Seven questions to ask before selecting a cloud provider

Cloud adoption is essential for digital transformation, but too often, there are unwanted surprises in the process.

How can this be avoided? Choosing the right cloud provider to meet your business needs is key. With an increasing number of companies offering a growing menu of solutions, that can be a challenge.

To sort it out, we spoke with Jason Bremner, Research Vice President, Industry and Business Solutions, at IDC Canada. Bremner said there are seven questions you should ask before selecting a cloud provider, and he shared his advice to make sure you get the answers you need.

  1. Why am I moving to cloud?

    When thinking about a move to the cloud, I advise clients to start with their business strategy. This helps establish a clear cloud adoption strategy that is tied to your business priorities. I recommend clients look for a provider that has the expertise to understand your business goals and to address those goals in your cloud strategy

  2. What cloud computing options does the provider offer and support?

    IDC predicts that by 2021, over 90 per cent of enterprises worldwide will rely on a mix of public and private cloud services and on-premises platforms. My advice is to plan for this and look for a cloud provider that gives you the flexibility to run workloads across a variety of cloud options. For example, suppose you want to put a mission critical workload in the public cloud, but it has performance requirements that prohibit the option of a virtual server. In this case, a bare metal public cloud offering may suit your needs. Cloud providers, like IBM, have new products to deliver services across a range of premises, including public cloud, on-site and edge locations.

    You should also think about management and visibility across all platforms. Look for a solution that allows you to automate deployment and management from a single control panel, no matter where the workload resides.

  3. What service level agreements does the cloud provider offer to meet your performance requirements?

    A recent IDC survey found that 36 per cent of Canadian enterprises are revisiting their business continuity plans because of the pandemic. Application downtime or slowdowns are not acceptable for many organizations in today’s digital world.

    To address these issues, we advise clients to determine the performance and uptime levels they need for applications. If you plan to use the public cloud, look to a provider that offers high level of performance and uptime. They can offer higher availability by using multiple data centres linked together, so that one can fail-over to the other.

    To achieve continuous availability, you will need a provider with multiple data centres that are close enough geographically to avoid network latency.For example, IBM Canada will be launching its multi-zone region in Toronto later this year to support mission-critical workloads.

  4. What security measures are in place to protect your data?

    Security is always a top concern in cloud decisions, according to IDC research.

    Consider a provider’s security measures to protect your data and its track record in the effectiveness of those measures. Ask about their practices with regard to ISO security standards, security certifications for staff, how often technologies are updated, whether they use subcontractors, physical security and data access controls.

    As well, make sure that your data is encrypted with a hardware security module-based digital key and you are the only one with access to it. An example of such a solution is IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Services, which provides the level of encryption that banks use with a “keep your own key” approach.

  5. What compliance processes does the provider have to stay up to date with regulations that may affect your data?

    IDC research has found that 52 per cent of business executives in Canada are concerned about regulatory compliance.

    Look for a cloud provider that has certified its cloud solutions to meet common privacy regulations like PIPEDA and GDPR, as well as specific industry regulations. We are seeing more industry regulatory compliance rules being built into policy frameworks that govern applications in the public cloud. As an example, IBM has designed one specifically to meet regulations for the financial services industry.

    If data residency is a concern, make sure that you can keep the data in Canada, but also any services that touch the data, such as an AI service in another country.

  6. What are the provider’s pricing structure and terms?

    This is a big concern because organizations hear stories of how costs to move to the cloud exceeded expectations.

    Be sure to look at the cost drivers of each provider’s solutions. Consider the overall costs such as the amount of cloud services you expect to consume. And consider how much data ingress and egress you will have, as this is often a misunderstood cost. Take a close look at the provider’s pricing structure. You might like the cost predictability of long-term prices, but you may be locked-in to a price that should be coming down in the future.

  7. What support is available to help move workloads or to provide management across cloud environments?

    You should think about whether your organization has the skills to move workloads to the cloud. IDC research shows that less than one-quarter of Canadian enterprises rate their in-house abilities as high. I think most organizations would prefer to have more confidence in their abilities as they make the journey to cloud, which is why we see many of them working with professional services firms to aid them.

    If you want outside help, look for a provider with a strong track record of moving customers to the cloud and managing workloads. Make sure the provider can address your pain points. And where feasible, look for a single provider that can provide both the technology and professional services to ensure your technology investments reinforce your business strategy.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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