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March 7, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:16pm

How to get the most from your cloud provider

You've spent the cash. Make sure you get what you've paid for.

By Duncan Macrae

You’ve made the decision and moved your critical business data to the cloud. The benefits that you expected are being realised and you’re reassured that you’ve made the right decision for your business.

Russel Ridgley, head of cloud services, Pulsant, gives a few step-by-step pointers on how to ensure your cloud solution is doing all it needs to for your business.

Define your expectations

Cloud seems to be the answer to a great many business challenges and issues, and an overall good idea. But the reality is that unless you define exactly what your requirements and expectations are, it may be difficult to match what you need with what you have. You need a cloud solution that is tailored to your specific business and technical requirements and not the other way around. Consideration must be given to your users, IT infrastructure, and types of data you have (sensitive information, payment details, customer records, etc.) You should also determine whether all your data and systems will be migrated to the cloud or if some will remain hosted internally – depending on legal requirements, data centre location and data sovereignty issues.

Choosing the right model

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Cloud is not a one size fits all product and realising this early on will help in getting the most benefit from the solution that you ultimately adopt. Again, the model is based on your business and user requirements and can include SaaS (software as a service), IaaS (infrastructure as a service) or PaaS (platform as a service).

One of the key considerations here is scalability. As a growing business there is the expectation that data needs will also increase, but it is the scope of this expansion that affects planning. While server and infrastructure platforms are easy to scale up and can be supplied in significant capacity, software can present a slightly bigger challenge as it often lies at the heart of how the service works. This, however, is a larger issue for start-ups and SMEs than it would be for larger corporations who are better positioned and experienced in coping with server stacks.

Who do you trust?

Migration of data to the cloud is essentially giving a third party your most valuable asset and trusting that they have the capacity, capabilities and security to keep it safe from hackers and cyber criminals while making it available to you and your business at all times. As a result selecting your cloud provider is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks you’ll face. Your cloud provider should, ideally, be an established one with a good reputation in the marketplace, one that will work with you to create the solution to match your needs. More than that, your cloud provider must guarantee availability, uptime, service and security – most of which should be covered by a comprehensive SLA.

 

Customise your SLA

Your cloud provider should be guaranteeing specific service outcomes, which are built into your SLA. The more comprehensive the SLA is, the more assurances you have from your provider that they can meet the expected outcomes. Consider, for example, that many providers may guarantee losses of less than 0.1 per cent or uptime of 99.9 per cent. On paper it looks sound, but what it actually could equate to is several days of downtime per year. Providers that offer or guarantee less than this may not have the confidence in their own resources or skills and may not be able to meet your other outcomes.

Security

One of the benefits of having a managed service is that a lot more energy, resources and skills are dedicated to security. Data centre operators and cloud providers make security one of their three key drivers (alongside availability and reliability) and it begins with an ISO 27001 accreditation. Data security – through encryption, firewalls, etc. – and physical security of the data centre is guaranteed. Effectively this ensures that all patches, updated and security audits are completed as a matter of course and this allows your in-house IT staff to commit their resources to handling other issues.

 

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