Articles 05/01/2022

How to choose a cloud provider? 6 important factors to take into account

Choosing a cloud provider is one of the most important steps of moving into the cloud, along with choosing the service model. A cloud provider is a company that offers the cloud as an infrastructural platform for client data and services. In this article, you will learn how to choose a cloud service provider and which factors are worth the most attention.

How to choose a cloud provider

Factor 1: Fault tolerance in the data center

Fault tolerance is a factor that affects uninterrupted access to the infrastructure and data safety in case of hardware failures. Reliable providers use redundant components in the cloud itself; however, it is also important to check the parameters of the data center where the cloud is located.

A data center’s reliability is determined by the ANSI/TIA-942 international classification. This standard ranges data centers by 4 classes: Tier I, Tier II, Tier III, Tier IV. The main factor that goes into determining a data center’s reliability is its fault tolerance. This directly affects the stability of the infrastructure; the higher the class, the more systems have redundant copies in case of hardware failures.

Tier I data centers are not fault-tolerant, and a failure will stop the functioning in the cloud. It is also impossible to carry out routine maintenance without turning off the equipment. Tier II data centers use redundancy; however, the systems cannot be upgraded or maintained without shutting down the cloud, just like in Tier I data centers.

Reliable data centers are classified as Tier III and above. Such data centers use reserve systems; upgrades and maintenance can be carried out with no effect on the client’s infrastructure. A provider that stores data in a Tier III data center can guarantee high availability for the cloud. The most fault-tolerant data centers are classified as Tier IV. Each component of such a data center uses multiple reserve power supply units, network connections, cooling systems etc.

We recommend that you choose a provider that stores the cloud in a Tier III data center and above. This is necessary so that your company’s services are guaranteed to function with no interruptions. Such a provider can guarantee high availaibility for the cloud that stores your corporate systems.

Factor 2: Physical and legal security

Data security is a vital factor for any company. This is why it is important to take a look at how the provider organizes security in terms of the company’s internal protocols, in terms of systems in the data center and how the country where the cloud is located guarantees data safety on a legislative level.

A well-protected data center will likely have security systems with international certification. See if your potential provider’s data center is ISO/IEC 27001-certified. This standard regulates the requirements towards security systems – video monitoring, access control, physical security etc.

A company with the ISO 27001 certificate meets high security standards in terms of management. This standard regulates the security policy, employee qualification control, monitoring systems, the regularity of internal audits and more. This certificate guarantees that the provider’s actions will not put client data at risk.

It is also important to find out in which country the provider stores client data. The specifics of that country’s legislation affect data safety. For example, SIM-Networks data centers are located in Germany and the Netherlands. Client data is protected by data security laws of these countries, as well as EU legislation. This means that protection against unlawful equipment seizures is guaranteed by law.

The kind of data you can store in the cloud is also affected by the data center’s location. This is why it’s important to learn the specifics of local legislature before migrating to the cloud. Providers that offer multiple options in terms of location are worthy of consideration. This way, you will be able to choose between jurisdictions based on the needs and requirements of your particular industry.

Factor 3: Additional services

A good cloud provider makes it as easy as possible for the client to work with their infrastructure. When choosing a provider, note the range of additional services available in the cloud. The more typical tasks the provider solves by default, the less time and fewer resources the company will have to spend on them.

Additional services in the cloud are provided through the XaaS («Anything-as-a-Service») model. BaaS («Backup-as-a-Service») is a popular example of such a service. Every company needs reserve copying so as not to lose data in case of hardware failures. This is why you’d be well-advised to choose a provider that solves this issue with a ready-for-use tool.

A BaaS user sets up the depth and the frequency of the backups; the data will be copied and uploaded automatically. The client’s company does not need to develop this instrument from scratch or to upload the data manually. Reliable providers also offer the option of storing backups on a remote platform. This is necessary so that failures in the data center don’t affect the integrity of the backups. For example, SIM-Networks offers 2 services: BaaS Local and BaaS Remote. BaaS Local stores data in the same data center as the main infrastructure; BaaS Remote copies data to a remote platform.

These XaaS services are available in the public SIM-Cloud by default: Firewall-as-a-Service, DNS-as-a-Service, VPN-as-a-Service. A client who uses a cloud with these services does not need to:

  • set up protection against malicious traffic or DDoS attacks;
  • set up VPN tunnels to secure all connections to the infrastructure;
  • manage DNS records manually.

