Choosing the Right Public Cloud Provider

This is a common question faced by many businesses and, just as in life, there are no straight answers. This is because there is no one size that fits all. Every organisation is different, with its own unique requirements, values and beliefs.

Unless you are a start-up, your organisation will already have an existing IT footprint which might consist of some on premise, some hosted and some cloud services. There are many different considerations that must be taken into account when determining where to place your organisational workloads or services. Ensuring that you select the best services to meet your requirements – for your clients and your employees – can be the difference between success and failure.

There is an array of public cloud service providers to choose from, each offering services with apparently similar but subtly different characteristics, and all advertised at attractively low hourly rates. There are articles aplenty rating the best/top ten cloud services or comparing the major public cloud services AWS, Azure and Google and explaining why you should use one rather than the other. However without any organisational context or specific criteria none of them will give you the answers you need.

So Where to Begin?

As Albert Einstein once said: “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

To truly understand where your organisation is going, you need to understand where you are at a specific point in time. Only by having meaningful insight can you make the right decision.

Our independent cloud consultancy SystemsUp has helped many businesses and public sector organisations through this process. Here are some of the points they recommend you review before deciding which cloud is best.

Company Strategy

Everything should start here. This is what defines your organisation or business and makes it special and unique. This core set of company principles and compelling criteria will help define success. It is critical therefore that everything, including the cloud services used, align to this strategy so everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Road Map

When going on the cloud journey it is key to create a baseline. This will define the current state of the organisation. After defining the future state, you will then be able to plan a roadmap to achieve the desired state.

The big bang approach is bad. We would recommend the roadmap is broken down into phases with each phase addressing a particular objective or a business benefit.

Quick wins should be identified to help deliver value fast and promote business buy-in from the executive team who might have had concerns and reservations.

Operational Model

The key is understanding how your business delivers value to those who buy its services or benefit from what it does. This can be broken down into three things: processes, structure and locations. By understanding what services are required, where they need to be and how they should be delivered to users, you can define your Service Level Agreement.

Organisational Threats

A threat is any unfavourable situation in the organisation’s environment that could potentially damage its strategy. The threats may be many and varied: from an increasing uncertainty about the future; intensifying competition from rivals and upcoming start-ups; consumers looking for more choice, better value and lower prices; decreasing brand loyalty; and of course, the all-pervasive spectre of security.

This has been highlighted by the success of start-ups like Uber and Airbnb which have used the cloud to catapult their businesses into the stratosphere. Guess what? Even larger organisations have access to the same technologies that they use.

Hardware Refresh Cycles

Hardware cycles should take place every three to four years and take into consideration an organisation’s growth and whether new IT services or capacity have been added ad hoc to support projects or through mergers or acquisition.

Public cloud providers remove these shackles and long, protracted procurement exercises by providing elastic resources on tap, at scale, at the right price point. Organisations must understand the changes in CAPEX and OPEX and have the right tools and processes to monitor their cloud spend to identify ways they can further reduce costs.

Software License Agreements

These tend to differ according to the vendor, with more attractive discounts offered for longer term contracts that lock in an organisation for more than three years. It is important to understand what agreements are in place and whether they were agreed with proper foresight. Some might have been signed by people who are no longer employed by the organisation.

Reviewing these and understanding the new licensing models that cloud providers offer or even outsourcing the capability by using SaaS products, will ultimately drive down cost and lower the total cost of ownership.

Application Assessment

For any move to the cloud it is crucial to assess the cloud readiness of all applications and workloads. This will determine what applications and data can be migrated to the cloud and what delivery models work best for them – SaaS, PaaS or IaaS.

As Einstein also once said: “The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

It is better to make decisions based on data and solid information. Armed with this knowledge, potential cloud service providers can be assessed on a ‘best value’ basis, ensuring a smooth migration to the cloud that will enhance your business and customer value.

By Daniel Rae, Director of Professional Services for cloud consultancy SystemsUp, an iomart company.

SystemsUp has over a decade of experience helping enterprise and government move to the cloud.

To find out more about how their consultancy services can help your business choose the right cloud services visit