Companies around the world use cloud services to optimize information storage and other processes. As a result, the cloud market is constantly growing; according to the forecasts of the experts, its volume It will reach $ 397 billion by 2022.
What does this mean for the end user? This can mean both an increase in the number of cloud services and platforms and an extension of their tool sets. When the offer is huge, making the right decision can be difficult.
This article will talk about cloud services, their benefits, and how to choose a cloud service that is safe and beneficial for your business.
What are cloud platforms and services?
A cloud service is a set of digital services provided to a business. It can include tools for solving various tasks, for example, storing data, launching websites or applications, and performing analysis. A cloud platform is a system that brings together multiple services and gives access to one user.
The history of cloud services dates back to the 1950s. In the age of computers occupying entire buildings, making it difficult to implement and maintain, scientists came up with the idea of organizing a system that could be used and accessible from different places by several company employees at the same time.
Interest in cloud services revived in the 1970s and then the 1990s when the Internet got higher bandwidth.
In 2002, Amazon offered users software that would give them access to computing and data storage tools, and all of this was implemented in the form of a cloud service.
Today, cloud services differ from those used by businesses in the early 2000s. These services are hybrid systems with a wide range of functionality; in addition, they have become more accessible to the mass consumer.
Types of cloud services
There are three main types of cloud services, depending on their specific characteristics:
- Software as a service – SaaS,
- Platform as a service – PaaS,
- Infrastructure as a service – IaaS.
Let’s start by considering SaaS. This type of cloud service provides the user with a final software product out of the box. As a result, a dedicated technical specialist is not required to configure the service; almost anyone can use the solution. This type of service includes such popular products as Salesforce, the Atlassian family, Slack, and others.
The second type is PaaS. Digital tools of this type are designed for developers. With these tools, websites and applications can be created; the components here are repositories, database services, and other development tools. Some examples of PaaS are Google App Engine, IBM Bluemix, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services.
The third type of cloud service is IaaS. These are services intended for system administrators, that is, these tools are a digital analog of hardware: data storage units, networks, processors, etc. This type includes services such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and others.
It is worth mentioning that some cloud service platforms have such a wide range of tools that they include services of several of the above types at the same time (for example, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud).
The main advantages of cloud services
Cloud services are an excellent tool for those who want to optimize IT processes and save money. Let’s take a closer look at its main advantages.
1. Cloud services simplify processes
Businesses using cloud services will avoid setting up and maintaining the IT infrastructure within their organizations. The services provided by a cloud platform are pretty enough for many companies. They do not need to solve the problems of ensuring uptime and updating the system independently.
2. Cloud services save money
By choosing the right cloud service, a business spends less money compared to the scenario where it has to hire a staff of sysadmins and ensure the availability of the necessary hardware. Cloud services allow you to pay only for the real time of your use; there is no overpayment in the event of downtime.
3. Cloud services provide a means to work faster
This refers to both an accelerated development process and a fast time-to-market of the products. When a company turns out to be faster than its competitors, it wins in many cases.
There are other benefits to working with cloud services, but let’s also look at one of the critical issues that raise many questions: security. There are various opinions on this subject; Among them, we can mention the interesting conclusions of a cybersecurity expert from a large software development company.
Let’s take a look at the main criteria you should follow when choosing a secure and efficient cloud service for your business.
Criteria for selecting cloud services
Many metrics can be used to judge whether a particular cloud provider is right for you. However, from our point of view, we list the ones that are universal for most companies.
1. Compliance with certificates and standards
As practice shows, a cloud service provider’s compliance with accepted standards indicates a certain level of security. At the very least, this criteria can be used to select multiple cloud services for your short list. The main standards and certifications are HIPAA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, ISO 27017 and ISO 27018.
To build effective and secure collaboration, the technologies that a cloud service uses are important. How well do these technologies match your internal requirements and configurations? How well do you understand its details?
3. Data management and privacy
If you have specific requirements and obligations, you should look to cloud providers that give you full transparency in selecting and controlling your data. A crucial aspect here is the question of the responsibility of the parties; this should also be studied before entering into cooperation with the service.
Basically, data security issues are restricted and regulated within the standards mentioned above.
4. Cooperation experience
Check out the stories of other companies that have turned to cloud services. Here you should pay attention to those businesses whose tasks are similar to yours.
If you don’t have the opportunity to learn about these experiences, you can contact a cloud consultant. Today, many information technology companies offer services of this type.
5. Style of association and signing of agreements
Evaluating this criterion is not easy until you have experience with the service. However, there are some details to pay attention to at the contract signing stage.
Agreements with cloud service providers are often riddled with complicated terms that can be misleading.
To some extent, this is resolved by the latest revision of the ISO standards for service level agreements: ISO / IEC 19086-1: 2016. Therefore, it can be used as a basis for evaluating agreements with cloud providers.
Agreements range from standard “terms and conditions” negotiated online to individual contracts. Therefore, it is always worth paying attention to how the terms of the security policy are crafted and how flexible your partner is in responding to your suggestions for changes.
6. Reliability and performance
There are several ways to determine the performance of a particular cloud service.
For example, you can compare the performance of a service provider against its service level agreement (SLA) for the past 6 to 12 months. Many services share this information in the public domain. You can also request this information.
It should be noted that there is no point expecting perfect performance here – downtime is unavoidable in cloud services work. What really matters is how the provider handles downtime. Check if the proposed monitoring and reporting tools are sufficient and can be integrated into your management and reporting systems.
Make sure the vendor of your choice has developed, documented, and tested processes to prevent and eliminate planned and unplanned downtime. In addition, they should have procedures that document how they plan to communicate with customers during outages, including timeliness, prioritization, and assessing the severity of the problem.
Do not forget the legal resources and the responsibility of the parts offered by the cloud provider in case of a problem with the operation of the service.
7. Ability to easily switch to another cloud service
There are situations where you have to switch from one cloud provider to another. This is standard practice in the context of a market economy; other than that, your requests and needs and the conditions offered by the service may change over time.
In this case, it will be useful to think and anticipate the painless transfer of your data and projects in advance.
How can you do this? First, if you plan to switch providers, try to avoid services with unique proprietary technologies if your tasks do not require it. In this case, the versatility of the technology is more suitable for your business.
8. Business health and company profile
We have already said that before starting to use the services of a cloud provider, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the cases of other companies. Along with that, we recommend studying the company’s profile and its position in the market.
Typically, cloud service ratings and market data that can be used to track trends regarding the development of your chosen service are publicly available. Sometimes a few hours of studying such information is enough to make a decision.
Of course, for large companies looking for a cloud partner with a long-term perspective, it is not enough to review publicly available information. In such a situation, your experts can ask the cloud service provider for the information you are interested in: market share, number of partners, plans for the future, etc.
Companies don’t share all of the inside information, but the prospect of landing a large loyal customer often tips the balance.
Cloud services are becoming a necessity in today’s business environment. By using them, companies save time and money and solve their daily tasks more easily.
Choosing a cloud provider is a task that must be taken seriously, so accurately estimate the time and effort required to make a decision.
If you want to profit, think about the immediate needs of the business and the future.
Image Credit: Aleksandar Pasaric; Pexels; Thanks!