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How to Choose the Right Cloud Computing Service Provider

The cloud, like every other computing platform, has to be managed. Once you've decided to move to a cloud, the next most important decision is to choose the right cloud computing service provider. Investigating the reliability and viability of a cloud provider is one of the most complex areas faced when managing the cloud.

You have to do your homework when evaluating the providers. Evaluate their experience in the market, the type of partnerships they’ve established, and their reputation in the market. You can also talk to other customers that have used their services. Before committing to a provider consider the following.

Cloud Administration

It’s particularly important for IT departments to enable administration systems that let them monitor every dimension of the service they’re getting.

  • Service level agreements and monitoring

    Every company that buys any service from a cloud service provider must either accept a standard service level agreement (SLA) from the provider or negotiate such an agreement.

    No organization should commit mission-critical systems to the cloud without negotiating an SLA that includes significant penalties for not delivering the promised service level.

  • Support

    Support problems don’t disappear when applications or infrastructures move to the cloud. You have to make sure that support targets are agreed on in advance with a cloud services provider. Therefore, your company must align its internal support team to deal with both internal customers and the cloud provider.

  • Billing and accounting

    One cloud benefit is that, as a customer you can acquire just as much capability as needed. Billing and account management must be automated so that customers can monitor what they’re using and how much it costs.

    Customers can run up unexpected bills if they can’t accurately track usage.

Cloud Technical Interface

To take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing the proper technical interface must be in place. Companies that have already moved to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) will be find this transition easier.

  • APIs and data transformations

    A cloud’s Application Programming Interface (API) is the software interface that lets your company’s infrastructure or applications plug in to the cloud. This is perhaps the most important place for standardization. For an organization to easily build connections between its internal data center and the cloud, it must use standardized APIs and data transformation capabilities.

  • Data and application architecture

    New internally created services that support the business’s changing demands must operate with cloud ecosystems. These services may need to migrate to and from the cloud. This means that it will have to build an architecture that’s modular enough to allow services to move between various cloud platforms.

    To be effective, data also has to be packaged and managed. The IT organization needs to manage data independently of the underlying packaged application, transactional system, or data environment such as a warehouse. Your organization needs to start with consistent definitions of data elements to manage cloud-based information services.

  • Security in the cloud

    Companies planning to use cloud services must be assured of tight, well-defined security services. Many levels of security are required within a cloud environment:

    • Identity management: For example, so that any application service or even hardware component can be authorized on a personal or group role basis.

    • Access control: There also needs to be the right level of access control within the cloud environment to protect the security of resources.

    • Authorization and authentication: There must be an authentication mechanism so the right people can change applications and data.

    A comprehensive security infrastructure must be provided at all levels and types of cloud services. Developers also need tools that allow them to secure the services they design to be delivered in the cloud. Organizations need consistent security across their own data center environments that intersect with a cloud service.

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