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The current cloud market is crowded and can be difficult to navigate. As the potential for profiting from the cloud grows, more contenders are entering the field. Gartner predicts the public cloud market will grow 18% this year to reach $246.8 billion. 

When choosing a cloud provider, companies may debate whether to work with one of the major players or a smaller business partner. The good news: healthy competition drives  innovation and prices down. The bad news: deciding which cloud provider to partner with is getting more challenging.

Cloud Provider

Not all cloud providers are created equal. Before choosing one, companies should consider a variety of factors, such as the range of services offered, accountability for security, and network quality. 

Read the Fine Print 

Each cloud provider has its own service level agreement (SLA). Before you go with a provider, thoroughly review its SLAs. You don’t want to make assumptions about what its roles and responsibilities will be.  

For instance, the level of availability the provider guarantees is important. Your business will want maximum uptime for acceptable business continuity. The SLA should also stipulate which licenses, patches, and updates the provider is responsible for and which tasks your business still needs to handle. 

Security is another area that can vary from SLA to SLA. You don’t want to wait until you suffer a breach to discover that your cloud provider isn’t responsible for protecting the affected aspect of your data or infrastructure. You want transparency from your cloud provider. 

Preview the Cloud Services Menu 

Not all providers offer a full range of cloud services. If you are planning on using cloud for backup and disaster recovery, partner with a provider who offers DRaaS.

Evaluate potential providers with your company goals in mind. Are you looking to host email? Do you want Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for data or Platform as a Service (PaaS) for applications? If a provider doesn’t offer the cloud services and models you need, look elsewhere. 

Some companies claim to be cloud providers when all they really offer are hosting or colocation services.  Buyer beware. 

Look for the Perfect Cloud Connection 

Providers have different network capabilities that affect cloud performance. Because the cloud provides services over the Internet, the right network connection means everything. Data needs to move between your physical location and the cloud quickly and safely with few interruptions.  

If a cloud provider can’t offer a low latency network connection, you should pass on it. Latency results in a poor user experience. A well designed high-speed connection will ensure real-time data gets transmitted to your cloud infrastructure so you can reach actionable insights. 

Finding a Cloud Provider With the Right Fit 

When you choose a cloud provider for your business, you want more than a cookie-cutter solution. You want to work with a partner that will accommodate your company’s unique needs and goals. A provider that understands your specific industry will help you pick the correct combination of cloud services. You also should seek a cloud provider that provides responsive service and support that can answer your questions and provide assistance should you require it.

FirstLight has experience providing cloud services for organizations in highly regulated industries, including education, health care, and law. When you partner with FirstLight, you also gain access to a powerful fiber-optic network for cloud. Our cloud services guarantee superior security, reliability, and scalability.  

Don’t miss out on the latest cloud insights. Register for the 2017 Cloud Connect Summit