Cloud Transformation Series: How to Choose the Best Cloud Partner

Donna Parsons | July 21, 2016

In part 2 of our cloud conversation, we’re going to look at the various factors that go into choosing a cloud provider and strategies to evaluate them. If you didn’t get a chance to read part 1, The Number One Success Factor for Moving to the Cloud, I’d encourage you to do so before reading this post.

Cloud Transformation Series: How to Choose the Best Cloud Partner

The Options

First of all, the term “cloud” has become so overused it is hard to remember that it represents a spectrum of services. The thing to remember is that you have choices, so don’t let yourself get pressured by firms with all or nothing scenarios. You need to look for providers that let you buy as much or as little “cloud” as you need, and a platform that can grow with you.

You’ve probably heard the acronyms:  SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. You want to start by understanding the difference between these options.

Technology Service Terms

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This is the answer to the question, “How can I keep my data safe and always running in a secure, controlled environment?” This is referring to your hardware and software located and running somewhere else.  You provide the equipment and software, including storage, hardware, servers, and networking components and the provider takes care of housing, running, and maintaining it.  Sometimes also called Hardware as a Service (HaaS) or Data virtualization.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS): This is for the techies in the crowd – it is a dedicated space or development area in the cloud.  If your team is busy cranking out ideas for new applications, PaaS is the quickest way to develop it and serve it up to a global audience without any expensive up front infrastructure costs.  It scales beautifully – as application demand rises, you can easily increase capacity to meet your needs.
  3. Software as a Service (Saas):  Odds are you are already using something via a SaaS model, whether in business or in your personal life. It’s the fastest growing cloud area – largely due to our increased preference to work from anywhere on any device. Typically this is a pay-as-you-go model, where all you bring to the party is an internet connection. You don't have to own any hardware or software, the vendor or publisher does everything for you, and the subscription price includes the cost of the software and a fee to host it on the vendor's server.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably are running a “hybrid” cloud model, which is just a fancy way of saying that you have some software running on premise and some that you subscribe to.

Things to Consider for Cloud Adoption

When you start to consider moving those on premises solutions to the cloud, or are looking at a significant new software purchase and are choosing between models, you need to take into consideration the following factors:

  • Your in-house IT resources, their availability and their knowledge of the specific solution
  • How much control you want over the operation, customization and upkeep of the solution
  • Degree of integrations you think you will need with other solutions you currently use, and any that you plan to add to the mix
  • Budget for ongoing hardware and software upgrades.

It’s a fact of life that servers wear out, capacity gets consumed, and software updates come along offering new functionality. These represent significant ongoing costs for on premises deployments.  Cloud migration can often mitigate those costs. You have to do the math, though. Here’s how you can start:

  • Conduct an internal IT audit of your resources and all of your systems, including the licensing and annual costs. Pay particular attention to any older software solutions you have. It may be worthwhile to update or even abandon them in favor of more current solutions. Legacy systems are often bloated and pose challenges in hosted environments.
  • Work through a systemized approach to procure a new vendor and platform. When you are armed with a list of your needs, you can better evaluate the vendors. We’ve itemized some of the key recommendations for you here:
  1. Start by talking to your professional network for referrals.
  2. Make sure the vendor is focused on understanding how you do business and what you want to accomplish with the cloud migration.
  3. Include leadership in the decision. It’s a business critical mission, moving to the cloud. You need understanding and buy-in from the top.
  4. Listen to what the vendors highlight the most. If they focus only on the service level guarantee, for example, you might want to probe a little more to ensure they have business advisory expertise too. Anyone can run a server farm. You want a partner in technology.
  5. Use a tried and true interview tactic – ask them of a time they failed a client and how they handled it.
  6. Explore their experience with others in your industry.
  7. Understand that your needs will change over time. You need a vendor that can scale with you.
  8. Ask about the monitoring they provide and how you are notified of any anomalies.
  9. Speaking of reporting, make sure you are getting regular snapshots of usage.
  10. Know where your data center will be located. This is particularly important for global organizations. Regulations are different and network availability and latency issues can arise.
  11. When comparing costs, which can be difficult, look for vendors with clear, transparent communication. Don’t let dollars hide in vague line items.
  12. Look for a vendor that is flexible; don’t get locked into a situation where your data can’t be easily transitioned to another model.
  13. Keep in mind that excellence can be found in any size vendor. Smaller, niche providers can often serve specific markets better than the big guys.

Most organizations end up with a hybrid cloud solution, keeping some systems on premises and hosting others online. When you have your short list, you can start positioning the technology factors and business factors against each, coming up with a solid solution that will grow with you.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll share lessons I’ve learned while working at Crestwood and helping with many cloud migrations.

Want to learn more about moving to the cloud? Discuss your project plans with one of our migration experts by calling 847-232-8206. You can also contact me directly: dkrizik@crestwood.com.

Donna Parsons

Director of Marketing at Crestwood Associates LLC.

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