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6 tips for evaluating your cloud service provider

Connectria Hosting's Rich Waidman offers some suggestions on how to select your cloud and collocation services providers.

Connectria Hosting's Rich Waidmann spent a bit of time with me to bring me up to date on what the company is doing and offer a few suggestions for companies who are seeking collocation or cloud computing services.

What is Connectria doing?

Connectria offers cloud computing, managed hosting and custom hosting services to its clients in over 30 countries. Unlike some of the other hosting companies I've spoken with recently, Connectria offers services for enterprises that use workloads hosted on single-vendor midrange systems and UNIX systems as well. It offers IBM AIX and IBM i-based clouds. The company offers managed dedicated hosing services for users of Oracle/Sun Solaris and HP HP-UX-based UNIX workloads.

Increasingly, the company is helping its clients manage and use a combination of workloads hosted on Connectria's systems, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and the client's own systems.

Connectria's suggestions

Here are the six things Connectria suggests that customers look for in a cloud service provider:

  1. Moves in lock step with the latest security standards -The number one concern to migrating to a cloud environment is security. Meeting the latest security standards can prove to be a daunting task for any company - especially as they are constantly evolving. For this reason, it's essential that your hosting provider touts a reputable and expansive knowledge of the latest security standards. Two timely examples include: SSAE 16 (a standard for how security is audited, and breaches are reported) and Safe Harbor (a streamlined process for U.S. companies to comply with the EU directives). When vetting a prospective or current hosting provider, make sure that they have provisions in place for regularly updating their security standards.

  2. Proven track record of successfully keeping customer data safe - No matter what industry you are in, the importance of security in the wake of (seemingly) regular data breaches is a threat to us all - and a costly one at that. According to recent research from the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach to a company has risen 15 percent over the last year, totaling $3.5 million dollars globally, and the average cost paid for each stolen or lost record has increased more than 9 percent from $136 to $145 million. When searching for or vetting a current hosting provider, demand to know if they have a proven and safe track record.

  3. Has private cloud infrastructure for added security - Many companies who want to adopt cloud computing while mitigating their security risks should look for a hosting provider who can offer private clouds. A private cloud offers all the same benefits of a public cloud but dedicates resources (e.g. servers, firewalls, etc.) to a single customer. Private clouds prevent other companies with poor security practices to share your data center resources. Demand a provider that performs background checks before allowing customers to host.

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  4. Experience addressing Governmental Compliance (HIPAA/PCI) - With costly penalties - both fiscal and reputational - stretching across a variety of business verticals, the need to trust one's hosting provider to meet stringent security requirements is an integral part of today's IT business plan. If you are a company that accepts, processes or stores credit card information, you are likely very familiar with PCI data security standards. Or, if you're a company within the healthcare and dental industry, you are aware that you must comply with the HIPAA and HITECH Act security standards surrounding the storage of Protected Health Information (PHI). When it comes to meeting these security requirements, there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Flexibility in hosting options is essential to ensure you are getting the right coverage necessary to comply with governmental standards as well as meeting your business needs.

  5. Employees who are tenured engineers - Data centers are the heart of an organization. When a company entrusts their data to a data center hosting provider, they need to be sure that the engineering and operational support teams have excellent knowledge and execution skills in specific areas; one of the most important being security.

  6. Maintains sound financial standing - You may be just getting your business off the ground or have recently gone through a round of funding - but the last thing you want is for your hosting provider to go out of business. Choose a company that not only has a strong history in the hosting community, but also has a proven track record of being financially sound. Look for things such as long-term growth and profitability.

Snapshot analysis

While I thought many of Connectria's suggestions were fairly obvious, they are good things to consider when selecting a service provider.

Our conversation made it obvious that Connectria offers all of those capabilities or features to its customers. It is also helping customers create hybrid computing environments using their own IT infrastructure combined with Amazon's AWS or Microsoft's Azure. They are also providing dedicated hosting services for customers executing workloads on Solaris and HP-UX. They are also providing cloud computing services for companies using IBM AIX or IBM i environments.