The cloud has gone from 0 to 60 in the past couple of years. These days, people are looking to cloud solutions first for the apps they want to run and the tasks they want to accomplish. After all, why buy software that you have to install, manage, and upgrade, when you could alternatively just open up a browser and type in a URL?
So whether you are a software developer building an app or an IT manager in charge of an organization’s computing environment, you want to be looking at how you can deliver solutions over the cloud. Why? Because that’s where your users are.
There are a lot of options out there. In this post we wanted to provide you with a little guidance to help you zero in on which cloud provider is right for you.
Start With The Right Questions
In selecting a cloud provider, it’s best to start by asking yourself a few important questions.
- What are you really trying to accomplish in the cloud? So much of your decision criteria depends on what your specific goals are. Are you changing your operational model and the way you deliver software and/or do business? Are you implementing an application? Trying to make life easier for your staff? Reducing costs? When you are dealing with the cloud it’s easy to be swept up in the technology. Try to step away from that and answer this question like a CEO would.
- What is your team’s skill set? Are they technically savvy? Developers or operations specialists? Do you consider your team to be full of self-starters and problem-solvers? Or is it a business-focused team that’s working towards the realization of specific key metrics? In many ways, the team you have will define which cloud solution will work best for you.
- How much help do you need? Different cloud solutions require different degrees of self-reliance. Some groups just need access to raw technology, while others are looking for partners and experts to assist them.
- Are there any specialized services you require? There are clouds that come with exceptional support, and others that are tailored to specific industries. Some have unique technology components you may want to leverage, while others provide application-level functionality that hits exactly the right mark.
Then, Choose A Category
Once you’ve really thought about your needs and your team, you are ready to narrow down your selection. Getting to specific cloud vendors is often a matter of taste and other nuanced preferences, but the list of categories below should help you get very close to selecting the right cloud provider for you.
Generalist Clouds: AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Rackspace
These are the major cloud providers out there, supplying customers with broad access to technology and highly flexible working scenarios. They cater to virtually anyone: from startups all the way to some of the largest businesses and organizations in the world. Their goals are to cover the widest set of customer segments.
If you want to use one of these clouds, you pretty much have to have some kind of development staff on hand. That’s because these vendors primarily offer infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), which means they give you access to all the infrastructure you need to build your own apps, environments, and systems – but you have to build them. AWS is the breakaway leader in this space in many ways, boasting an enormous community of developers well-versed in the “Amazon way of doing cloud.” Microsoft is a great fit for Microsoft shops, as they actively leverage their reseller network and Office & Windows franchises into the cloud. Rackspace is focused on offering the very best customer experience through their “Fanatical Support” promise (by contrast, try getting a human to pick up the phone at Amazon). But in most cases, you’ve got to have team members who can manage the infrastructure you are renting from these service providers.
Specialist Clouds: Verizon, HP, CSC
Companies like Verizon, HP, and CSC, while also IaaS providers, sit in a slightly different category due to the highly targeted nature of their clienteles. For example, Verizon’s cloud is targeted at large enterprise customers of Verizon who are focused on larger applications, in particular those that require a high degree of security, network, and performance.
Verizon has a massive customer base across North America and has a well-established virtual private network infrastructure that it has sold to businesses with existing processional IT staffs. Verizon’s goal with its cloud is to leverage that infrastructure and customer base to up-sell cloud services to those same customers. It’s positioning itself as the cloud that is built for businesses, offering them a place to host and manage IT applications that businesses rely on.
Regional & Local Web-Hosting Companies
Before there was the cloud, there was web hosting. Thousands of companies across the continent offered their clients the ability to host websites and other basic services including computing resources, storage, security, and more. Now, these companies are adding additional cloud services to those packages, turning their hosting customers into cloud customers.
For these providers, personal relationships and hand-holding are key. They rely on referrals and other local connections to drive business, and good service levels to drive renewals. They often serve small and mid-sized businesses with a personal touch, building credibility and trust with customers so that they can provide strategic guidance and advice, as a trusted collaborative partner.
Enterprise File Share & Sync
Then there are the file sharing companies: Dropbox, Citrix Sharefile, and Box. These companies all started out as end-user applications that made sharing files easy, but they quickly began to fill a niche opening in the market as the file system for the cloud. Today they not only serve individual users and companies, but they also underpin larger applications that require content creation and collaboration, combined with some kind of persistent file storage.
We include this category in our list because many smaller companies use file sharing solutions, along with collaborative systems like Google Drive and Office 365, to operate their companies entirely in the cloud. These applications form the basis of the cloud-based desktop, and automatically replace or absorb a number of more traditional IT needs ranging from backup to upgrading to tech support and more.
A list like this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the SaaS companies out there – and there are an endless number of them. Technically not cloud platforms or infrastructure, these are the applications that people build to actually get work done. They are often highly specialized, purpose-built, and in most cases very good at helping users accomplish specific tasks. SaaS applications are built on many of the platforms we’ve described above, and some even evolve to become platforms of their own. You can bet we’ll be spending many future posts talking about SaaS.
Whatever the case, you are at the beginning of an exciting journey from something old to something new. If that path involves moving a bunch of data into your new cloud, please check out Cloud FastPath, the first fully automated, cloud-based application for migrating large volumes of files into the cloud. It’s fast, simple, and extremely secure – perfect for businesses just making their way into the cloud. Thanks!