Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has completely changed the way we conduct our business. Before cloud computing was an option, providing digital infrastructure required significant investments in hardware, space, utilities and time. IaaS now provides a way of accessing the benefits of online storage and analytics without the hefty costs of maintenance. When you start investigating how to choose the right IaaS provider, you soon find that there are plenty of options. If it’s an unfamiliar world to you, it can be overwhelming. We’ve put this article together, so you can choose the best IaaS provider for your company.
What is IaaS?
Cloud computing has changed the way we use the internet, both professionally and personally. Social media platforms and online storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive are all located in ‘the cloud’ – that is, in massive data centres all around the world. This data is stored separately to your own internal hardware. As we mentioned above, using an IaaS provider reduces or eliminates the need for businesses to host their own physical storage. It typically decreases overheads and increases flexibility and responsiveness to growth. Any IaaS service requires a reliable data (internet) connection to transmit your business data to and from your business devices and the storage centres. The processing, cyber security, hosting, and backing up of data is all taken care of, separate from your business premises. This offers peace of mind for business owners that operate with little IT understanding, smaller budgets that exclude infrastructure outlays or are wary of negotiating the online regulatory environment. Recent research also indicates that “72% of information technology professionals believe IaaS makes it easier to innovate”, which is another nod to the flexibility and scalability of the technology.
How hands on do you want/need to be?
When businesses used to keep their own data centres on site, there was a great deal of autonomy granted to IT support teams. The choice of hardware, software and how often it was updated was entirely in the hands of the team. This meant customisation was endless, but it also took up a lot of time and a good slice of the budget. When you outsource your data centre to a cloud-based company, you lose much of that control. When you interview prospective providers ask them about the level of access and customisation that’s available. You’ll soon know if your preferences and their products are in sync.
How much control does your service provider have?
Data centres sometimes operate like wholesalers: the company that owns the infrastructure can easily sell space to third parties, who sell it on again to smaller businesses. This can work well if you’re looking for a combination of services for a single price, but it can come with drawbacks. If there is a technical issue your third-party seller may not be able to fix it themselves, leaving you both stranded until the wholesaler rectifies the problem. Ask about how much control your service provider has, what Service Level Agreements they are beholden to, and what they can do in the event of a systems failure.
How flexible and responsive can the IaaS provider be?
Leading on from the point above, different providers will have varying capabilities regarding the ability to be responsive to change. Some providers offer a reasonably static service, which may interest business owners who foresee very little change in operating requirements. Other businesses will be far more innovation-oriented and will need support to deploy emerging technology and SaaS platforms. Communicate your needs and your potential use cases to your prospective providers and see if they can meet them or will be willing to in the future (don’t forget to factor in additional costs if your service levels increase over time).
What are the true costs of deploying IaaS?
The upfront costs of establishing an in-house data centre are rightly intimidating. IaaS packages are often attractive in comparison but are vulnerable to spending creep as add-ons and upgrades may be included on the go. Much like a budget airline ticket, often the basics are provided, but any extras will incur additional charges. Make sure you understand what you’re getting for your outlay, and don’t be afraid to reject services if you think you only ‘might’ need them later on. It’s a good idea to audit your relationship with your chosen provider regularly to ensure you’re only paying for services you actually use.
Where is the provider located?
Sometimes IaaS providers utilise global economies in their favour by establishing data centres in countries that have relatively low operating costs. While this often allow them to offer cheaper prices, you may end up paying in reduced or inferior latency. Speed is truly of the essence when it comes to analytics and particularly mobile user experience. Choose a company that hosts their data in a location close to yours – the speeds offered will be inarguably faster than one based internationally.
How does the provider deal with the regulatory environment?
Data protection laws are shifting constantly, and the GDPR implementation process is still in its early days. Your provider must be across these changes as your business will ultimately be on the hook for any data security breaches. Find out what their policies are around notification and securing data once a breach becomes visible. Have a frank discussion about security and regulatory compliance. This extends to any applications that are recommended or used by the provider, too.
About Mustard IT, your Infrastructure as a Service partner
Mustard IT provide the design, build, and installation of secure IT servers and networks, including IaaS provision, and provide value-driven, round-the-clock IT support for small and medium businesses. Our trusted team are experienced and able to explain complex issues to you in a language you’ll understand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.