Choosing an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider can be a daunting task. One way you can simplify shopping and ensure you end up with the right provider is to compare your options. Try these six ways to look at services side by side and find the best solution for your business.
Price is a priority for most enterprises, and it’s one of the easiest ways to compare IaaS providers. Different prices will be available based on whether you’re shopping for public cloud, internal, private cloud, or hosted cloud service. Public cloud services, for example, are often charged per hour or even per minute of use. Internal private cloud services are more expensive but better suited for long-term computing needs.
It’s worth looking not only at the cost of services but the pricing structures available. For example, if you’ll be using cloud services intermittently, you may benefit from weekly or monthly rates or those limited to gigabytes or smaller units of storage. If you’ll be using the system more intensely, you may want a fixed rate to avoid the fluctuations that variable pricing would create.
Image via Flickr by Yu. Samoilov
Every cloud service also provides options in terms of scalability. In general, you want to pick a provider that offers lots of scalabilities. This way, the service can grow with your company without you having to worry about upgrading software or finding a new provider in the middle of an expansion. Cloud services with good scalability can also easily reduce their scope should you decide to narrow your business or downsize.
Prioritize scalability if you’re in a customer-centric or volatile industry. Also ask about features like automatic load balancing, which helps manage servers during spikes in traffic.
Whether you should pick a public, internal, private, or hosted cloud service depends greatly on how much you plan to use the cloud and how long you want to work with a provider. Public clouds, for example, generally don’t require a long-term commitment, but they’re not intended for daily use. Private cloud services are more expensive than public options if you need to use the cloud every day. Private cloud providers usually offer 3- to 5-year contracts.
Compare providers based on the languages each one supports. If you plan on hosting and writing your own apps, you’ll need to confirm that the cloud service is compatible with your preferred programming language.
Your provider must be able to protect your company’s data and explain what security features you need to keep your software safe. Once you have your system setup, you’ll have to follow the cloud security best practices for the services you’re using. With storage accounts, for example, you have to enable “secure transfer required” and “storage service encryption.” For SQL servers, you have to enable “auditing,” “threat detection,” and other features.
Check that the providers you’re considering follow these best practices and can help you optimize your security if you’re unfamiliar with any hardware or software. Also, any provider you work with should have 24/7 automated monitoring and management of the infrastructure.
User reviews and professional reviews can provide third-party opinions on a product. This is a wonderful way to narrow your options further once you’ve found several providers that meet your IaaS needs. Look for users who are also business owners to find relevant suggestions.
As you read through user reviews and professional recommendations, pay attention to how often usability is brought up and whether this an advantage or disadvantage of the company you’re considering. Even if you or your tech team has lots of experience, a clean interface with adjustable settings will make your life much easier. Plus, if a system is known for its usability, any members of your team who don’t specialize in cloud infrastructure can still use the software safely and confidently.
What settings can you adjust on your end, and what are you expecting your software provider to handle? It’s important that you have access to all the tools you need and that the company is qualified to handle the services you’re expecting them to.
This is another area where reading through user reviews, and firsthand accounts is key. Look for recommendations from businesses like yours. Usability is critical when it comes to tools, as well. If a service offers lots of great features, but it’s hard to use them, they won’t be very beneficial to you.
Obviously, you want a provider that has the services you need today. But you should also consider the services you might need further down the road. Note that this is different than scalability — a platform may have no problem adjusting to accommodate more or fewer users, but not all companies can provide custom machines or the tools to control your virtual server in the cloud. If you find yourself needing these services but your current provider doesn’t offer them, transitioning to a different solution could be expensive and time-consuming.
Do you want your network to work as soon as possible out of the box with minimal changes? Or do you need to customize every aspect for the purposes of things like application development and internet-scale solutions? Think carefully about customization tools and features to ensure you’re not paying for services you don’t need or wind up in a contract with a company that doesn’t provide essential tools.
Shopping for an IaaS provider can be overwhelming, but you can simplify the process by comparing your options. Consider companies using the factors above to find the right cloud solution for your business.