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Navigating the Cloud: How to Choose the Right Provider for Your Business

From differing levels of support and maintenance to transparency in costs, no two cloud providers are the same.

On the surface, choosing the right cloud provider seems like an easy and straightforward process. After all, you are simply looking for third-party infrastructure to host computer system resources. How much can it possibly vary between providers? The truth is, there are a lot of variables to account for when deciding which provider best matches your needs.

From differing levels of support and maintenance to transparency in costs, no two cloud providers are the same. It is important to have a complete understanding of your needs and your cloud provider’s options before making a decision that could affect your company for years to come.

Start By Defining Your Business Plans

What are your business goals? Yes, the question is simple — but the answer will help clarify your cloud provider partnership. There are three schools of thought:

1. Public Cloud providers host and manage publicly accessible cloud solutions (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, etc.)

2. Private Cloud solutions allow businesses to host their cloud on-premise through leased cloud hardware and services.

3. Hybrid Cloud models combine both public and private cloud structures, allowing companies to leverage the benefits of each for specific business initiatives.

Defining your business plans will put you on the right track in choosing the right cloud structure. Be wary of incurring technological debt when planning these moves for your company. Some licensing models and core technologies will always be less feasible than others for cloud migration.

Believing that everything must be on the cloud can create unnecessary complications. Services with complex dependencies, low latency dependent operations and services that have to scale rapidly in either direction require a more delicate approach — as they can be volatile from both a cost and operational perspective.

Sometimes the answer is, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Additionally, if you later decide that this solution is not for you, you might find the exit costs to be an unwelcome surprise.

Making the Change (What to Expect)

When moving your company’s infrastructure and data to the cloud, you expect to see lower costs, greater reliability, and higher efficiency of business operations. However, this transition may also come with some risks. Migrating to the cloud means weighing the pros and cons of moving away from your current infrastructure and looking at how potential cloud partners address your business objectives and pain points. These include core components such as:

  • Adhering to your customer needs
  • Weighing various product offerings
  • Maintaining cost expectations
  • Ensuring security and compliance
  • Preparing for IT management and support changes

Your Customers Come First

It’s important to understand your market. Will your customers be comfortable with their data being stored or processed by a third-party cloud provider? Do your customers require in-house compliance management? If your services involve sensitive information, the security of your cloud must be a top consideration.

Choose a provider that understands your customer’s demand as well. For example, finance and pharmaceutical sectors are considerably less in need of rapid scaling and are more predictable than entertainment or eCommerce ecosystems and will therefore often benefit sooner from Cloud environments. This will help manage costs, expectations, and support for both your business and its customers.

Consider Your Provider’s Product Offerings

Scalability is the secret ingredient of cloud solutions, but this requires the right partnership. How do your potential cloud provider’s capabilities line up with your stack’s dependent technologies?

For example, if your application relies on MS databases integrations and a public cloud ecosystem — Azure may be the right fit. Likewise, if your business requires a more hybrid model and lives within the Power platform, IBM Power Cloud paired with a certified IBM Business Partner is the offering you’re looking for.

Matching technologies to cloud providers is crucial. It may be possible to implement a Microsoft heavy environment in Google Cloud, but that doesn't mean it will smooth sailing. Vendor clouds that match technologies will be optimized, have better access to supporting APIs, and be more easily supported in case of any problems.

There are plenty of specialized cloud services that aren’t universally available. IBM Watson, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and specific Google Cloud services are all examples of unique offerings that won’t be available on other cloud networks.

Pricing Is Not Always What It Seems

If your business plans to enter a new market, launch a new product, or expects rapid growth—do not favor short-term cost savings over your cloud provider’s ability to scale up to meet your future needs. Determine your provider’s limits and capabilities and what costs will look like to increase system resources.

Unforeseen costs are also a major concern when migrating to the cloud. You will require experienced and highly trained cloud experts throughout, and after, the transition process. Reskilling, retraining, and new staffing expenses your business may face throughout the migration process are also difficult to anticipate—and down the line, long-term cloud maintenance costs are all too often left out of the equation.

Choosing the right cloud provider can eliminate these hidden costs and empower your business for success.

Choose a Secure & Compliant Provider

Security is a primary concern when choosing the right cloud provider for your business. Does your company require on-premise infrastructure? Does the physical security of your provider’s data center align with your business needs? Will your provider’s current security and compliance standards adhere to your business in the future? These are all questions you will need to consider before making a decision. You’ll need to consider factors such as:

  • Encryption standards
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Security redundancies
  • Industry-specific guidelines (HIPAA compliance, PCI-DSS, SOX, etc.)
  • And more

Thoroughly vet your provider to ensure they have strong security measures in place and do not have a history of data breaches. Don’t risk your company’s reputation.

Ensure Optimal IT Management & Support

Moving to the cloud may require modifications to your products or services.

Does your provider offer a service level agreement (SLA) that promises a certain standard of uptime, support, and maintenance? Carefully review your contract and compare provider guarantees. Managed cloud service providers (Paas) add their own managed solutions to public cloud offerings — allowing for optimal support that is more specialized for your unique objectives. Here you’ll enjoy more proactive IT monitoring, cloud management, and disaster recovery.

Note: Cloud success requires internal staff, continued support, and certified hires to ensure optimal IT management. If there are no internal staff members on-hand, it’s also important to consider the increased spending on outsourced IT services.

If your business operates on a global scale, or plans to in the future, you will need a cloud provider that is equipped to handle both the migration and operation at scale.

Cloud providers that integrate partnership opportunities, hybrid models, and managed IT solutions help mitigate these hidden costs associated with IT management.

Streamline Your Migration With the Right Cloud Provider

Rushing to the cloud can create more problems than solutions. A significant amount of preparation and due diligence early on can save your business from time consuming and potentially costly issues down the road. Evaluate your business objectives and how they may be affected by customer considerations, hidden costs, security concerns, and IT support hurdles.

So, how do you choose the right cloud provider for your business? Well, the answer isn’t black and white. It all depends heavily on your business goals, future needs, current expertise, etc. Take your time researching cloud providers so that you can streamline your cloud transition.

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