Cloud services are used by companies worldwide to optimize information storage and other processes. As a result, the cloud market is constantly growing; according to experts’ forecasts, its volume 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 toolkits. When the supply is tremendous, making the right choice can be difficult.
This article will talk about cloud services, their benefits, and how to choose a cloud service that will be secure and beneficial for your business.
What are Cloud Services and Platforms?
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 analytics. A cloud platform is a system that brings together multiple services and gives a user access to them.
The history of cloud services dates back to the 1950s. In the age of computers occupying entire buildings, which made it challenging to deploy and maintain them, scientists came up with the idea of organizing a system that could be used and accessed from different places by several company employees at once.
Interest in cloud services revived in the 70s and then in the 90s when the Internet got higher bandwidth.
In 2002, Amazon offered users software that would give them access to data storage and computing tools – and all this was implemented in the form of a cloud service.
Today, cloud services differ from those used by companies in the early 2000s. These services are hybrid systems with a wide range of functionality; additionally, they have become more accessible to the mass consumer.
Types of cloud services
There are three main types of cloud services, depending on their specifics:
- Software as a Service – SaaS,
- Platform as a Service – PaaS,
- Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS.
Let’s start with considering SaaS. This type of cloud service provides a user with a final ready-made software product. As a result, there is no need for a dedicated technical specialist to set up the service – almost everyone can use the solution. This type of service includes such popular products as Salesforce, Atlassian family, Slack, and others.
The second type is PaaS. Digital tools of this type are designed for developers. With these tools, one can create websites and applications; the components here are repositories, database services, and other development tools. 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, i.e., these tools are a digital analog of hardware: data storage drives, networks, processors, etc. This type includes such services as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and others.
It should be mentioned that some cloud service platforms have such a wide range of tools that they include services of several of the above types at once (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 streamline IT processes and save money. Let’s take a closer look at their main advantages.
1. Cloud services simplify processes
Companies using cloud services will avoid setting up and maintaining IT infrastructure within their organizations. The services provided by a cloud platform are pretty enough for many businesses. They don’t need to solve the problems of ensuring operability and updating the system independently.
2. Cloud services save money
If a cloud service is chosen correctly, a company spends less money when compared to the scenario where it has to hire a staff of system administrators and ensure the availability of the necessary hardware. Cloud services allow paying only for the actual time of their use – there is no overpayment in case of downtime.
3. Cloud services provide a means for working faster
This refers to both an accelerated development process and rapid time-to-market for products. When a company turns out to be faster than its competitors, it wins in many cases.
There are other advantages of working with cloud services, but let’s also look at one of the critical issues that raise many questions – security. There are several opinions on this topic; among them, we can mention the interesting conclusions of a cyber security expert from a large software development company.
Let’s discuss the main criteria to be guided by when choosing a secure and effective cloud service for your business.
Cloud service selection criteria
Many metrics can be used to judge whether a particular cloud provider is right for you. However, from our point of view, we are listing those 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 least, this criterion can be used to select several cloud services for your shortlist. The primary standards and certifications are HIPAA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, ISO 27017, and ISO 27018.
To build an effective and secure collaboration, the technologies that a cloud service uses matter. How well do these technologies match your requirements and internal configurations? How well do you understand their specifics?
3. Data management and privacy
If you have specific requirements and obligations, you should look for cloud providers to give you complete transparency in data selection and control. A crucial aspect here is the issue of the parties’ responsibility – this should also be studied before entering into cooperation with the service.
Basically, data security issues are restricted and regulated within the abovementioned standards.
4. Cooperation experience
Check out the cases of other companies that have tapped into 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 such experiences, you can reach out to a cloud consultant. Nowadays, many IT companies offer services of this kind.
5. Partnership style and signing of agreements
Assessing this criterion is not easy until you have experience with the service. However, there are some details to pay attention to at the stage of signing a contract.
Agreements with cloud service providers are often fraught with complicated terms that can be misleading.
To some extent, this is solved 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 elaborated and how flexible your partner is in responding to your suggestions to make changes.
6. Reliability and performance
There are several ways to determine the performance of a particular cloud service.
For example, you can check the performance of a service provider against their service level agreement (SLA) over the past 6-12 months. Many services share this information in the public domain. You can also ask for this information.
It should be noted that there is no point in expecting perfect performance here – downtime is inevitable in the work of cloud services. What really matters is how the vendor deals with downtime. Check whether the proposed monitoring and reporting tools are sufficient and can be integrated into your management and reporting systems.
Make sure the provider 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 disruptions, including timeliness, prioritization, and evaluation of problem severity.
Don’t forget about the legal remedies and liability of the parties offered by the cloud provider in the event of a problem with the service operation.
7. Ability to easily switch to another cloud service
There are situations when you have to move from one cloud provider to another. This is a standard practice in the context of a market economy; apart from 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 about and provide for the painless transfer of your data and projects in advance.
How can you do this? First of all, if you plan to change your supplier, try to avoid services with unique patented technologies if your tasks don’t require this. In this case, the versatility of technology is more suitable for your business.
8. Business health and company profile
We have already said that before you start using the services of a cloud provider, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with other companies’ cases. Along with that, we recommend studying the profile of the company and its position in the market.
Usually, ratings of cloud services 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 decide.
Of course, for large companies looking for a cloud partner with a long-term perspective, it is not enough to look through the publicly available information. In such a situation, your experts may ask the cloud service provider for the information you are interested in: market share, number of partners, plans for the future, and so on.
Companies don’t share all the inside information, but the prospect of getting 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 should be taken seriously, so precisely estimate the time and effort it will take to make a decision.
If you want to benefit, think about the immediate needs of the business and the future.
Image Credit: Aleksandar Pasaric; Pexels; Thank you!