Cloud computing is a hot topic right now but there’s a real lack of clarity surrounding the solution. Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a whole host of business considerations that you need to make. We’ve collated the most important business considerations to help you identify which option makes more business sense.
Understandably, one of the main concerns when picking a cloud computing solution is performance. You obviously want high-speed delivery but this is sometimes easier said than done. It is a multifaceted challenge that requires an end-to-end view of your request–response path.
So it’s worthwhile talking to your potential vendor about how they plan to combat any potential issues. Performance problems can be caused by the geographical proximity of the application in relation to the end user, network performance and access speed.
A number of services like Cloud Sleuth and CloudHarmony have started measuring the performance of cloud providers from different locations. Before you decide on your vendor, it’s worth testing the solution using services like the ones above. That way you can see how it performs in a variety of different locations.
When we talk about outages, it’s often thoughts of backup and recovery that come to mind. However, it’s also worth noting that outages are going to have a knock-on effect on your internal and external SLAs. Without a reliable connection you’re going to struggle to operate your business. So when choosing your cloud computing solution, make sure that you have a robust connection to support it. Without this, your files will struggle to be backed up.
Be realistic, though: your connection will occasionally lose connectivity. Therefore, it’s also worth physically backing up critical data just in case. Some vendors do offer fail-safe features that allow you to carry on unaffected by the time-out.
Some cloud providers offer guarantees of higher levels of service to make them stand out from the crowd. However, it’s worth investing the time in testing the software before committing to it. SLAs are merely an indication of the consequences of a service failure; they don’t account for how reliable the service actually is. To get a more transparent view of the service’s reliability and availability, take a look at customer testimonials and comparison sites.
Another key consideration to make when selecting your cloud provider is the application programming interface (API) it provides for accessing your infrastructure and performing certain tasks such as provisioning and de-provisioning servers.
If you have an API that is supported by a number of providers and vendors, this can reduce lock-in. This is because migration from one provider to the other requires fewer changes to the application.
If your API is supported by a group of developers and vendors, the service will be protected by an entire ecosystem.
These kinds of APIs are provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various VMware cloud providers.
Cloud offering differs from one provider to another: some provide automatic file syncs, while with others these will need to be performed manually. Evaluate your business offering and then decide if it’s large enough to warrant automatic syncing. Manual uploads might not sound that bad but when you come to move something really large across your network you may suffer from buyer’s remorse.
It’s also worthwhile having another method of moving your data in case the cloud is temporarily unavailable. That way, productivity remains high and service can continue unaffected.
Two of the main concerns for businesses when considering cloud computing are security and compliance.
With any storage backup, the data can be accessed by more than one party; that’s what makes it such an effective solution. But you don’t want your data to fall into the wrong hands, so if you decide to store it on someone else’s software, make sure it is secure and private. You can do this by limiting access to the cloud storage and granting access only to key members of your organisation.
Another privacy consideration to bear in mind is that when you upload data to the cloud it will remain there. Sounds great, right? Well, yes and no. Even if an item has been deleted, copies will still remain, so talk to your potential cloud provider about this.
Security may be of paramount importance to businesses, but so is their ability to remain compliant with security-related standards. Many cloud providers have taken measures to provider another layer of security in their offering, like SAS-70 Type II audits and security white papers.
Every now and then, you are going to need to share data with a third party, whether this is another business or a client, so it’s essential to check that the cloud storage solution you go for is compatible with their systems – otherwise, transferring data can become a chore.
You can always block a certain part of your cloud account so visitors can see only what you permit them to.
A number of cloud providers focus their service on a certain software stack. This ordinarily moves the data from an infrastructure like a Service (IaaS) providers to platforms like a Service (PaaS). As you would expect, the different stacks align with designated clouds and so work with the most popular stack software.
If your application has been built using one of these stacks, cloud computing could work well for you. The stacks can provide invaluable savings, including on time and expense, while helping you avoid dealing with low-level infrastructure setup and configuration.
However, it’s worth noting that these types of cloud solutions often require the assistance of developers to help with the overall architecture of the application. This therefore creates a higher level of vendor lock-in.
You would think that an effective way to compare different cloud providers would be cost. However, it’s not that simple. The reason for this is that each provider will offer a variety of resources including virtual machines (VMs) that offer a wide range of memory capacities, differing CPU clock speeds and other valuable features.
It can therefore be hard to pit one provider against another. The best way to gain a reliable indication of the different clouds’ performance is to carry out an experiment: load the same application using multiple providers and then analyse the results. You’ll then be able to identify the one that performs the best and spot any potential issues early on.
This useful guide should help you answer those all-important cloud computing questions and enable you to make the best decision for your business.
Cloud computing is designed to make life easier for you, after all, so it’s all about choosing the right option for you and safeguarding your company against potential threats.
Launched in 2003, TechBrain is an IT support and managed services company located in Perth. It provides IT support and managed services to businesses that are big enough to have an IT problem but too small to have their own IT Department.