How to pick a cloud your CIO will love: Three questions to ask

It will come as no surprise to those of you already leveraging cloud services that Forrester Research predicted that in 2018, cloud computing will become a must-have business technology. The scalability, agility and cost model allow IT teams to redirect their energy toward accelerating business initiatives without worrying about costly infrastructure investments.

As many have learned, however, it’s important when evaluating cloud providers to look closely at various elements of their services. Comparing quotes and services from different providers isn’t comparing apples to apples. Make sure you take into account the compatibility, accessibility, visibility, resiliency, security and support that is associated with the services from any provider – along with any indirect or intangible costs that may result from making the switch.

So, where do you begin? What questions do you ask as you evaluate cloud providers? After more than a decade spent helping customers migrate to the cloud for hosting, backup and disaster recovery use cases, here are some key questions we’ve identified:

What are the migration options to the cloud?

It is important to evaluate how you will migrate into a new environment with the least amount of reconfiguration and change possible. Account for details like the technologies you already have in place, your networking specifications and if you have any physical workloads to consider. To help make the migration as smooth as possible, ask yourself:

  • What do you move?
  • How will you get it there?
  • What technologies and tools does the provider use while assisting their customers during the transition?
  • Do they provide a managed migration service?
  • How can I identify and prioritise workloads for migration and will the provider help me with that process?

Does the cloud provider have options to support third-party networking capabilities?

As more and more organisations embrace the hybrid cloud, they look to leverage the networking options they utilise on-premises with their cloud services. This lessens the overhead of mixed technologies and skill sets and simplifies communication between systems. Ask the cloud provider what networking technologies are supported and who manages those systems. Are devices provisioned for you, or is self-service deployment the only option? Is it virtual or physical? Who manages the device once it’s installed, and will support help with connection issues? Connectivity is paramount to continuous business operations from your site to the cloud, and cloud networking can be complex. Choose a provider who can work with your existing environment to lessen the overall impact.

What about compliance and security in the cloud?

It is increasingly important to think about security and compliance when running both on-premises and cloud workloads. When implementing a hybrid cloud environment, make sure that you evaluate whether the cloud providers you are considering include built-in security and compliance tools that are available on the cloud platform itself. These tools need to be at least robust as, or even more robust, than what you currently have in your data centre. Be sure to ask about the visibility and alerting available within security and compliance settings and if the provider will assist with remediation actions as well as compliance requirements for any regulatory audits your cloud workloads will need to be governed by.

As data protection laws and regulations come into place, especially with the onset of Brexit and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it’s important to verify that the cloud provider handles your data in accordance with data sovereignty and local data laws. You may be in a situation in which data cannot leave a certain country or geographic region. Make sure you understand how your cloud provider leverages their load balancing technology. You’ll want to know if this is regulated for you, and if the provider can guarantee data sovereignty and that it is not sent somewhere it shouldn’t be.

The journey to the cloud is all about removing the overhead of infrastructure and focusing IT resources on delivering value to the business. Choosing a cloud provider is one of the biggest IT challenges out there. The cloud provider needs to be able to meet your existing needs across capacity, services, support, security and compliance and be able to scale and grow for your future goals. Moving to the cloud is a major investment and choosing wisely the first time will avoid the pain of moving providers and the challenges that can bring.