Businesses across industries and geographies have long known and embraced the benefits that cloud technology has to offer, making the choice to adopt the cloud an easy one for most. However, choosing a cloud solutions provider is a less straightforward decision, and takes careful consideration of a number of factors, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. Additionally, local obligations and concerns can complicate the choice further, so businesses looking for a cloud provider would do well to consider both global and local cloud providers, and their respective advantages, when making their decision.
Why consider a local cloud provider?
Choosing between a global and a local cloud provider depends on your business's unique requirements. Local cloud providers offer more customisable service offerings that can be tailored to the specific needs of businesses more easily, so depending on the specificity of what you need from the cloud, a more customisable solution provided by a local cloud provider may be the best option for your business.
Additionally, due to their smaller customer bases, local cloud providers can offer a higher quality customer service than global providers, especially when it comes to disaster recovery. They also provide cheaper and faster data transport, with some providers even granting customers free unlimited backup and disaster recovery bandwidth.
Despite these benefits, many small and mid-size companies are still more attracted to global cloud providers, likely because of their widespread popularity amongst global corporations and enterprises. These providers, however, may not be the best choice for small and mid-sized businesses, and these companies need to take their own needs into account and carefully consider all factors before committing to a global cloud provider.
Key considerations when choosing a global or local cloud provider
Below, we’ve outlined eight key considerations small and mid-sized businesses need to keep in mind when choosing between a global or local cloud solutions provider. These factors will help ensure that your cloud provider of choice has a track record of stability and is in a healthy position with sufficient capital to operate successfully over the long term.
1. Certifications and standards
There are a number of industry-recognised certifications and standards that your cloud provider of choice should comply with, as this demonstrates their adherence to quality standards and frameworks around things like security and operations. Without these certifications, the quality of the provider’s service and offerings may be unclear and therefore, a risk to your business.
The certifications and standards you look for in a cloud provider should also align with your priorities as a business; for example, if security is key for your business, then be sure to choose a provider with an ISO 21001 certification, amongst others.
When asking after a potential provider’s certifications, the more they have, the better. It’s also worth finding out how the provider plans to maintain the certifications and standards long-term.
2. Technologies and service roadmap
The platform and technologies a potential provider offers need to align with your business’s own environment and cloud objectives. You don’t want to have to re-code or customise your workloads to make them compatible with the platform, so the more aligned they are from the start, the better.
To ensure the cloud provider’s architecture is best suited to your own workloads, it’s important to look at the migration services they offer and whether they provide support in the pre-migration phases. This will be beneficial as you plan your migration, especially if the provider has experts on hand to fill skills gaps in your own team when migrating your workloads. Beware though, as some larger cloud providers offer limited migration service support, so you may need to outsource to a third-party provider if there are skills gaps that need filling.
Before commencing with migration, it’s also important to understand the provider’s service roadmap, specifically how they plan to grow and innovate over time, whether there are existing commitments to specific technologies or vendor partners, and if and how interoperability is supported, both now and in the future.
3. Data security
Data security and management is of vital importance in this day and age, especially from a regulatory compliance perspective. You should have your own data security policies and processes in place for your business, and when considering a potential cloud provider, you need to ensure they also have sound policies and processes in place that align with yours.
Be sure to find out:
What data security controls the cloud provider has in place, and whether these come standard or at an additional level of service/cost.
How data in transit and at rest is kept secure, and whether encryption is used, especially for object storage.
What business continuity and disaster recovery plans the provider has in place in the event of data loss or breaches, and whether these align with your business’s risk appetite and legal/regulatory obligations.
Whether user access and activity is tracked and auditable.
It’s also important to get clarity on the security roles and responsibilities outlined in business policy documents or potential contracts, so that you know which security actions lie with you and which lie with the provider. Also, ask for security audit and incident reports for confirmation of the provider’s remedial actions and that their approach to security is risk-based and efficient.
4. Data sovereignty
In line with data protection regulations, your business may be subject to local laws that you need to keep in mind when it comes to data storage. If you do have local data law obligations, it’s important that your cloud provider gives you choice and control when it comes to the jurisdiction in which your data is stored, processed and managed, so that compliance is as streamlined as possible.
Any cloud solution provider should be transparent about the locations of their data centres, but you also need to find this information out and ensure that the data centre locations align with any data sovereignty obligations your business is accountable for. Depending on these obligations, a local cloud provider with dedicated local data centres may be your best option.
5. Commercial terms
Different cloud solution providers offer different service bundles and pricing models, with unique price offerings for different products. When considering the products and their pricing, look at your own needs in terms of computation, data storage, networking, business requirements etc., so that you can prioritise them correctly against the cloud provider’s offering.
From there, be clear about the cloud provider’s commercials, specifically, if you are charged based on resource consumption and whether there are discounts for long-term commitments. Also consider how flexible resource provisioning and scaling is in line with your commercial agreement, the speed at which resources can be provisioned, and how this can impact costs.
