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Hybrid Cloud Providers: 7 questions to help you find the best vendor

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After 10 years of watching companies choose cloud, I can say they almost all come to hybrid cloud providers the same way. They start out trying to do everything in private, on-premise clouds. Then, as they get a little wiser and a little more dependent on their applications, they realize they need a better home. The supply closet isn’t going to cut it anymore, and building out a data center is far from a core competency.

It’s time for colocation.

However, not everyone is willing to throw everything into a public cloud. In fact, according to 451 Research, from 2014 to 2016, the percentage of companies using on-premise private cloud alongside hosted private cloud increased from 61 percent to 74 percent. That’s even as 8 percent more companies began using on-premise private cloud with public cloud.

It’s clear that most companies value the idea of cloud services and understand the need for flexibility and on-demand scale. Despite the benefits, they still have reservations about moving everything to a public cloud infrastructure. They need a hybrid cloud provider who can bridge the gap between public and private, helping them develop a hybrid cloud strategy that blends the advantages of public clouds with the control of private ones.


There's no question there is great appetite within organizations to use cloud services, but there are still challenges for organizations as they make the move to the cloud.

Sid Nag
Research Director at
Gartner


Not sure how to find this magical blend? Here are seven questions you can ask to find the best cloud storage providers for your business.

Can you create a hybrid cloud strategy specific to my company?

Getting started with the public cloud is instant: the relationship is formed with a credit card swipe. But just because something’s accessible doesn’t mean it’s easy. All Google, AWS or Microsoft will know about you is the name and number on that credit card.


One cloud doesn’t fit every company.

Sharon Gaudin 
Senior Writer at ComputerWorld


To truly take advantage of the cloud, you must ask why. Why am I making this decision? Why did I choose these technologies? If you start with the why instead of the how, you’ll wind up in a better place. We have whitepapers and checklists to help people understand how hybrid cloud works and when the cloud might be a solid opportunity for your applications and your business. We sit down with each client to make sure we get this part of the process right. While the questions may seem a bit excessive, the answers are necessary for us to personalize a hybrid cloud environment that works for your specific business needs.

Your cloud should support a transformation in your business. Whether it’s contributing to profitability or helping you enter a new market, it’s your cloud. The right cloud service provider will talk in terms of your business needs, not their needs or their technology.

What hybrid cloud management work are you going to take off of my plate?  

One positive about finding the right managed service provider: You can hand off the more mundane things in your life, like backup or network maintenance. Designing and deploying a cloud may be interesting, but the everyday tasks of running one are generally not worth your time. A true cloud partner has a vested interest in doing those tedious tasks as efficiently as possible to help you meet your needs.  


Enterprises can let someone else worry about at least part of the regular maintenance routine.

That, in turn, means IT workers will have more time to be innovative in terms of how they help the business succeed.

Sharon Gaudin
Senior Writer at
ComputerWorld


You also won’t have to scramble to find talent. Folks who can work in the cloud are expensive and fickle — finding them and keeping them happy rarely has a positive ROI.

Push your potential cloud partners to deliver a clear delineation of duties, so you know what will and will not be on your plate. Who knows, when you’re not stuck worrying about keeping your systems operational and understanding how your cache is optimized, maybe you’ll have time for that application that’s going to help the business enter into a market or generate a few extra dollars.

What’s better for this application: public, private or hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud means you have options. It also means you need to figure out whether each application belongs in a public or private cloud, or a combination of the two. This may seem simple, but you can vet potential hybrid cloud vendors by how they approach this process.


Many users want to mix the clear flexibility, agility, speed and cost benefits of public cloud services with the control, security and performance benefits of private networks or the private cloud.

John Dinsdale
Analyst at the Synergy Research Group, in ComputerWorld


Good hybrid cloud service providers will prod your team on what data is auditable or subject to regulation so they can plan for your hybrid cloud security. They’ll ask about the RTO and RPO for each application — down to the dollar amount your business stands to lose for each minute of downtime — so they can develop a hybrid cloud architecture that gives you the performance quality and reliability you need. They’ll ask about the stability of each application’s growth, and whether they’re likely to see a burst and then drop in activity. Expanding a private cloud comes with the large upfront cost of adding a new server, so a public cloud may be better suited for apps that grow in leaps, not increments. A good partner should even ask to see your contracts. Some applications may have provisions that allow you to easily switch to a cloud environment, helping to make your decision.

How much flexibility can your hybrid cloud solution give my company?

No one wants to be locked in. One of the main hybrid cloud advantages is flexibility. Companies moving to the cloud want to scale on demand and shift from capex to opex. They can’t do that smoothly if they’re stuck in a solution that doesn’t fit.


