Five Questions to Ask Prospective Cloud Vendors

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Choosing the right vendor is an essential part of any successful cloud-based project. The wrong vendor with the wrong platform can jeopardize project deadlines, increase costs, and, in the worst cases, lead to the failure of the project.

When cloud platforms first came into being a decade ago, the term “cloud” had a well defined technical meaning. Over the intervening years, that name has been co-opted by vendors of wildly varying capabilities. Everyone from shared hosting providers to virtual private server hosts via traditional dedicated server hosts (now bare metal clouds) have taken on the mantle of the cloud. And even within what might be called the traditional cloud space, there is considerable variance of technical ability and offered services.

I’d like to suggest five questions prospective cloud clients can put to cloud platform providers to establish that they’re a good match. These aren’t the only questions you might ask, and they aren’t the only questions you should ask, but they’re important enough that they should be asked of every cloud infrastructure provider.

1. What Industry Certifications Do You Have?

In the modern infrastructure hosting industry, it can be difficult to distinguish technical claims from marketing hype. That’s true across all areas of concern, from security to availability and performance.

The best way to be certain that a particular vendor has their bases covered is external verification. Is the data center SSAE 16 certified? Has the company been externally audited as PCI compliant?

Make an effort to understand the needs of your project and the relevant industry certifications before approaching a vendor.

2. Is Your Platform Designed For High-Availability?

In a nutshell, high-availability means multiply redundant. Some cloud vendors build platforms that are inherently high-availability, and some rely on the client to architect redundant systems with the building blocks they provide.

You need to understand which of these applies to your vendor’s cloud platform. The result of misunderstanding can be catastrophic. If you believe the vendor is making multiple redundant copies of your data and they aren’t, when a cloud node fails your data may go with it.

3. What Management Services Do You Offer?

This is another area in which there’s significant variance between cloud vendors. Some of the biggest cloud vendors offer essentially no management services. You get the platform and its capabilities: for anything else, you’re on your own.

That may be exactly what you’re looking for, but many companies don’t have the expertise to make the most of a cloud platform or prefer to outsource much of the management to their vendor. A cloud vendor with comprehensive management services can help such companies make more effective and secure use of the cloud.

4. Do You Offer A Comprehensive API?

A comprehensive API is a major differentiator between true cloud platforms and simple VPS hosts. One of the benefits of using a cloud platform is that it can be automated and controlled with code. For very small cloud infrastructure deployments, this doesn’t matter too much, but the flexibility of larger deployments can be limited if everything must be managed via a web interface.

5. Do You Understand What We Need?

Whether a company asks this question of a vendor depends on their specific requirements. Some companies prefer a hands-off vendor that provides the infrastructure and tools they need and nothing more. Many companies, however, prefer to opt for a vendor that understands their specific use-case and can offer support and management services to help the company achieve its goals.

If your company falls into the latter group, make sure that the vendor understands what you want to achieve and is capable of offering support to help you get there.

As I said at the beginning of this article, the five questions I’ve discussed by no means represent everything you need to know about your cloud vendor, but keeping them in mind will help a company choose a suitable, reliable, and supportive cloud vendor, facilitating the success of cloud infrastructure projects.

About the Author

Justin Blanchard has been responsible for leading initiatives that increase brand visibility, sales growth and B2B community engagement. He has been at the core of developing systems, tools and processes that specifically align with Server Mania’s client’s needs.

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