How to choose a cloud provider?

Cloud Management

May 3, 2024 • 3 min read

Moving to the cloud is an essential step for any business that wants to keep up with the rate of digital transformation in their industry to stay competitive. Cloud storage offers unmatched convenience, flexibility, and scalability, enabling you to store and access data from any location at any time. There is responsibility with cloud computing; a shared responsibility between both the business and the cloud provider. It is up to you to choose a trusted cloud provider who can keep your data fully protected to the standards of your industry. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to choosing a cloud provider, ensuring you make an informed decision that aligns perfectly with your business needs. 

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage refers to a service model in which data is maintained, managed, backed up remotely, and made available to users over the Internet. This model allows individuals and organizations to store files online, ensuring they can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, without the need to carry physical storage devices. Cloud storage solutions are scalable, meaning that they can be expanded to accommodate increasing amounts of data, and they typically operate on a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which allows users to only pay for the storage they actually use. Additionally, cloud storage provides benefits such as enhanced data security, disaster recovery, and data redundancy. 

The types of cloud storage 

Public cloud storage

Public cloud storage is provided by third-party service providers who manage and maintain vast data centers available to the general public via the Internet. This type of storage is often used for storing non-sensitive data, backing up information, and archiving. Examples include services offered by Amazon AWS (Amazon S3), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

Private cloud storage

Private cloud storage is dedicated to a single organization and is either managed by the organization itself or a third party. It is not shared with other users and is located on-premise or in a private data center. This type of storage offers greater control and security, making it suitable for businesses with strict data security and regulatory compliance requirements.

Hybrid cloud storage

Hybrid cloud storage combines elements of both public and private clouds. Organizations use private cloud for sensitive or critical data while leveraging the cost-effectiveness and scalability of public cloud for less critical data. This model offers flexibility in data management and helps balance security and cost concerns.

Community cloud storage

Community cloud storage is shared between multiple organizations belonging to a particular community with common concerns (such as security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.). It can be managed by the organizations or a third-party service provider. This type is beneficial for collaborative projects where organizations need to access and manage shared data efficiently.

Multicloud storage 

This involves using storage services from multiple cloud providers. Organizations opt for multi-cloud storage to avoid vendor lock-in, enhance resilience by distributing data across different services, and take advantage of unique features or better pricing offered by specific providers.

Object storage

This is a data storage architecture that manages data as objects, unlike traditional file storage systems which manage data in a file hierarchy, or block storage which manages data as blocks within sectors and tracks. Each object includes the data itself, a variable amount of metadata, and a globally unique identifier. Object storage is ideal for managing large volumes of unstructured data and is widely used in public cloud storage solutions.

The steps on how to choose a cloud provider? 

1. Define your requirements

Assess your business needs in terms of storage, computing power, security, compliance, budget, and scalability. When it comes to choosing between object storage, block storage, file storage, or instance storage, you first need to understand a set of characteristics that will determine your choice, for example, file size, cache size, access patterns, latency, throughput, and persistence of data. To achieve this understanding, you might begin by defining storage performance requirements. Don’t forget to determine the expected growth rate of your workload. This information will contribute to choosing a storage solution that will meet those rates in the future.

2. Evaluate service offerings

Explore the range of services offered, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, and choose the provider aligned with your business objectives. Consider how easy it will be to access and manage your data in the cloud. Choose a cloud storage provider that provides an intuitive interface, dependable performance, and strong customer support. Additionally, ensure the provider is compatible with the devices, platforms, and applications you use. 

3. Performance and reliability

Consider factors like uptime guarantees, data center locations, network infrastructure, and latency for optimal performance and reliability. 

4. Security and compliance

When selecting a cloud storage provider, ensure they utilize encryption for data both during transfer and when stored to safeguard your information from unauthorized access or interception. Their security capabilities should be aligned with industry-standard security practices and compliance regulations relevant to your business. Moreover, it’s advisable to opt for a provider that adheres to applicable laws and regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, based on the specifics and geographical location of your data.

5. Scalability and flexibility

Assess scalability options to accommodate evolving business needs and flexibility in integrating with existing systems and third-party applications. Opt for a provider that offers flexible scaling options for both storage capacity and performance to meet your fluctuating demands, while still maintaining data integrity and security. Additionally, it’s beneficial to select a provider that facilitates seamless integration with additional cloud-based services like computing, analytics, or security enhancements to enrich your data management capabilities. 

6. Cost and pricing structure

Compare pricing models, analyzing TCO, data transfer fees, storage costs, and additional services for cost optimization. Ensure that the provider includes options such as a trial period, a refund policy, or cancellation terms, providing you with an exit strategy if their services do not meet your expectations.

7. Customer support and SLAs

Review the quality of customer support, availability, and responsiveness, along with SLAs for uptime, performance, and support response times.

8. Vendor lock-in and portability

Choose a provider offering portability and interoperability to avoid vendor lock-in, considering migration ease and technologies like containers.

9. Community and ecosystem

Assess the provider’s community and ecosystem for access to third-party integrations, marketplace offerings, and developer tools.

10. Reputation and trustworthiness

Consider the provider’s reputation, customer testimonials, analyst reports, and market share for reliability and customer satisfaction.

Factors to consider before you sign up 

  • The kind of access method (block, file, or object)
  • Patterns of access (random or sequential)
  • The required throughput
  • The frequency of access (online, offline, archival)
  • How frequent are the updates? (WORM, dynamic)
  • Availability and durability constraints

Selecting the right cloud provider is pivotal for unlocking the benefits of cloud computing. By prioritizing factors such as performance, security, scalability, cost, and customer support, businesses can make an informed decision that aligns with their objectives and accelerates their digital transformation journey. With a carefully selected cloud provider, you enable collaboration and remote work. You can trust in data backup and disaster recovery, ready to take your business to new heights.   

This article was written by Emily-Jane Rafferty, Content Writer at StackZone

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