Many mid-tier and large companies initially go to the trusted providers of their applications and networks: their systems integrators and the telcos. Their challenge is agility. The smaller dedicated cloud providers often move faster and are more willing to accommodate individual demands.

Bernt Ostergaard
Analyst at Quocirca, in
Computer Weekly


For example, top hybrid cloud storage providers will help you map a plan for hybrid cloud applications to “burst” into the cloud — basically to use public cloud scale when they have a spike in demand, then revert back to a private cloud environment. It’s a great cloud solution that’s usually the most cost efficient, but you still have to understand those hybrid cloud costs.

Ask your existing or potential partner to explain what will happen to the half of the infrastructure that doesn’t happen to be in the cloud when those applications burst. Ask them how their hybrid environment will create the integration between the private servers you have on premise and the public cloud you need to tap. Making clouds work properly requires preparation, planning and a lot of testing. Make sure your partner is committed to doing just that with you — and on your behalf.

Will your hybrid cloud service let me pick up my ball and go home?

The second half of not being locked in is having a hybrid cloud infrastructure that’s portable. One of our solution architects loves to say that “You have to be able to pick up your ball and go home.” Your hybrid cloud service model can’t require you to write code that only works on one hybrid cloud platform, otherwise you’re stuck. That vendor then gets to dictate your strategies. Maybe you’ve experienced this before, where a technology deployment ends up not scaling the way you wanted, or becomes grossly expensive after you’ve signed the contract. If you have lived through that, I’m certain it’s not an experience you’re looking to repeat.


By not being locked in, a business can leverage clouds without worrying about the downstream complications.

John Fruehe
Senior Analyst for Networking and Servers at Moor Insights and Strategy, in 
Forbes


You need hybrid cloud environments that are easy to decouple. When you’re deep in hybrid cloud development, think about building an architecture that can be deployed in multiple ways across multiple systems. Get proof from your existing or potential partner that you can easily pick your work up and take it to a new hybrid infrastructure if needed.

What can your hybrid cloud network do for my downtime?

As we hinted at the start of this piece, most companies are driven to cloud environments because they need increased flexibility and less downtime. 24/7 availability isn’t optional for customers anymore, it’s a given. This is what any hybrid cloud provider needs to provide.


Gone are the days when employees only need to access their email when they’re at their desks, or only need to update a spreadsheet or access an application during business hours. For companies to compete effectively, the cloud offers the advantage of anywhere, anytime access.

Ash Ashutosh
Founder and CEO, Actifio in
Beta News


Fortunately, most do. Data centers and clouds are designed specifically to meet these needs in ways that office buildings and corporate campuses are not. Your supply closet probably isn’t serviced by multiple carriers, but your data center definitely should be. Data centers should also have network engineers on staff who are dedicated to helping you solve increasingly complex network requirements. Your network is the absolute most important part of your cloud infrastructure. After all, if you can’t connect to your cloud, then it doesn’t exist for you or your customers. Find a partner who has safeguards in place to make sure this won’t happen.

What other hybrid cloud benefits can your company give me?

Once you’ve answered the most pressing questions around strategy, flexibility and availability, see if your potential hybrid cloud companies have any last tricks to pull out of their hats.

One popular hybrid cloud resource cloud service providers can offer is a cloud exchange. This can get you a rapid and secure connection to AWS, Azure, Google — heck, even sometimes to applications like Salesforce and Office365. A cloud connect creates a physical path between your company’s hybrid cloud server in the data center and the cloud exchange, where you’re then connected to the third party applications or public cloud providers. Cloud exchanges get your business the best access to these services.


Cloud is the underpinning for business transformation. Of companies surveyed, 59% rate cloud-based software and applications a top priority, and 57% rate cloud-based infrastructure one as well.

Michelle Bailey
SVP, Datacenter Initiatives and Data Strategy at 451 Research


Remember, evaluating hybrid cloud computing companies is just a start

A lot of companies approach this process with the usual IT acquisition process in mind: long, fraught and basically permanent. But picking a cloud service provider is not a be-all, end-all decision for any organization. The exciting thing about our industry is that things are changing quickly. And the same is true in all of our clients’ industries.

Modern cloud environments give you the flexibility to make the decisions that are right for you and your applications now, while keeping open access to future opportunities. Applications can move between public and private clouds, often utilizing the best of both, and your company can move between partners that serve your needs. As long as you ask smart questions — and make sure you can take that ball home — choosing a hybrid cloud provider will give you access, support, reliability and flexibility, not a contract that has to be termed out before you can make a different decision if needed.

Ready to start getting some answers about what cloud can do for your business? Email me.