How to choose the right national cloud service provider

02 December 2013 | Dan Mannion, Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

I can’t overstate the importance of choosing the right partner when you’re heading to the cloud. Simply put, the local service provider you work with can make or break your project. To make the right choice, use the checklist below to make sure you’re getting the right attributes in your service provider. Six check marks mean you’ve found a good one. Five or fewer means you’re taking a chance.

1. Qualified partners 

Scrutiny is vital. Look past your cloud service provider to evaluate the skill level and quality of their partners, so you understand how the service is being delivered. We failed to do this during the last decade of IT outsourcing and paid a price in inconsistent quality of services. Learn from that mistake. Ask your cloud provider how they’ll deliver their services, and understand the role partners play. Is the architecture designed and supported by the vendor? Is there a certified hardware architecture? Do the physical security processes meet the highest standards? Whether you’re looking at an IaaS platform, desktop hosting, or email- or collaboration-as-a-service, ask hard questions and check the answers.

2. Highly automated systems

In the cloud, service providers must move quickly. Rapid deployment and availability of IT services is the name of the game. I wouldn’t look at any firm that doesn’t have a highly automated system and a self-service portal with a lot of options. These are the partners who have resolved the complexity, so you can be confident they’ll meet your cost, time-to-market, and service level agreement (SLA) expectations, providing the highest quality at the best price. 

3. Disaster recovery plan

Today’s communications rely on connectivity, so governments can’t afford to disconnect—especially in challenging times. Your service provider must guarantee your data and application safety no matter what. If a natural disaster destroys an entire data center, your partner must have a comprehensive plan that launches automatically. At a minimum, this means having extra capacity, automated procedures, and multiple geographically distributed data centers.

4. National technology standards experience

Find a service provider who truly understands and is involved in setting national technology standards. The more engaged the company is in driving national standards, the more effective it will be at implementing them for you.

5. Financial staying power

National cloud projects take a long time to implement, so you need a partner who’s going to be with you for the long haul. Look for a financially healthy company that isn’t highly leveraged, has long-term capital, offers state-of-the-art services, and has positive cash flow and a strong balance sheet.

6. Industry credibility

Finally, look at the provider’s fundamental reliability as an enterprise solution developer. You’ll find the evidence you need in three areas:

  • Up-to-date solutions—Check out a potential partner’s services catalog. Choose partners whose solutions are built on the latest productsthose released within the last six months. This tells you that the service provider is committed to R&D investment. Also look for partners whose services are architected and certified by the various hardware and software vendors, so if problems arise, everyone knows whose problem it is.
  • Strong service desk—Credible solution providers will have a help desk that can troubleshoot any issues and provide SLA support quickly. If a provider you’re evaluating can’t do this, choose another one.   
  • Cloud computing—Your provider must have a true commitment to offering cloud-based solutions, including utility-based cloud solutions that scale up and down based on your usage. It’s almost 2014—don’t let anyone sell you a simple managed hosting service by labeling it “cloud.” 

Armed with this checklist, go out and evaluate your local service providers. Not only will using these six requirements speed up your search, but finding a provider that meets or exceeds all of these criteria will position you to be successful in your national cloud implementation. If you’re overwhelmed by the large number of options, give us a call. As a world-leading cloud service provider, Microsoft can help in your assessment.

Good luck, and let me know how I can help.

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Dan Mannion
Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Microsoft on Government Blog

About the Author

Dan Mannion | Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Dan Mannion leads Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector cloud sales business, delivering the most innovative solutions to government, health, and education customers around the globe. Read more