It is becoming increasingly common for companies to outsource many of their IT operations to cloud service providers. Whilst this can provide many advantages, it is essential that the right service provider is selected.
It is very important to ensure that the correct cloud service provider is selected as it can be costly and time consuming to transfer any data and applications from one provider to another.
As there are very many cloud service providers of all sizes, the choice can be rather baffling
Obtaining the correct cloud solution is key to making a successful transition to the cloud.
The first key process in any selection process for a cloud solution is to fully understand what is needed - developing the requirements.
Setting out the requirements not only helps you understand what you want, but also provides and prospective cloud servicer provider with a definition of what is required which can be worked upon to develop the right cloud solution to meet the requirements.
Work in fully understanding what is needed will help ensure that the right solution is provided. Only when the requirements have been defined can a cloud solution be determined.
Requirements capture is not always easy, and it may not be a very swift process, but it forms the foundation for selecting the right cloud service provider.
Build a business case for moving to the cloud
Having defined the requirements, it is necessary to build a proper business case for moving to the cloud.
Obviously the requirements need to be understood as a first step. However it is also necessary to understand the costs of the current operation. The costs of the existing infrastructure need to be fully understood and broken down.
The cost of all elements of the current IT infrastructure must be included so that a full assessment of the business case for a cloud solution can be examined.
Costs for the current physical hardware - servers and details of specifications like CPUs, cores and RAM, plus the cost of storage should all be included. It will also be necessary to cost out the current applications: whether they will be stopped, re-hosted in the cloud unchanged, or completely rebuilt for the cloud, whether an entirely new SaaS package will be bought. Each option will have different cost implications.
Labour costs must be included both existing and after there has been a transition to a cloud service. But remember that even though there will be a transfer to the cloud, internal support and some hardware will still be needed - don't underestimate this.
It is also necessary to be realistic and factor in the negative aspects of moving to cloud services - it is necessary to be as realistic as possible and not have an end in mind and develop the business case to fit the outcome that is expected by others. It is very easy to fall into this trap and not develop a business case which will focus on the best solution.
Cloud service provider capabilities
When looking at any cloud solutions provider it is necessary to look at what they can actually provide. Do their services match the requirements that will have been put together.
Simply matching requirements against capabilities will undoubtedly reduce the field a little and will help narrow down the selection.
It is also worth looking at the basic top level capabilities, but also look down further into the detail as this is possibly where the issues could occur later.
System & storage backup
In March 2021 there was a large fire at the Cloud computing centre in Strasbourg, France for a reputable Cloud computing supplier. The fire started in one of the servers and spread, ultimately destroying the whole building.
This was a major disaster for many companies as they relied on this centre for web services, storage and a host of other Cloud services. Many websites were down for weeks afterwards and much data was lost.
This vividly demonstrates the fact that when selecting a Cloud services provider, not only must off-site backups be in place, but there should also be additional computing capability available on a different site.
Even though occurrences like these are very rare, the consequences could bring down some companies that might rely on Cloud services. Having suitable alternatives, backups, etc is not just a "nice to have" but an essential element of any company strategy.
It is necessary to be prepared for a variety of occurrences from fires like the one mentioned, to long term power outages in certain areas, to the effects of hacking and denial of services, etc.
Just because it is a Cloud service does not necessarily mean that it is fully backed up and totally resilient. Check in the terms and conditions what is being offered.
One of the key requirements for any cloud service provider will be that the company is reliable and operates to industry standards. After all the cloud service provider will be looking after a lot of your IT capability.
Companies that have been audited to conform to industry standards are more likely to be run in a way that provides a high quality service.
Security is also likely to be an issue as any data will need to be held securely and not be subject to being hacked. Also an insecure cloud service provider could present an easy way in to your organisation. Accordingly security must be high on anyone's priority list. Certifications like ISO 27001 or the government’s Cyber Essentials Scheme are good to look for.
With technology for the IT industry always advancing, it is necessary to ensure that any company who may become the chosen cloud service provider will keep up with developments.
As it is sometimes difficult to change service providers, it is best to ensure that any prospective company will keep up with the latest technology.
Check their roadmap and enquire how they intend to move forwards.
In these days of the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, many companies will need to pay particularly close attention to the storage of any personal data.
Level of support
Even if the provision of many of the IT services, hardware, etc are outsourced tot he cloud service provider, there are still likely to be some issues.
Although these may not occur as frequently as if all the services are provided from within the company, support is still required. This is all the more important because issues could relate to the interface into the cloud service provider system. These could be very difficult to resolve without the assistance of support from the service provider.
Although issues are less likely to occur once the system has been established for a while, there is always the possibility of some issue, for example if some hardware is upgraded.
In instances like these support is essential and will cut downtime considerably.
These are just a few of the items tat should be considered when looking at using cloud solutions and selecting a cloud services provider.
When investigating the right provider and making the decision it is essential that the process is not rushed as this could lead to the selection of the wrong provider. It can then be very difficult to change the cloud service provider at a later date. Making the right decision will pay dividends for both sides.
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