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Ask smarter questions to make better decisions about your cloud provider

10
Feb 15

Posted February 10, 2015 by  Tim Pat Dufficy

SSP_betterdecisionsaboutyourcloudprovider

We're the first to admit that it must be hard for any tech business, from a start-up to an enterprise, to choose between suppliers of cloud services. Objective, quantitative supplier evaluation can help.

Cloud hosting providers. We all look pretty similar don’t we? Offering similar, if not the same, solutions and making the same promises about uptime, service, support and security. So, what can you do to tell between us, identify our differences and, ultimately, select the right one for you?

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There are two important things you can, and should, do to make sure that you end up going with the right supplier for you:

  1. Ask smarter questions that scratch beneath the surface of a provider's promises
  2. Judge all potential providers on the same set of criteria to gain an objective view of their strengths and weaknesses

Smarter questions

We’ve built our business by working with customers for whom we are a good fit. We help our customers discover this by asking them questions about their requirements that other suppliers either don’t need, or don’t want to ask. These questions are based on everything we've experienced in serving and retaining our valued clients, including through hard times like network outages, DDoS attacks and all manner of other, 'nature of the beast', technical challenges.

Sometimes the answers to these questions reveal that we are not the right provider, and that’s fine. We want every potential customer to end up with the right supplier for them. More often than not, however, these questions bring our customer and us to a deeper, shared understanding and result in a solution that is not only fit for purpose but also economic, flexible and future proof - offering real business advantages. 

So that you too can achieve a greater understanding of both your own requirements and the suitability of your potential providers, we're happy to share the areas where we think the most revealing insights can be found. We’ve also complied a checklist of specific questions that you can download and use to qualify your potential future cloud hosting providers.

Capability

There's no point qualifying a provider any further if they can't reliably provide the specific technical solution you require. Once you know what your requirement is, be it anything from a single colocated server all the way up to a bespoke hybrid cloud with dedicated firewalls, load balancing and bandwidth, check if your providers can offer it.

Don’t just take their word for it, however, ask for relevant reference sites, case studies and testimonials. While you're at it find out how long they’ve been in business, how many customers they have and how much they turnover. 

Comprehension

When we consult with a potential customer, we make a point of understanding their application and demonstrating that we do. Challenge your potential providers to prove to you that they understand your business. They don’t need to be experts, that's your job, but they need to understand it well enough to extract its IT requirements and to identify opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Service and support

This is the big one, right? Don’t you wish you could try a provider's customer support before actually becoming one? In most cases you won't be able to do this, but, by asking some probing questions, you can find out if the support they offer can hope to meet your expectations or not. 

The key here is testing their service and support against your expectations. Consider asking how they deliver their 24/7 support commitment - they do offer 24/support, don’t they? How about talking to real people and, more importantly, how long till you speak to someone with real technical knowledge?

Security

Data security should be top of your mind, and theirs. Knowing how a provider responds to new, unexpected security vulnerabilities is as important as how they secure their infrastructure from known threats.

Start by finding out which tier of datacentre each provider works from. Does this meet your requirements? What about ISO27001 certification? Next, quiz them over their responses to recent vulnerabilities, such as Shellshock, or the increasingly common DDoS attacks.

Delivery

The final pieces of the puzzle are your timescale and budget. Check that your prospective supplier can meet your needs on these two crucial points as early as is practical during your on-going discussions.

Evaluating your suppliers

To help with your own supplier evaluation process, we've compiled the questions that we would ask if we were buying cloud hosting, all based on nine successful years delivering cloud hosting to our clients. Download your checklist now and use it to move towards an objective, quantitative assessment of your potential providers and to help you choose the perfect one.

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Topics: Cloud Hosting