When choosing a provider, pay attention to the list of microservices offered by the provider and compare it to the list of your company’s basic tasks. It’s worth migrating into the cloud of a provider that automatizes as many of these tasks as possible.

Factor 4: SLA (Service level agreement)

SLA is a document that regulates the guarantees and responsibilities of each party when the cloud is rented. You can learn a lot about the provider by looking through this document. Among other aspects, SLA regulates the functioning of the infrastructure and the vendor’s actions in case of any malfunctions.

The availability guarantee is one of the most important items in a provider’s SLA. This guarantee largely depends on the data center’s Tier classification. It is vital that the guaranteed availability percentage is followed by the period of time it relates to. 99% availability per year and 99% availability per month are different guarantees, which is why you should choose a provider that leaves no confusion in this aspect. This item also regulates the provider’s responsibility for failing to uphold the guaranteed uptime value. For example, the SLA of SIM-Networks guarantees that the client will receive compensation if the cloud’s annual availability is less than 99,9%.

The SLA also contains guarantees regarding technical support. This item includes the support team’s response time, the provider’s area of responsibility and the timeframe within which any technical issues will be solved. We advise you to choose a provider that will respond to your request within 1 hour and solve issues with the infrastructure as soon as possible. Note that the provider’s tech support is usually not responsible for the functioning of the client’s services in the cloud.

Routine maintenance that requires the provider to shut down the infrastructure should be carried with stable periodicity. The provider must warn all clients of these works in advance. It is a good sign if the SLA mentions this aspect. The actions of the provider’s technical experts will not lead to data loss if the client is aware of the upcoming maintenance and has time to prepare.

Factor 5: The provider’s support

This factor includes the literal tech support service, as well as other services. When thinking of how to choose a cloud provider, take these services into account. The more tasks can be solved with the assistance of the provider’s specialists, the better. Cloud migration and infrastructure management are good examples of such tasks.

Find out whether the provider’s tech support service is free. As a rule, providers that offer paid support plans are focused on the quantity of sales. In all likelihood, this means that you won’t receive a personalized approach in other aspects as well. This is why we recommend that you choose a provider with free tech support.

You can rarely predict when you might need help, which is why it’s important that the tech support service is available 24/7. It is also vital that communication be as simple and straightforward as possible; choose a provider whose tech support speaks your language. This will help you solve any issues quickly and will simplify consultations. Multiple communication channels are also a good sign; choose a provider that you can get in contact with using a chat, your phone and your email etc.

Not every company can manage the cloud on its own. If you don’t want your IT staff to spend time on non-core tasks, such as infrastructure management, choose a provider that will do it for you. The provider’s experts will manage the cloud for you while your IT team works on the company’s main business goals.

Cloud migration is a difficult and expensive process, which will require the assistance of experts with relevant experience. This is why you should choose a provider that will transfer data into the cloud for you. The vendor’s specialists can do it quickly and with minimal effect on your business processes. This is possible because of the qualification of the experts, as well as a deep understanding of the particular cloud platform’s specifics. Some providers do this for free; the client can get to work in the cloud quickly and the tech support team gets fewer tickets if the migration is carried out well.

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Factor 6: Comprehensive personal approach

This factor is very important for large infrastructural projects, the needs of which are not covered by standard solutions. In such cases, we recommend that you choose a provider that will give you a full consultation, help you choose a solution and develop it for you.

A reliable provider will answer all questions asked by a potential client. The client will learn about the architectural details of the cloud, as well as the range of services and their specifics. We recommend that you ask any and all questions that interest you. You can learn a lot about the provider’s approach to client service by how quickly you get a response and how detailed it is.

Developing an infrastructural project is a task that should only be delegated to a trusted cloud service provider. It is important that the provider advises you based on expertise, the project’s requirements and your company’s wishes. A good provider’s goal is to solve the client’s issue rather than to sell a particular service.

Let’s take a look at an example of a personalized approach towards developing an infrastructural solution. The client was planning to migrate into a private cloud; before the migration, the client wanted to estimate the amount of resources necessary to handle the company’s projects. SIM-Networks experts offered to transfer the client’s services into the public cloud and to test the functioning of the client’s services in this infrastructure. The engineers built a private cloud solution based on the data received from the testing; the client got a private cloud that could handle all data and apps effectively. If you wish to learn more, get acquainted with this cloud migration case.

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