Cloud Services Tag

Selecting a Cloud Services Provider

The choice of a cloud provider can determine the success or failure of your project. When researching potential cloud providers it is critical to look behind brand and market share to be sure the services they deliver fit you needs for the time frame you need them. A great company may provide a great service, but it may not fit you needs today or it may not be able to adapt to your needs as they change. Here are a few thoughts to aid when evaluating cloud providers:

  1. Demonstrated expertise in the specific services you need – Look for a provider with deep knowledge and experience delivering the specific service you need. Some cloud providers are generalists and that may be OK if your needs are not specific, but if you are primarily looking to the cloud to deploy a specific application, them look for a provider with experience deploying and hosting that application. If you need a specific service like storage or disaster recovery, then look for a provider that specializes in those services. Ask prospective service providers for a list of engagements with your proposed project. Follow up by asking what worked well in each engagement and what needed improvement and find out what corrective actions were taken to improve for the future.
  2. Vendors need a vision that matches your needs and timeframe – Seek service providers with clear vision of where their service offerings are going. Do this by understanding their roadmap. Analyse how this roadmap matches your requirements and timeframes. Will the provider have the scale you need as your requirements grow? Will their features be competitive with those of other providers over time? Do they have the administrative features you need to scale, document and manager your cloud deployment? If you a looking for a long term partner, be sure they have a roadmap that not only meets you needs, but gives them the staying power for the future.
  3. Infrastructure Capabilities – Ask your prospective service providers about their infrastructure. Understand the SLA they provide and what they do to ensure they meet or exceed it. What do they do if they have a failure? Do they have multiple data centers? If your prpject will run 24/7, do the prospective vendors have the abilities to support your team 24/7? This information will allow you to determine if they can provide you the uptime your business needs.
  4. Global expertise. Cloud services go global quickly and easily. If you plan to need a global deployment, be sure to select a partner with international experience and presence. Can they support content distribution in Europe? Do they have infrastructure in the regions important to your business? Do they have people that can communicate effectively with your international offices?
  5. Cloud integration experience – Most cloud deployments need to integrate to other cloud based services. Be sure your potential vendor has experience doing web services integration with the various services you are planning to use. Do they have other customers leveraging those services now? Can they support your efforts to integrate your project with other services?
  6. Hire a company you trust and that is staffed with people you like – You are forging a long-term relationship with the provider and they will be responsible for a big part of your business. Be sure your team’s culture matches the culture at the provider. In the end, experience and reputation only go so far. Your project will not succeed unless you trust the team sitting across the table. Be sure to do business with companies that place your company’s success at the top of their list each day.

The importance of cloud services vendor selection is possibly the most critical choice you make in a a cloud deployment. The right choice will keep your service running to meet your needs today and in the future, but a poor choice will almost guarantee failure. We often think that cloud makes everything simple and easy, any business transformation effort requires the right experience and capabilities. Be sure your prospective vendor has the right ingredients and fit for your company’s needs.


Cloud Services for SMBs

The cloud has evolved to a point where I see no advantage to a new SMB investing in Exchange & SharePoint on premise solutions. Too many very good hosted solutions are available today to justify new investment in these systems. For existing SMBs with current on-premise systems, they should consider migrating to cloud based solutions as their maintenance contracts come up for renewal. Naturally, they need to look at the ROI of the migration, being sure to include the cost of the migration, but I am confident that in most cases the near term ROI in such a project will be excellent.

Recently, with the BPOS and AWS outages, a lot has been written about the availability and reliability of the cloud for these applications, this is where the SMB and their advisor need to be realistic about how the on-premise solutions they put together actually perform relative to modern cloud solutions. I argue that the best on-premise solution in an SMB will never approach the availability, security and reliability or performance of a well designed cloud implementation.

A newly formed SMB also needs to consider the alternatives to Exchange, SharePoint, etc. available today as well. For example, Gmail is a great way to get a hosted email solution going with almost no cost.

The cloud creates a lot of possibilities for SMBs: improved functionality, lower risk, less management overhead, lower cost to name a few. The channel has even greater opportunity to reshape their businesses to better serve their customers by leverage these unique cloud based solutions that deliver far better value and functionality compared to the traditional approach. The open minded and nimble VARs will find the right balance of cloud solutions for their customers and become the leaders in their markets, the others will be stuck in the past.