How to find the right cloud vendor

How do I find the right Cloud vendor? They all say they provide “cloud”, but what do they really mean? These are important questions that need to be answered, not only for your Cloud production environment but also for good disaster recovery strategies.

Here is a list of items you should consider before implementation of a cloud solution:

  • Do they allow dedicated memory, CPU and SAN?
  • Do they provide high speed data recall?
  • Do they provide high availability servers?
  • What types of servers and OSs do they support?
  • Do you have the ability to scale up or down dynamically and immediately?
  • Do they have a simplified server launch or do you have to be an IT guru to do this?
  • Can you upload ISO images?
  • Can you continuously backup or schedule backups without daily intervention?
  • Do they offer bandwidth throttling and time blocking for backups?
  • Can you backup or store copies in a separate sector of the Vendor’s Cloud?
  • Can you take snapshots of an entire server that includes OS, configs, apps and data?
  • Can they seed your backups for large amounts (TBs) of data to eliminate initial bandwidth issues?
  • Can backups for multiple systems be stored on one server (accounting, marketing, customer service and desktops, all on one backup server)?
  • Is server failover included?
  • Is there SAN failover?
  • Do they offer zone to zone failover?
  • Can you create your own server templates and store them?
  • Are you in control of the encryption levels?
  • Does your data stay encrypted, even in storage (from the moment it leaves your machine)?
  • Are you in control of the length of time data and backups are stored?
  • Is retention automated or manual and can you create retention rules?
  • How well do they integrate VPNs and create completely private sectors?
  • What levels of physical security do they provide at their data centers?
  • Where are their data centers?  (Remember earthquake zones could have one cable break every 16 miles in a severe event, so even if the center is intact, the network may not be.)
  • How many Tier 1 backbones are there in their network?
  • What are the limits of their networks and rack/server capacity?
  • What is their SLA and support agreement for the long term?
  • Do they offer training?
  • Do they offer professional services if you need consulting or help getting started?
  • Do they offer a DR planning tool as well?
  • If you need to do chargebacks for company divisions, do they offer billing integration and reporting?

Those are a few questions to get started in the process. Cloud is complex when you begin to integrate it with other platforms for hosts and storage. Making sure you ask all the appropriate security questions is also important. Is your marketing strategy to offer public cloud? If so, the security becomes the customer's responsibility. If you need private cloud because of regulatory requirements, be sure to work with your vendor to determine what your network configuration options are to allow the cloud integration to function fully, without compromising the security of your data.

This is all aside from what the vendor charges for their services or hardware. Don’t be afraid to drive a hard bargain with your requirements and expectations during the negotiation phase. Once you have the cost comparisons and compare the critical features, it does not take long to see who has the greatest reliability, scalability, availability, security and provides the most control for the best price.

Having your technical team sit down with the vendor’s technical team prior to any contractual agreement is worth the effort and expense to have all the questions answered and to help both sides understand the requirements and limitations. By taking the time before contract signing to answer the questions and investigating all options, you will save your company time and expense at the end of the day.