these issues get resolved within the timeframe specified in the SLA?

It is vital that you select clients that operate in your industry and have deployed the cloud models you are considering for your business. This will ensure a fair assessment.

8) Assess the Level of Customer Service

All cloud services come with their own set of issues. To ensure your business operations continue uninterrupted in the face of these issues, it is crucial to have efficacious customer service.

Does the vendor offer 24*7 customer support on all days, including holidays? What is their average response time and resolution time? What communication channels can you use to contact their customer support representatives? Are their representatives knowledgeable enough to resolve these issues on their own?

A cloud vendor who does not fulfill the above requirements is best avoided.

9) Ensure Adherence to Compliance Standards

It is crucial to select a cloud vendor that helps you achieve compliance standards that apply to your organization and industry. For example, for those operating in the healthcare industry in the USA, compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that deals with patient data privacy and security is mandatory.

You need to understand what all needs to be done in order to achieve compliance once your data and applications are hosted on the cloud. Make sure you choose a vendor that helps you check off the crucial aspects of compliance.

10) Consider the on-boarding process

After you have signed up with your cloud service provider, the next step is to log in to the user dashboard and configure your account. Vendors offer different levels of assistance when it comes to the on-boarding process. While some vendors walk you through the entire installation and setup process, others simply provide you with an online guide for reference. This aspect is worth your consideration if you are new to cloud technology.

11) Keep Exit planning in mind

Make sure you have a clear exit strategy in place even before you sign up for the cloud service. Moving from one cloud vendor to the other is never hassle-free, so make sure you choose a service provider that helps you minimize issues. Choose a vendor that offers favorable terms regarding exit strategy. You should be able to retrieve your data easily once your relationship with the cloud vendor has ended.

Wrapping it up

A top-notch cloud service is critical to the seamless running of your business applications. It is, therefore, vital to carry out proper due-diligence while choosing one. Before you finalize a cloud hosting providers, make a list of your business objectives and take inputs from all the stakeholders involved. Once this is done, you can compare and assess the cloud service providers on the above mentioned criteria.

While it is true that these criteria may not give you all the information you need, they will definitely help you build a blueprint to help you decide which cloud service provider you can trust with your data and applications. The vendor you choose should offer the resources that support your long-term goals.

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