The pricing plan and product package you go for should be suitable for your needs now, but it should also be flexible enough to account for future requirement changes without you necessarily needing to take out an entirely new contract with the provider.
6. Service level agreements
Service level agreements (SLAs) are vital for providing clarity on what’s included in your contract with the cloud provider, what isn’t, and which party is responsible for what. SLAs typically cover:
Service accessibility and availability (such as 99.9% uptime).
Service capacity and limits (such as how many users can be accommodated, how much resource capacity you’re entitled to, etc.).
Response time and elasticity (or how quickly change can be accommodated).
Remediation policies and details on how issues should be identified and resolved, by whom, and when.
Any and all service exclusions.
Your SLA terms should be explicit, unambiguous and measurable, and you should closely scrutinise the agreement before committing to the cloud solution provider. The limitations of your SLA can make or break your relationship with the provider and how effectively they can support you, so be sure the SLA meets all of your requirements.
7. Support models
The level of support you’ll need from your cloud solution provider largely depends on your business; for example, some businesses need dedicated, round-the-clock support to ensure their own services are readily available to customers as and when they need them. As such, you need to make sure that the support models offered by the cloud provider, and the support model you choose, align with your support requirements in a worse case scenario context.
Some support considerations to keep in mind include:
Do you need to be able to access support services 24/7 or only during business hours?
How quickly do you need technical issues to be resolved?
Do you need dedicated support resources, like an account manager?
Would you prefer to access support via telephone, chat or email?
Most cloud providers offer support models that vary depending on the urgency of your support requirements; some models offer dedicated support 24/7, while others offer a support desk that’s only available via email or telephone during business hours, 5 days a week.
8. Exit management
Vendor lock-in is a real concern when it comes to choosing a cloud solution provider as should you no longer need their services, or should your needs change, you want to be able to exit the relationship swiftly and easily.
To try to avoid vendor lock-in, it may be worth leveraging multiple cloud service providers, but when considering a specific cloud provider, be sure to ask about exit management and planning should the need arise. Unfortunately, unlike with migration plans, many cloud providers don’t account for exit plans.
Efficient exit management should include a detailed plan that ensures that the cloud services supporting business activities can be replaced or replicated without significant disruption to the business. The role of both your business and the cloud provider in the exit plan should also be clear, as well as timelines, in what order data needs to be moved, and when and how services need to cease.
OpEx vs. CapEx vs. FinOps
The cloud has had a transformational impact on businesses’ expense models, with many businesses opting to move their IT costs from capital expenditure (CapEx) to operational expenditure (OpEx) to help keep IT costs flexible, especially in light of most cloud platform’s pay-as-you-go pricing models.
Despite this, cloud costs can be complex to manage, as they can intermittently fluctuate based on spikes or drops in usage - whether planned for or not. As such, a new model is emerging that brings technology, finance, and business together - FinOps. According to Google Cloud, this operational model aims to “drive financial accountability and accelerate business value realisation through cloud transformation.” FinOps does present a number of challenges, though, especially because cost ownership is decentralised and IT engineers are now responsible for purchasing decisions – and without proper financial management knowledge, slippages are bound to happen.
This can be particularly problematic for small and mid-sized companies with limited budgets, and when free cloud tiers become inadequate for their needs, cloud cost transparency can become difficult to maintain. This emphasises the need for a clear and understandable pricing model from your potential cloud solutions provider, and when considering a potential provider, it may be worth comparing the pricing of global versus local cloud providers to see how transparent their respective pricing is.
BSO’s cloud infrastructure solutions for small and mid-sized companies
For most businesses, a bespoke approach to cloud adoption is ideal, and a cloud solution provider like BSO can offer collaborative support before, during and after your move to the cloud to ensure your cloud environment meets your needs exactly.
Our flexible cloud solutions combine physical products with highly specialised consulting and managed services, where our customers get to enjoy the benefit of our expert support team. This gives our customers maximum flexibility, optimal data protection and complete cost predictability and transparency.
Our high-quality cloud infrastructure is fast, reliable and robust, across all regions, we provide clear and transparent cost breakdowns with no hidden fees, and our cloud solutions meet the highest standards in terms of data security.
While the advantages of the cloud are well-known, choosing a cloud solutions provider and making the move to the cloud is a complex process that requires thorough planning and careful consideration. With the right cloud partner, your cloud infrastructure can provide a valuable return on investment, but with the wrong partner, you could put your entire IT function – and the costs associated with it – at risk.
When considering a cloud provider, be sure to take the above considerations into account, and use them as a gauge for comparing both global and local cloud providers, and their suitability for your specific business needs.
Learn more about BSO and how our flexible cloud offering can support your cloud needs, or reach out to our expert team for more information.