Not all cloud services are created equally, so how do customers decide which provider is right for them?
Cloud technology has firmly established itself as an essential tool for all 21st century businesses. So much so, that the recent Cisco Global Cloud Index forecasts that by 2017 nearly two-thirds of all business workloads will be processed in the cloud.
With a multitude of new cloud services, from security-as-a-service to contact centres in the cloud, constantly coming to market, it can be a challenge for end-users to decide which provider and solution can best fulfil its needs. Likewise, providers and their partners need to consider how to be clearer with their offerings. So, what are the steps each party can take to simplify the decision-making process, and ensure the most desirable outcome for all?
Considerations for the end-user
Firstly, the question of security is never far from the lips of any business looking to put its critical data and applications into the cloud. To ensure an end-user is fully comfortable with the solution it is purchasing, the decision-making process should commence by prioritising conversations on security policies with the provider. From encryption and authentication protocols to the physical location of the cloud servers, there are a number of key factors to consider.
Secondly, because business growth can be organic, seasonal or temporary, the cloud service chosen must be scalable enough to accommodate fluctuations in usage. This not only allows a business to easily build-out the services it uses as it grows, but also reduces the chance of a costly outage when usage exceeds expectations. In light of this, end-users should ensure that the billing model agreed reflects the scalability of the service, and pay only for what is used.
Finally, consideration should also be made as to whether the provider has a track record of innovating with their cloud services. As cloud providers seek to constantly update and develop their offerings, choosing one that is leading the wave on cloud innovation is imperative for an end-user in ensuring they receive continuous business benefits from the service, and stay abreast of their competition.
Peace of mind: clarity & validation
For answers to all of the above, the channel should act as both a conduit of transparency and education for the end-user. Customers need to have a clear understanding of which provider’s services they are adopting via the channel, what architecture the cloud is built on and its characteristics.
In circumstances where the partner has the ability to create and deliver the service themself, the provider can play a key role in giving validation of the service. This gives the end-user the assurance that the cloud is delivered, managed and governed in the right way. From a partner perspective it is beneficial, as their service and capabilities are being accredited.
At Cisco we have tried to make this possible, and ensure the end-user is making a fully informed decision, with the creation of Cisco Powered, which ensures customers know their services are built and delivered on a Cisco-validated architecture. To be part of the Cisco Powered programme, partners must meet strict qualifications to deliver the service, and every service must be third-party audited.
With such programmes it is important that partners are tiered based on their capabilities, so that customers can choose the correct levels of expertise and benefits based on their own business needs.
With cloud services continuing to innovate, their importance within organisations will only continue to grow. To ensure a smooth deployment process, and the ability to maximise benefits once in use, cloud service providers and their partners have a responsibility to ensure end-users are able to make informed decisions and chose the right service to fulfil business needs and stimulate long-term innovation and success.
Richard Roberts is managing director UK partner & commercial sales, Cisco