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Top 5

Keys to Evaluating Cloud Services

by Scott Feuless

Evaluating and selecting a new cloud computing service is a complex task, and the media/service provider hype-scape can cause customers to overlook critical issues that lead to problems down the road. Consider these Top 5  factors before making a decision—or risk making the wrong one.

1. Compare costs in all of their complexity. Simply looking for the lowest cost per virtual server instance or per application seat isn’t enough. Not all providers price their services the same way. Find out what each price includes. Develop sample configurations that are similar to what you actually need, and price them for each alternative. Include an in-house solution as one of the candidates to help you build your business case and make a sound decision. Don’t forget to include hardware refresh and one-time costs like transition.

2. Consider future growth. One of the reasons you are buying a cloud service is for the ease of scalability. What you need the cloud to do for you today is not what you may need in a year or even a month. Your cost models should reflect projected increases in demand, and the service you choose should scale easily to meet that demand.

3. Don’t forget service quality. Just because the cloud services provider may be a large, well-known organization does not necessarily mean its service will be highly available. Determine how much redundancy you need and include that cost in your comparison. Assess the provider’s actual track record of availability with the configuration options you will be using, keeping in mind that redundancy does not guarantee zero failures. Find out which cloud service providers use appropriate service level agreements and compare them to in-house options.

4. Ensure providers can meet your security and regulatory compliance requirements. Never assume that a provider’s capabilities will be better than your own. They may be better or they may not be, but they may also be a more tempting target for attacks than you, with more complex challenges and higher risk. If other customers are sharing your infrastructure, your security team needs to be assured that your data is never visible to another customer. Use guidance from standards bodies such as the Cloud Security Alliance in your assessment.

5. What if things don’t work out? As the cloud market matures, portability issues are becoming a major concern, and your options can vary dramatically between cloud services providers. Assume that you will want to change providers within three years. Determine how difficult it will be – both technically and contractually – to leave each provider you are evaluating. Include the development team here. The degree to which your applications rely on cloud-specific application programming interfaces, middleware or development tools, which ones they rely on, and the degree to which your applications are designed for portability can be major determinants of how “locked in” you become.

ISG has been working with clients to navigate the cloud services market since its inception. To discuss cloud computing services further, contact Scott Feuless.

About the author

Scott Feuless is a Principal Consultant with ISG, based in Texas. Scott benefits from 25 years of senior management experience, with a strong background in leading performance improvement initiatives, developing strategy and pricing outsourced services, together with knowledge of many areas of computer technology developed over some thirty years. For ISG Scott provides expertise on infrastructure performance and benchmarking, as well as strategic sourcing advisory. Scott is also a primary contributor to the development of industry standards for cloud computing. His expertise covers multiple architectures and sourcing arrangements, with major studies completed for mainframe, midrange server, storage, desktop and networking environments over his 13+ years with the firm.