How to Choose a Provider for Cloud Solutions

Pankil Thakkar -
Cloud Solutions need Cloud Providers
Illustration: © IoT For All

Today, most companies across industries like IT, healthcare, consumer, retail, manufacturing, etc., are making a move to the cloud. The businesses have realized its potential, and the cloud computing service market is growing exponentially, eliminating costly, time-consuming, and complex in-house cloud infrastructure management. However, among all the aspects of migrating the entire business process to the cloud, selecting a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is the most crucial and complicated part. Choosing the right cloud provider is not a choice; it is an absolute necessity now.

There are multiple cloud service providers like AWS, Ayla, ClearBlade, Azure, Everything, etc., in the market, out of which AWS (Amazon Web Services), GCP (Google Cloud Platform), and Microsoft Azure are major players. AWS has been in the market for a long, and as per Synergy Research, AWS has a market share of 33%, Microsoft Azure has 13%, and GCP has 6% as a cloud service provider. Such providers offer three kinds of service models – Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Based on the connected application scenario, businesses can decide the service model on how much shared management responsibility they want at their end and the cloud provider’s end. Depending on each cloud offerings, cloud platforms can be chosen for specific industry connected solutions like Ayla for consumer and ISPs, Evrythng for retail, AWS, ClearBlade, and Azure for Industrial Automation. There are certain parameters for long term success that play a key role while choosing a cloud service provider. Let us look into those deciding factors.

Security and Compliance

For any cloud-connected application, security is the most important and essential thing which needs to be considered. Most of the cloud service providers offer robust security, out of which some features are free, and some are paid.

Before selecting any cloud provider, the user needs to check which security features fit their application and are easy to integrate. Also, users need to verify how cloud providers encrypt data and information to secure it from any attack and comply with industry standards. For example, if the cloud application to be designed belongs to the healthcare domain, then it should be verified whether the cloud provider complies with HIPAA or not. If the data’s security is concerned, one needs to check if the cloud provider has ISO 27001, cyber essential certificate or not.

Cloud provides multiple securities like IAM (Identity Access Management), Multi-Factor authentication, etc. One can assign a custom role of “Reading, Write, Delete” to each resource and a group. Each user will perform only those operations whose access is given to them.

Reliability

There are several methods to check the cloud provider’s reliability, like SLA (Service level agreement), performance, and financial condition. Major players in cloud service providers like AWS, Azure give surety for 99.99% availability SLA for production-grade servers. Users need to verify the performance growth and financial condition of the cloud service provider to ensure that the provider should support the user’s expansion plan in terms of infrastructure and technology when required.

Architecture

Nowadays, the cloud-connected application design approach is prevalent. Each cloud provider offers multiple managed services, and the companies can select the services best fitting their application. All services together perform operations to achieve specific goals for the application deployed. The benefits of having such architecture are you can scale independent components as per the requirement instead of the entire server.

Companies need to explore which architecture type suits their application – Serverless, Virtual Machine, Web Application, etc. If a user is already using Microsoft licenses, then Microsoft Azure can be a good cloud choice to integrate. Currently, most of the cloud service providers support serverless architecture. In this architecture, users need not worry about infrastructure, scalability, performance, etc.; they have to focus on the application and pay as per the consumption.

It will be charged based on the number of calls. For instance, serverless architecture best fits a company that has developed an Android gaming app and wants to store users’ information and the number of levels, user’s achievements, etc., and retrieve it when he plays the game. They can save/retrieve user’s data and pay only for the number of times the server is called.

One needs to opt for a virtual server if the user already runs the server and wants to migrate on the cloud or wants a server that can be self-managed to install all software required for the application, scale it, logging, etc. It is IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and can be scaled in/out as per the need.

Apart from the above two architecture options, organizations can also go for Web Application deployment offered by different providers using different names. Azure offers it as Azure App service, GCP offers it as App Engine, and AWS offers it as Elastic Beanstalk. In this architecture, the application owner is not worried about infrastructure, OS, or software installation. They can directly deploy the code and run the application.

Disaster Recovery Management

Most service providers support recovery management. They provide multi-zone, multi-region scaling options that allow them to run the same application, whether any server fails due to any natural cause or hardware failure. Users will not lose the data as it will be replicated in multiple servers. So it would be preferable to have an instance copy in more than one region or zone. Even it would help you in auto-scaling/performance improvement.

For example, in AWS, if a user selects one region in the East US and sets one more copy of the same virtual machine in the Europe region, then it can be configured in the Route53 module that the Europe server will respond to any requests coming from that region. This will reduce the route time and balance the load as well.

Analytics and Reporting

Analytics and reporting are one of the crucial parameters in the cloud to track and analyze important metrics. Nowadays, cloud service providers give advanced analytics service that gives historical data analysis to customers, enabling them to see if the business goals are being achieved. Even cloud providers allow advanced logging and reporting of service, giving a clear idea about traffic, resource consumption, and many more in the cloud. It even helps when any resource fails to serve. It can be tracked through logs. Azure provides Application insights along with advanced query language search support. Similarly, AWS provides CloudWatch, Elasticsearch/Kibana integration.

Support

Users must consider this parameter as to how quickly service providers deliver support for the query. In most cases, the user gets support on call or chat, but sometimes it is not enough. Users must check which types of support the service provider offers. However, if an organization expects the business and operations to be running on weekends or holidays, then they must opt for a hosting provider that offers unlimited 24×7 support even on non-working days.

Cost

Cost is a vital factor for any business. But on the cloud, one cannot compare directly among different providers. The user needs to be very clear about the application requirements and check the costing of all the services together and then decide. They should not just check the hosting charges but overall services usage cost as it is not advisable to migrate from one cloud provider to another frequently mere for any feature or one service cost. Every service provider has their own way of billing. Users will get multiple plans by each provider like Pay-as-you-go, reserved instances, dedicated resources, etc.

To explain, if one wants to set up a virtual machine with Pay-as-you-go, then one has to pay per second, and when the virtual machine is not in use, it will not charge anything. For reserved and dedicated resources, one needs to pay a predefined amount but can get discounts for reservation of resources.

In short, businesses must look for long-term partnerships with cloud providers. Business communications are important, and one must get the most out of its investment. All the above-mentioned parameters should be analytically compared for different cloud providers before deciding the best fit for the user requirement to deliver the features and resources at an optimized cost to support ongoing business operations.

Author
Pankil Thakkar - Technical Lead, VOLANSYS Technologies

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...