Today when the word “virtual” has become a reality, you find that every second person you meet is talking about cloud computing. You are impressed by those upfront presentations, which are full of diagrams and promises and plan to reap its benefits.
But before you do that, make sure your selection of the service is well planned and calculated else you are going to regret your decision. So what care you need to take when you are ready to eat the fruits from this still evolving and growing tree? Let us find out.
Know what you are buying
Before you select a service for cloud computing, you should understand its basics and place in business. It is far more than a cost saving remote storage, where you believe; you just need an internet connection, and your data, information, applications etc. will be managed by some genie remotely. There are three fundamental types of the cloud computing offerings/models:
- Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): In this basic model vendors provide virtual computers, storage, firewalls, load balancers, networks and more which is used by your business after payment for capacity and storage. Examples: Rackspace cloud, Google Compute Engine etc.
- Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): Here vendor supplies the computing platform which includes operating system, programming language execution environment, database, and web server. Application developers can develop and run their solutions here, without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software layers. Examples: Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine, OrangeScape etc.
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS): Here vendor is running software for you and you don’t have to bother about costly licences for the software. You can have desktop, test environment, business process or communication as a service. Examples: Google Apps, QuickNotes Online, Microsoft Office 365 etc.
Map your business needs
Identify the areas of your business which you need to shift to cloud. Mind it; all applications are not suitable to be moved. For example, it is not advised in normal cases to implement cloud for an application, which is sharing clustered servers, and share resources with other customers. You should take long term perspective of your business and consider scalability and portability as important factors.
Cost and Reliability
You need to evaluate all the services your business might require. Then find out the cost of each service, when not on cloud. Compare all the overheads before taking a call. Reliability of the vendor is also very important. Consider an example where you are in a meeting, you need to access your presentation stored on cloud. Suddenly you realize due to xyz issue you are not able to access it. Definitely, you would hate such situation and hence you should always check for the backup plans a vendor provides. Experienced and reliable vendors can withstand server crash, power outage and provide backup to save you from such hiccups.
Transition and support from vendor
Shifting to cloud computing is not a single day job. It requires gradual shifting processes and hard work, which in turn need elaborate training and help from vendor. Look for the range of managed and professional services, offered by different vendors for transition and maintenance. Consider technical expertise in terms of SLA (service level agreement), downtime expectations, and customer service availability. Inquire about exception modelling system.
Third party compliance audit and Security
Vendors use third party for many of their services. Monitoring those is also very important. When technology becomes popular, it attracts criminals. Though cloud computing is still evolving, there are some web standards for security, which you can rely upon, when selecting a vendor. Topmost is ISO27001 it is benchmark for third party audits and implements the principles governing security of information and network systems. Another auditing standard is SAS70.
Different countries have different laws for data security and access over internet. Data secured in one country may not be secured in another. Vendors should be custodian of your business data, not controllers. So you can check if your vendor gives an option of storing your data in different jurisdiction.
Try and Test
Take a feel of what you will be using. Ask your provider to set up a “sandbox” environment to test application and data migration.
Well, most important tip for selecting cloud computing service is to remember, it is not a fairy-tale, where everything is magic and done by itself; in fact it is high levelled technology, where good planning and dedicated maintenance is required to reap the real benefits.