These five tips for how to choose the best cloud provider for your company were originally published in a ITBusinessEdge slideshow.
1. Proximity Doesn’t Equal Performance
Companies often service customers located around the globe, and assume that using a cloud hosting provider who is geographically proximate to each market is the best way to ensure quality service. In reality, proximity doesn’t equal performance. Cloud providers may use a variety of different paths to connect to certain regions and have multiple different points of presence around the globe. But using a provider’s location in Tokyo to service South Korea may not be any better than using one in New Delhi, even though Tokyo is closer geographically. Traffic gets rerouted all over the globe, recalling information and data from different data centers to deliver customers a complete webpage. Customers need to measure and monitor the latency of cloud provider performance to the markets they care about, and use that data to find the best option for your business.
2. Provision Through Multiple Cloud Providers
Since proximity doesn’t equate to performance on the Internet, picking a single cloud hosting provider like AWS, or single CDN like Akamai, may not be the optimal solution. Companies need to understand where their customers are located and compare performance from different cloud locations and cloud providers. A single solution could work well in one market, but cause a website’s load time to lag in others — costing you millions of dollars in lost revenue (especially on e-commerce sites!). The solution to your performance needs may be either a single vendor using multiple locations or using multiple different vendors altogether. Granted, using multiple cloud vendors can be more difficult to support but the tradeoff of poor performance could mean a more costly loss of customers, revenue and reputation.
3. Evaluate the Add-ons
Many cloud providers offer a variety of different features and additional services in their SLAs (service-level agreements), and the more add-ons the higher the price. Before getting sticker shock, IT managers need to spend some serious time evaluating the additional features that each provider includes, and seeing what can give them the most bang for their buck. For example, most major cloud providers offer an application performance management (APM) option. While APM tools provide great insight into internal performance improvements, they don’t show a critical aspect of cloud performance, Internet monitoring and analysis. Evidence has shown that as much as 50 percent of cloud-performance issues are due to Internet behavior, so instead of strictly investing in APM, ask for an Internet performance management solution instead. It’s a more complete tool that will pay off in significant improvements in the user experience of cloud services now and in the future.
4. Diversify Your Paths
The Internet is a complex set of interactions and connections between many companies and millions of endpoints, and is in a constant state of change. On any typical Internet day, there are thousands of outages and unexpected redirects. Some of these are malicious and some are just mistakes, but in any case, these events can affect your Internet performance. Cloud providers are no less vulnerable to outages, attacks and mistakes than anyone else.
While the best cloud providers provide mitigations to protect against single points of failure, it really isn’t enough to keep your business up and running at all times. Instead, use multiple points of presence to deliver information to each market. Each of these locations interface with the Internet differently — diversifying your connections to your customers, and giving you an opportunity to protect yourself better than any single path could. A single route failure might be inconvenient, but with a variety of other ways to reach your customers, your business will continue operating effectively.
5. Monitor Consistently
Given the dynamic nature of the Internet and your business, the “right” way to route across the Internet is constantly changing. IT managers must frequently monitor the performance of their current cloud providers, and the alternatives in the market. This consistent measurement provides many advantages. Early detection of a problem either through manual monitoring or automated alerts can minimize the impact of an adverse Internet event, and knowing your options can assist in cloud provider negotiations or in creating effective “ready-to-use” alternatives. Also, as your business grows and changes, you can evaluate if your current cloud provider has the ability to scale at the pace you need. Constantly monitoring your cloud provider’s performance is essential to keep your business up and running at full speed, and ensure you are using the right partners.