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Five things to look for in a cloud partner

Moving your technology infrastructure to the cloud becomes an obvious decision when you look at the business case, the cost savings and the benefits it can deliver to improve your competitiveness and bolster the bottom line. The question is, how do you choose a cloud partner, and are they all created equal?

Being able to deliver the best cloud service, at the lowest cost with high reliability and guaranteed security is not as simple as packing up your servers and shifting them to a data centre. So what do you really need to know, and what questions should you be asking your cloud provider?

1) What type of support does the cloud provider offer, and how much will it cost?

If you’re going to market for cloud services and the provider places limits on the support it offers, or wants to charge support fees, you might want to ask why these fees are being applied. Shopping around for a provider that can deliver a high quality, reliable service with no additional support fees could be a good indicator that they are willing to back their value proposition with a SLA (service level agreement) that counts.

2) What is a native cloud provider, and why does it matter?

Cloud provisioning is arguably the biggest shift in technology infrastructure management to occur in years, and for good reason. And plenty of traditional IT providers and integrators are scrambling to get a slice of the action. But are all providers equal? Are they offering native cloud solutions that work as intended, or have they simply shifted their modus operandi from a traditional IT provider to look like a cloud provider?

A native cloud provider will scale its infrastructure by building everything to scale, adding servers to their server farm in a systematic and methodical way. Traditional system integrators and IT providers will not do this, instead simply scaling on demand, a process that is full of risks. A native cloud provider will build every server in exactly the same way, using a back-end system that is fully tested. The benefit to customers is that the result is predictable and the outcome for the user is a pure play cloud environment that just works.

3) How long will it take to implement a cloud solution?

This is very much dependant on the size of the business. For example, a small business can be up and running in just one day, while enterprises that may be running complex line of business applications will take around four weeks to do acceptance testing. This acceptance testing is normally done while waiting for telecommunications lines to be installed, a process that generally takes around the same amount of time depending on the provider. Once the lines are installed, the system is up and ready to go.

The main thing to look for here is the experience of the cloud provider in managing the type of migration similar to your business requirements.

4) Does it just work?

Enterprises of all sizes expect that moving to a cloud environment will shift the load of running an IT infrastructure to a provider running best of breed security, support and uptime. Partnering with a cloud provider that has a solid track record with cloud migration; will work with you on due diligence; and offer you a service that just works from day one–with SLA’s attached–should be what you look for.

Migrating from on premise to the cloud is a completely different process to migrating from old to new equipment in-house. In general, a migration from an on premise infrastructure to the cloud will begin on a Friday afternoon and tends to be completed by the next day. When your employees arrive for work on Monday morning, the IT systems should be working normally because, aside from a security log-in, everything should look and perform just as it did before the cloud migration. This allows users to get on with their jobs, which is in stark contrast to an on premise migration, which can be extremely disruptive to staff and business continuity.

5) Is a long term contract for cloud provisioning the only option?

Is your cloud provider confident enough in their cloud services to invest in turning a happy customer into a loyal customer? Establishment fees, signing fees, implementation fees, support fees, upgrade fees – just what are all the hidden extras you’ll be paying for over the life of your fixed term contract? It’s really worthwhile shopping around and asking your provider some tough questions about lock-in contracts, inclusions, pay per use charges, support fees and what you get in return from your investment. Comparing offerings and pricing structures is a step well worth taking. When you’re ready for the cloud, find a cloud provider who is prepared to back their value proposition and get you into the cloud with an SLA-based contract that’s flexible, enforceable and geared to help you get your business cloud-ready quickly.

About the Author:

Written by Andrew Tucker, founder and CEO, ITonCloud.

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