Choosing Cloud Service Providers to Drive Business Success

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Cloud computing has revolutionised the way businesses operate, offering scalable and flexible solutions for storing and processing data. As more organisations continue their digital transformations, choosing the right cloud service provider (CSP) has become a critical decision that can significantly impact operational efficiency, cost management and overall business success.

Moving to the cloud presents numerous benefits that have made it an attractive option for companies of all sizes. One of the primary advantages is the ability to scale resources up or down on demand, allowing businesses to respond quickly to changing market conditions or workload requirements.

However, the journey to the cloud is not without its challenges. One of the primary concerns is data security and compliance. Organisations must carefully evaluate the security practices and certifications of cloud service providers to ensure that their data is adequately protected and that they comply with relevant industry regulations and standards.

Another challenge lies in the potential for vendor lock-in. Businesses may find themselves heavily reliant on a single cloud service provider, making it difficult and costly to migrate to alternative solutions. To mitigate these risks and more, organisations should consider various criteria when it comes to choosing their CSP.

Choosing a cloud service provider: The key factors

According to Mark Roberts, Principal Specialist Solution Architect at Red Hat, a key consideration is evaluating which cloud technologies can be handled internally and which require outsourcing to a service provider. “Outsourcing tasks such as infrastructure, platform or software management can allow your business to focus on client service, enhance your DevOps strategy and streamline operations.”

Cloud strategies, he explains, also extend beyond the obvious cloud providers. “There is scope to create an internal private cloud within an organisation’s data centres, and apply many of the cloud principles of infrastructure and platform abstraction from users. This approach can help organisations maintain the privacy of client data within their own data centre, while utilising public cloud offerings for development and testing with obfuscated data.” 

Security, meanwhile, is an ever-present consideration for organisations. Mark explains that clear responsibility for the security and compliance to relevant standards for each element of a platform is important to ensure the overall security posture is adequate.

“For maximum security, organisations should only work with providers that use rigorous encryption practices for data at rest and in transit,” says Rahul Pradhan, VP Product and Strategy – AI, ML and Data at Couchbase. “They must also check that CSPs comply with industry-relevant standards and regulations, such as GDPR. Another factor is whether CSPs have robust data migration tools in place, to support transition between clouds, reducing the likelihood of outages or downtime. Cost transparency is also important, to avoid vendor lock-in and being tied to a contract that doesn’t meet their needs. To that end, IT teams must understand the different pricing models, to avoid any hidden surprises.”

Managing and optimising cloud costs

According to Red Hat’s Mark Roberts, it is easy for cloud computing resource use to get out of hand – resulting in high spend on rarely-used systems. “Managing the assets across the route to live from development to production is important so that the right environments are in use with the right software at the right time.” 

To ensure costs don’t spiral out of control, Mallory Beaudreau, RVP of Account Management at IBM company Apptio, says that businesses should focus on clear objectives, visibility and fostering a responsible team culture.

“The first step is to clearly define the overarching objective of your cloud strategy, whether it be to improve flexibility and scalability, boost security, manage risk, foster innovation or reduce costs,” she explains. “Then it’s important to treat this cloud strategy as a dynamic and living document, updating it regularly based on insights from your team, vendors and products owners. By assessing budget against actual spend, migration plans and capabilities on a monthly basis, businesses can track their spending accurately and start to instil a culture of cost-efficiency across teams.”

Leadership, Mallory highlights, then has the responsibility to nurture this culture and to communicate the company’s strategy and mission from the top down. “By encouraging your engineers, developers and product owners to assume accountability and understand the costs associated with their daily tasks, leadership can gain a more accurate view of spending as it happens and foster a proactive environment where issues are identified and resolved promptly.”

Neil Lewis – Cloud & As-a-Service Sales Leader (EMEA) at Hitachi Vantara – points to research from IDC which found that cloud costs now make up approximately 30% of overall IT budgets worldwide.

“Effectively managing these costs is vital for businesses to prevent budget overruns and resource wastage.

“As cloud spending is set to continue to rise, integrating cost considerations into coding practices – an approach which encourages developers to optimise code for financial efficiency – is increasingly essential. Technologies like AI are improving this strategy by speeding up coding and enhancing efficiency, allowing developers to better align financial objectives with cloud resource utilisation.

“Enterprises should also implement robust governance, utilise automated tools for real-time monitoring and leverage cloud cost management platforms. Automated tools provide insights into resource usage, helping businesses identify underutilised resources to scale down or terminate, ergo optimising cloud spend. Regular reviews and optimisations of cloud deployments, choosing appropriate resource sizes, and taking advantage of savings plans are also important strategies to keep costs under control.”

The merits of a hybrid multi-cloud approach

While cloud computing has reached a good level of maturity, many organisations are still in the early stages of modernising their application portfolios and upskilling their workforce. A hybrid multi-cloud strategy offers several benefits when choosing a cloud service provider. By leveraging a combination of public and private cloud environments, organisations can maintain control over sensitive data and workloads within their private cloud while taking advantage of the scalability and innovation offered by public cloud providers.

“Be sure to look for partners with experience in working through the technology and cultural challenges of this journey,” Mark concludes. “The technologies and services that will migrate from on-premise to cloud will change over time, so organisations should be flexible and evolve their strategy as they gain experience. Embracing a hybrid multi-cloud approach is key to ensuring an organisation can take advantage of cost-effective and secure systems.”

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