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How to Work with a Service Provider in Cloud Computing

4 of 17 in Series: The Essentials of Services in Cloud Computing

Many types of cloud computing service providers are required to provide management services. The cloud provider has to make sure that it has a well-designed management infrastructure so that all of its services operate efficiently and safely. Unlike a traditional data center, the cloud service provider has to manage both virtual as well as physical components.

The provider has to make sure that each customer’s data is well protected and supported. When the provider has done a good job, you may be unaware of it. This is something the customer rarely ever sees.

Managing based on cloud services

Management service types depend on the type of cloud service the vendor provides. For example, a vendor providing cheap storage may not necessarily have a sophisticated set of management services. Another provider might have different levels of customer support and may act more like an outsourced service provider.

Managing several cloud providers

You may end up working with several different cloud providers. Although each vendor will have its own management services, your organization is responsible for oversight.

Here’s a simple scenario that drives home this point: Assume you have contracted with a SaaS service to manage your sales leads. This company doesn’t have its own cloud center, so they contract an IaaS provider. When something goes wrong, it may be tough to figure out the source. If you’re the customer using the SaaS application, you’ll call your provider. How sophisticated is their service management system? Can they quickly trace the cause of the problem?

It may be harder than it seems. For example, the problem might occur because the platform provider just upgraded to a new version of an operating system and forgot to upgrade a script or a component. The problem may be a power outage.

Many companies today are using emerging cloud providers that offer very inexpensive, or even free, services. While this can dramatically improve your bottom line, it may also cause problems. What happens when your free service quits working? Some free (or nearly so) services provide online service status updates, but many do not.

Many of these issues related to service levels and oversight in the cloud are a function of the relative immaturity of the cloud market itself. It may be hard to assess how sophisticated the service management environment of a specific cloud provider is. In fact, you’ll likely sign up with a SaaS provider without knowing anything about the way it manages its own environment. However, this may be one of the most important questions to ask, especially if you’re dependent on the application.

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