Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has completely changed how we conduct business. Before cloud computing existed, providing digital infrastructure required significant investments in hardware, space, utilities and time. IaaS now allows companies to reap the benefits of online storage and analytics without needing to pay hefty maintenance fees. When you start thinking about which IaaS provider to use, you’ll soon discover that there are a lot of options. If you’re unfamiliar with finding IaaS providers, it can be overwhelming. This article aims to equip you with the knowledge you need, in order to choose the best IaaS provider for your company.
What is IaaS?
Cloud computing has transformed how we use the internet. Social media platforms and online storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive are all ‘cloud-based’, meaning that they are located in massive data centres all around the world. This data is stored separately from your own internal hardware. As we already mentioned, using IaaS providers reduces or eliminates the need for businesses to host their own physical storage. Most of the time, it decreases overhead costs and increases flexibility and responsiveness to growth. All IaaS services require reliable data (internet) connection, so that business data can be transmitted to and from your business devices and the storage centres. All of the processing, cyber security, hosting, and backing up of data is taken care of, separate from your business premises. This offers reassurance to business owners with little IT understanding, smaller budgets, or doubts about negotiating the online regulatory environment. Recent research also shows that “72% of information technology professionals believe IaaS makes it easier to innovate”, which is another testament to the flexibility and scalability of the technology.
How involved do you want to be?
When businesses used to keep their own data centres on-site, their IT teams were given a lot of autonomy. In fact, IT teams had completely control over the choice of hardware, software and how often it was updated. This meant that customisation was endless; however, it also took up a lot of time and a good chunk of the budget. When you outsource your data centre to a cloud-based company, you lose a lot of that control. When you interview prospective providers, make sure to ask them about the level of access and customisation that’s available. You’ll soon find out if your preferences and their products are in sync.
How much control does the IaaS provider have?
At times, data centres can be like wholesalers: the company that owns the infrastructure sells space to third parties, who proceed to sell it again to smaller businesses. This can work well if you’re looking for a combination of services for a single price, but it may have drawbacks. If there’s a technical issue, your third-party seller may not be able to fix it themselves, which leaves both of you stranded until the wholesaler rectifies the problem. Ask your service provider how much control it has, what Service Level Agreements they have to follow, and what they can do in the event of a systems failure.
How flexible can the IaaS provider be?
Different providers will have different capabilities regarding their ability to respond to change. Some providers offer a relatively static service, which may interest business owners who don’t think operating requirements will change that much. Other businesses are far more innovation-oriented and will need support to use emerging technology and SaaS platforms. It’s essential that you 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. Make sure that you take into account additional costs, in case your service levels increase over time.
How expensive is it to use IaaS?
The upfront costs of establishing an in-house data centre are extremely high. A lot of the time, IaaS packages seem attractive in comparison. However, they are vulnerable to spending creep, as add-ons and upgrades may be included on the go. Much like a budget airline ticket, the basics are provided, but adding extras will incur additional charges. Make sure you know what you’re getting for your outlay, and don’t be afraid to reject services if you’re not sure if you really need them later on. It’s always a good idea to audit your relationship with your chosen provider regularly so that you’re only paying for services you actually use.
Where is the IaaS provider based?
IaaS providers sometimes utilise global economies in their favour by establishing data centres in countries with relatively low operating costs. Though this often allows them to lower prices, you may end up with reduced or inferior latency. Speed is essential when it comes to analytics, especially mobile user experience. Choose a company that hosts their data in a location closer to you. The speeds offered will definitely be faster than one based internationally.
How does the IaaS provider deal with changing regulations?
Data protection laws are constantly changing, and the GDPR implementation process is still in its early days. Your provider must follow these changes, or else your business will suffer if there are any data security breaches. When a breach becomes visible, try to find out what their policies are like, around notification and securing data. Have a frank discussion with them about security and regulatory compliance. This also applies to any applications that are recommended or used by the provider.
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