Finding the right cloud computing solution for your business

Certainly no one would argue that it is tough to find a cloud provider these days. But having an abundance of vendors to choose from doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will in fact find the right one (capable of providing adequate solutions and service), does it? Without naming any names, we will explore some of the basic cloud service options that are out there for businesses to choose from. Additionally, we’ll also detail some of the cloud computing needs that you (as a business manager or owner) should take into consideration.

Public, Private & Hybrid Clouds
Although the various individual service models offered by vendors may mix and match elements to form new offerings or packages, you really only have three types of “clouds” after you strip everything else away. As you might expect, a Public Cloud is essentially a type of cloud infrastructure which is available for use by the general public. In general, most public clouds deliver mostly low-cost applications and storage to thousands, if not millions of users. Most web-delivered services which comprise some form of storage fall under the category of Public Cloud computing. Likewise, some public clouds will feature free services in addition to metered (pay-per-use) ones. Often times, businesses will simply take advantage of free public cloud-delivered services, avoiding the various metered services; whether or not this is possible really depends on what your area(s) of business / interest are.

By contrast, a private cloud is owned, rented, or licensed by an organization through a provider directly and is generally not open for public use. The organization paying for or building the private cloud is also tasked with its maintenance and / or management. In other words, if you are looking for a private cloud you will be paying for it and likely managing it directly as well. However, all private cloud setups are not created equal. For example, some private clouds may simply be partitioned sections of a larger public cloud which have been set aside for storage and virtualization by a provider. Then of course you have true private clouds which are basically massive self-contained infrastructures which are in turn built, owned or leased by one or a limited number of participating organizations. But perhaps the biggest difference between public and private clouds is that private clouds tend to incorporate more comprehensive virtualization. In other words, public clouds are essentially designed to provide a la carte’ cloud services / products, whereas its private counterpart, will often encompass and impart what is essentially an entire company’s IT infrastructure. For most businesses, private clouds are going to be the best and most obvious choice.

Then of course you have hybrid clouds, which are more or less co-managed by both the client and provider. In this type of model, not all the duties are covered by the cloud vendor, so it is important that the hybrid cloud client to have their own IT personnel on hand who are proficient in and comfortable with cloud computing technologies. Arguably, the most cost-effective way to ensure and achieve this is to simply have your IT department attain some form of cloud computing certification or at the very least, training.  

So, what should you be looking for in a cloud provider?
There are a number of things that any business needs to carefully consider before finally choosing their cloud provider; some are fairly obvious, others are not. For instance, security is of very serious concern, especially for organizations that host, store, or transfer customer/client/employee data. This is yet another reason why you should always keep the larger cloud providers in mind; they often have much more extensive budgets of which more generous portions are generally devoted toward security. As a rule, the bigger a cloud provider is, the more they have to lose. So, in order to grow and preserve their operation (as well as better service their clientele) they must fight harder to stay ahead of the vandals, hackers and ne’er-do-wells.

In keeping in line with the concept of security is stability; or rather, the long-term viability of your cloud service provider. In the same way that you would never attempt to build a house upon ground that is not solid (or is perhaps prone to dramatic shifts), you certainly don’t want to place all of your company’s data as well as its future in the hands of a fly-by-night provider. Simply put, you should choose a provider that’s going to both stick around and hopefully grow with your organization. Basically, you want a cloud provider that’s strong enough to endure any and all future changes as well as weather through the competition it might face in the market.

Let’s not forget about service level agreements (SLA) either, right? As with any other type of organization you plan on doing business with in an extended capacity, contracts and agreements are usually necessary to outline responsibilities, obligations, and codes. This is an area where you really should consider forming a joint committee of lawyers, managers and IT strategists in order to chart out potential plans and future pitfalls. Without a great SLA in place, you might find yourself in a situation where your cloud service provider makes life very difficult for your organization.

Remote data backups, storage access and disaster recovery are also very important considerations which should not be overlooked. While it’s not likely that your provider’s cloud will experience a complete catastrophic “melt-down”, their plans for ensuring the safely of their customer’s applications and data in the event of the unforeseen should be discussed. Many of the top cloud providers these days actually employ a system of daily or even hourly remote backups which copy data across multiple servers in an effort to make complete data loss virtually impossible.  

Regardless of what type of cloud service provider you choose, the aforementioned concerns should give you a much better idea about what you need to be looking for. While it’s important that a vendor is able to offer you a buffet of individual software / hardware virtualizations solutions / options, you must also make sure that they have some of the basics covered. The truth is, you get what you pay for. If a cloud provider seems to be offering an incredible number of perks at a severely reduced price you should tread carefully.

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