INSIGHT: How to assess your next NZ cloud provider

As cloud migration escalates, it's vital that Kiwi companies first understand their specific requirements and then decide which metrics are key for their organisation.

The technology industry is New Zealand’s third largest export earner, and the fastest growing sector with the country’s hosting and infrastructure services alone worth NZ$767m in 2013.

As cloud migration escalates, it is vital that companies first understand their specific requirements and then decide which metrics are key for their organisation.

Only then, can Kiwi businesses measure each cloud vendor against their prioritised metrics.

As a result, below is a check-list of issues to understand, and enquire further:

• Understand your business’s requirements:

Cloud pricing vary greatly by features, duration and inherent complexity. This makes comparison between vendors difficult. Start by forecasting how your business will use the cloud.

Look at your computational requirements, total storage and how both could vary by time. Some vendors charge by capacity booked. Others charge by capacity used. Furthermore, this capacity could be a contracted minimum term.

Or it could be perfectly elastic – able to be switched off with a month’s notice. In this context, what are your organisation’s needs?

• Understand what data will sit in the public vs private clouds, or remain on premise:

There are performance, security and pricing implications to weigh up, around all three options. Traditionally, public clouds have been a lot slower and less secure. However, latest developments mean speed is now less of an issue.

Security is now also on par between public and private clouds. A private cloud also constrains possible growth, as both RAM and compute remain fixed resources.

• Understand your data’s sovereignty:

Where your data is stored geographically, generally subjects it to the host country’s laws / legal jurisdiction.

The exception - data residing in a US company’s data centre, located in New Zealand, remains accessible to the US Government (ostensibly for counter-terrorism, tax evasion, criminal-checking purposes).

In the context of civil litigation, your opponent’s access to your digital data depends on the host country’s applicable discovery laws. Cloud storage within New Zealand guarantees compliance with New Zealand law and regulations.

• Understand your prospective cloud’s security layers:

Software-based security features to consider include; firewalls, virus and malware scanning. Some vendors offer these as in-built, while others offer them as add-ons.

Physical security measures to check; type of access (finger-print) control, lockable server racks and remote surveillance. What are your organisation’s minimum security protocols, once data moves to the cloud?

• Understand your minimum connection speed:

As your organisation communicates with distant cloud-based servers, your connection speed is invariably a bottle-neck. Off-shore cloud vendors can appear attractive from a pricing perspective.

However, latency often is the downside. What speeds are acceptable to your organisation? And can these be achieved with your prospective cloud vendor?

• Understand your data transport costs:

Most cloud vendors attach costs to the quantity of data sent and received from their servers. This factor generally becomes greater, as physical distance increases. Hence the amount of data typically sent (not just stored) will also need to be considered.

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• Understand your prospective cloud’s flexibility:

Clearly, the best forecasts can still be wrong. Hence check the costs involved to change to a different cloud pricing scheme, should circumstances change.

After all, flexibility is one of the cloud’s inherent benefits. The cost to change plans shouldn’t prohibit you.

• Understand your data migration costs:

Invariably, your data is already located on premise / with another cloud provider / co-located or a mixture of all three. Getting it to your new cloud vendor involves data transport costs.

This cost alone can be a complex calculation, depending on the number of locations involved. Check extraction costs and include them into your calculations.

• Understand your prospective vendor’s disaster recovery:

What happens should disaster strike your vendor’s data centre? Check if your vendor has a backup location that automatically assumes control without user action.

Natural disaster, user error, power failure - none of these unforeseen incidents should cause data loss or application availability.

• Understand your prospective cloud’s backup solution:

Is backup included, or an add-on? What are the costs involved to retrieve and restore files? What recovery time does your cloud provider work to (Recovery Time Objective) versus what is acceptable for you?

Similarly, how far back can your cloud provider retrieve files (Recovery Point Objective), versus the oldest data your organisation might need?

• Understand your prospective vendor’s support structure:

Is their support team locally based, or are they around the world – following the sun. There are implications in how issues are resolved under both scenarios.

• Understand your prospective vendor’s Service Level Agreement (SLA):

Scrutinise your prospective vendors’ SLA and negotiate up-front on areas / time-frames that are unacceptable to your organisation. Look for a provider who has 99.9% uptime at a minimum, with financial incentives to ensure this SLA is met.

• Understand if your prospective vendor is software agnostic:

Your applications and data shouldn’t need to change to move into a vendor’s cloud. Choose a vendor who supports your choices of operating system, applications and other collaborative tools. After all, you’re the customer.

By Will Lai - Marketing Executive, ICONZ-Webvisions