What to look for in an IaaS vendor
Jumping into new areas of technology can certainly offer big benefits, but we should also be doing our best to avoid taking unnecessary risks while doing so. For instance, although IaaS is in high demand by businesses across the globe, it is still a relatively “adolescent” area of cloud computing. This is to say that IaaS vendors should be carefully considered prior to choosing one; all options and benefits must be weighed according to what your business requires and what others are saying about particular providers.
In all actuality there are different degrees of involvement from IaaS vendors. Some providers will offer stand-alone systems which function like private cloud alternatives. The benefit here is that security is often targeted by the vendor and the user isn’t required to manage that particular aspect. This is a very attractive prospect for a number of reasons; first off, certain organizations that aren’t well-versed in security issues or techniques might find that it’s better off left to individuals who know what they’re doing.
Secondly, some companies might have very sensitive data that they simply cannot afford to risk having “fall into the wrong hands”. Likewise, certain businesses often compile and store vast amounts of customer data; if a businesses consumer data were stolen they would likely face class action lawsuits from groups of consumers which would damage their image and also severely affect profits.
Other IaaS providers might offer a more complete experience in which they basically train the customer to use the service. While this might seem like a really great idea, having a vendor walk you through every single aspect of your operation on a continuous basis might not be the most cost effective approach.
You really need to compare the costs of independently certifying and training your IT team with that of paying your provider to act as some form of makeshift instructor. However, any sort of education or training that one can garner from virtually any group ultimately has value, especially if a vendor is helping users become acclimated to new technologies and so forth.
So, perhaps the best approach in this scenario is to both educate and certify your IT department AND absorb and utilize the information coming from your IaaS vendor?
Lastly, you might encounter a situation whereby your current provider of cloud services begins moving into IaaS of their own accord and in turn, begins marketing these new services to you and your organization. This is a tricky area to get involved in because some vendors are (naturally) better than others; it all comes down to their motivations for moving further into the IaaS market.
If, for example, a vendor is merely attempting to diversify their portfolio and/or approaches newly initiated IaaS services in a “ham-fisted” manner, then you should definitely be wary. How can you find out if a provider is truly prepared to implement an IaaS service, you ask? Arguably, the best place to start is in looking at their plans; storage considerations, on-site hardware requirements and vendor “blueprints” detailing their proposed infrastructure changes should tell you what you want to know.
The first two (obvious) things you want to research are the specific services offered and any and all costs associated with these services. Then, you’ll need to sit down with all involved personnel (IT, business, budgeting and otherwise) and discuss long and short-term goals and how these proposed IaaS service upgrades will be able to help or hinder the organization in meeting these marks.
If, at the end of your meeting, there is significant doubt among the group concerning the benefits to risks ratio of signing up with an IaaS vendor, perhaps you should look elsewhere. However, if there are an overwhelming number of positives at the end of such an encounter, you might have just found your ideal provider.
It’s also important to remember that IaaS is growing, changing and expanding all the time. So, before locking into any one vendor’s plan, you should make an effort to look (or even requisition them) to the future plans of that provider. In other words, how are they positioning themselves, and where is their organization headed in terms of their own business model?
Ideally, you want a vendor that has both “staying power” and the ability to incorporate any and all valuable cloud technologies as they emerge. Additionally, it’s also important that an IaaS provider is able to foster good relationships among the tech, IT and cloud communities at large. If no other cloud companies want to do business with your provider, the future viability of that vendor is already in question.