Choosing the Right Cloud: How to Compare What You Can’t See

Choosing the right cloud provider can be quite difficult, as many of the attributes are intangible and technical. However when comparing clouds it is important to do your research and ask questions. Just like buying a car.

April 29, 2014

3 Min Read
Choosing the Right Cloud: How to Compare What You Can’t See

By Michael Brown 1

Choosing between cloud providers is something that not everyone puts enough thought and effort into. Thanks to the mysterious “up in the air” nature and highly technical functions, many often (mistakenly) believe that most clouds are pretty similar, and therefore don’t take into account what different providers have to offer. So what is the best way to choose the right cloud?

The short answer? Questions. Then again, that wouldn’t make for a very good post, so we will expand a bit for a bit longer answer. This great post by Roger McIlmoyle at Forbes explains that choosing a cloud should be like choosing a car. He makes a great analogy of choosing between a Lotus and a Lada, when they both clearly have 4 wheels and a 1600 cc engine. So obviously they must be the same! Why pay more for the lotus?

To even the most casual car person, the answer is quite simple. They are not the same, in fact, the differences are astounding, and each car has very specific attributes for very different functions. The same goes for cloud providers.

So, as an MSP you need to ask a lot of questions when choosing cloud providers for clients.

First, questions about what the client actually needs. If you don’t know if your client’s priority is to go race-car fast or affordable transport 4 people, you can’t even begin to choose between the Lotus and the Lada. The essential key to choosing a cloud is first understanding the reason for choosing a cloud.

Here are some of the questions that are highlighted in the article:

  • Do you require specific resources from your cloud provider? For example, maintenance, consulting, or security?

  • Do you need certain characteristics and specifications to run your workload, i.e., in the areas of input/output (I/O), availability, resiliency, speed, etc.?

  • Is your workload compute intensive? If so, is it intensive all the time, or on an ebb-and-flow basis?

  • Do you need to move a huge amount of data? If so, how often and how fast?

Only once you have a clear picture of what the client needs, can comparing clouds accurately begin. Cloud providers are less easy to compare side by side, because they are not as tangible and “in front of you” as two cars may be. That is why asking the right questions and doing sufficient research is all the more important in the case of the cloud. Using the answers to the questions about what the client needs, you can then formulate very specific questions to pose to potential cloud partners. They are very different, and if they don’t provide the services needed, will not be a good choice even at a lower price. “When you look at a Lotus and a Lada, you can see that you get what you pay for. That’s not a negative statement against either car.”

There are some other great examples of questions to consider in the original article at Forbes, so take a look if need be, but remember, they should just be guidelines. Every single client will be different so your approach to selecting the right cloud should vary with each one.

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