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Travel Advice for your Journey into aaS: How to Choose Your Cloud Service Supplier

As demand for as-a-Service continues to gain momentum and an increasing number of cloud vendors make the game more competitive, how do you select “a” right supplier?

Many enterprises looking to switch to a consumption model may turn to the likes of Amazon, Microsoft  or Google as the biggest players in the industry. Others might look closer to home at suppliers such as Spark and Datacom. Whatever the case, comparing different suppliers and their features and approaches – and deciding which one is best for your company’s needs – may still be a bit of a head-scratcher. Here are some pointers to keep top of mind when making that very important decision.

Understand your business needs

Choosing a provider doesn’t need to be difficult. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of price, reputation, or customer service. But to maximise the benefits, the key is to think beyond this and instead look at aaS or consumption services from an outcome perspective.

Before you can compare suppliers’ offerings you will want to be clear about your business objectives, and how aaS will help you achieve them. Effort put into understanding what you need now and in the future, and how flexible your organisation can be in adopting off-the-shelf solutions will enable you to choose a cloud partner that aligns with your long-term needs.  

Scalable and flexible contracts

As-a-Service is consumption-based, so purchasers pay for what they use rather than committing to capacity, functionality and capabilities that may or may not be required. Do ensure that model’s flexibility is reflected in your contract. The monthly subscription (and the amount of monthly resources contracted for) should be clearly understood by all parties entering into an agreement; the costs should be based upon scaling resources upward or downward to meet your specific needs; look for service level commitments around the time to vary resources; and it should also be as easy for your company to exit the contract as it is to enter it.

Do your homework

Once you are onboard, customer service becomes the most important element of your day-to-day relationship.

Do seek customer service performance proof points via customer reference checks and case studies that are similar to your own business or demonstrate the supplier has achieved the outcomes you seek. Poor delivery and customer service can rapidly erode the gains in price/performance and agility you seek so it really does pay to focus on this aspect before you commit.

Do be realistic and frame your questions and expectations to reflect the commoditised nature of the services you are acquiring.

Service level agreements

Suppliers should be able to tell you how often during a particular period of time – annually, over three years, over five years, etc. – their services are unavailable. It should be a relatively low percentage and it must match your needs.

Some providers lease data center facilities from third parties, meaning the liabilities and responsibilities for service performance and outages become cloudy. You need to be mindful of this and be comfortable with the plans in place to protect your service.

Security and control

Security remains a concern for many decision makers so you’ll want to ensure that your organisation’s IT security policy is aligned with your aaS supplier’s. For some it may also be necessary to understand what formal security policies the supplier has in place. This could include information about how secure your data is from your provider’s own staff or contractors. You may also like to understand the supplier’s commitments in the event of a security breach.

Take it a step at a time

A major advantage of using consumption services is that it’s not an all or nothing proposition. You can deploy as little or as much of a service; as you need it, when you need it. Actively consider non-traditional adoption approaches. Tackling one service or group of users at a time can make it easier to analyse what worked and what didn’t. Did it reduce the cost? Does it enable our business to perform the way we need to? Are we paying for features we don’t use or need? This approach allows you to determine best practices for future deployments.

Give yourself plenty of lead time

Finally, allow for time to get all this done. We recommend that organisations engage with vendors sufficiently in advance of any business deadlines to provide the lead time necessary to do the groundwork. It takes time to understand what functionality you need now and in the future, what you can actually trade away for access to flexibility and cost, and what would be required of your organisation to make the shift.  

Suppliers are up for the challenge. And for customers choice is a wonderful thing

It can be difficult to tell whether one supplier’s end-to-end offering will perform better than another. Companies can benefit from the knowledge and experience of multiple providers, assembling the combination of solutions appropriate to the desired business and performance outcomes. Competition for commodity consumption services will ensure suppliers are committed to continued improvements in business processes, new innovations and customer service.

The main thing to remember is that there’s a growing world of choice out there and you’re in control. Do your homework and choose suppliers that provide you with flexibility and are focused on driving value and outcomes for their customers.  

 

To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Jon Wallace, on 021 500 035.

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