In the last of their articles on Cloud Hosting, Millenia tackle the subject of what to look for in a provider.
IT Cloud Hosting Series
In today’s digital world, many organisations are looking at their in-house IT systems and wondering whether to get another organisation to manage them for them or to turn to an IT hosting provider and put them in the ‘cloud’. However, not everybody is IT savvy and understands enough about the terminology to make an informed decision.
In order to help our readers, we have asked Millennia Computer Services Ltd. to put a series of three articles together on the subject of IT hosting. Millennia® has 15 years’ experience of providing managed cloud hosting services for several ticketing organisations. Hopefully, the short articles will help organisations make a more informed decision.
This last article discusses what to look for when moving to a hosting/cloud provider or changing your provider. Previous articles in the series covered a basic glossary of common terms used in discussions on hosting and an introduction to hosting/cloud along with the pros and cons.
What to look for when considering a hosting/cloud provider
When considering moving to a hosting/cloud provider or if you are looking to replace your current host, it is important that you understand your requirements and ensure that the hosting company can match your expectations. There are thousands of global hosting companies and understanding the key differentiators will help in making a decision. Nobody wants costly downtime and the affect that can have on a business. Speed and availability are often the key requirements along with quality technical support.
System uptime: this is usually expressed in percentages and is key in determining the quality of the infrastructure of the hosting company. The closer to 100% the better, but be aware of 100% uptime claims as technically even a 1 second interruption breaks it. A maximum of 99.99% tends to show very high availability mixed with realism, and 99.9% in now considered a standard service. All uptime service level agreements will exclude notified maintenance periods, so be aware that outages may still occur.
Bandwidth: premium network bandwidth is key as the speed and reliability is then assured. Websites and systems will display faster and perform better via quality bandwidth providers. Any provider that uses premium bandwidth puts performance and quality ahead of price. Look for generous or even unlimited monthly allowances as part of the package, and ask what the maximum Internet port speed of the hosted solution could be. These days Gigabit Internet is pretty common and indicates investment in networking equipment at the provider.
Invoicing: cloud computing is often invoiced, depending on the contract, based on what is actually used. Care should be taken to ensure that services are not over-provisioned unless there is a discount available for long term contracted reserved capacity.
Metadata and transparency: some customers require that their provider send them metadata about their cloud workloads. Sometimes the metadata is incomplete with compliance data, performance, historical, security and billing data missing. The lack of metadata means that customers do not gain the full benefit of the cloud. A lack of transparency may give rise to a variety of issues, with performance problems and outages being high.
Compliance concerns: as companies are responsible for their own data wherever it is held (on-premise or via a cloud/hosting provider), it is important that they can demonstrate compliance which can be difficult if cloud providers hold onto or don’t reveal relevant information within the metadata. Audits may not be possible or may be difficult, so confirm the ability to receive the information your compliance reports may require from the provider.
Support and on-boarding: care should be taken to ensure that any provider can set up the system (on-boarding process) quickly as companies sometimes experience lengthy delays. Quick response to support is important along with a personal service. Support costs also need to be understood from the outside as sometimes providers have ‘hidden’ costs which make them more expensive than appreciated at the outset. Availability of support is key so the hosting company needs to be available for when you need your systems available (either during working hours or more likely 24×7). You should look for support 24×7 covering all days of the year including holidays. Support may include regular patching and maintenance as part of a managed hosting package. Some providers fail to provide the necessary support to their clients causing failures. Look at reviews of the company for any complaints or poor reputations. Ensure that the hosting company can prove they have the necessary qualifications to support the infrastructure and all software that they will be responsible for.
Additional services: most hosting providers will offer web servers (dedicated and shared) along with cloud services but not all offer additional services. A quality hosting company will offer server management (operating system updates, application patching, resource monitoring, etc.), backup and recovery options, security services and DDoS protection.
Location: it is important that you understand your requirements for the location of your company data. Many hosting companies store data is different countries where the laws on privacy, security, etc. may be different to the UK. If you have a requirement for the data to be stored in the UK, then you need to establish where the data centres are that may host your data, and that there are no caveats in the terms that may mean your data is transported to a data centre outside the UK at the provider’s discretion (in the case of a local data centre disaster for example).
Company history: many companies come and go, so it is important to establish how long your prospective hosting company has been trading. If a hosting company has been trading for some time, they are more likely to have invested heavily in the infrastructure and staff and are likely to remain in business for a long time. Does the hosting company own their equipment, for example? A hosting company with a long history is more likely to have seen the numerous IT problems and have gained the experience to solve them than someone new.
Performance requirements: consideration of your requirements is key. Where resources are shared, performance can be affected. It is important that you understand your performance requirements and discuss these at the outset with the potential hosting provider so that the best option in terms of infrastructure and bandwidth is selected.
Millennia® becomes an extension of IT departments within the ticketing, theatre, leisure and marketing industries
Millennia Computer Services Ltd. is a private cloud hosting provider that has simplified and transformed the data centre. Customers enjoy the benefits of dedicated, scalable, agile and secure resources on a pay as you grow competitive basis bringing them optimum performance and a seamless user experience. Millennia® supplies a mixture of managed hosting and cloud services – environments are adapted to suit the customer.
- 100% platform uptime since inception, self-healing technology
- Scale up as well as scale down as markets demand
- UK data centres housing multi-sited platform including Disaster Recovery
- User control without the IT burden
- 360° security protection for every server and security against DDoS attacks
Millennia® mission is to maintain high levels of customer service for a fair price, whilst remaining trustworthy, agile and reliable. Reliability and quality are delivered with a personal touch. Customers are seen more as partners. Millennia®/Toptix partnership enabled the dedicated SRO4 Private Cloud providing the benefits of cloud hosting to SRO4 customers and the sale of 10 million tickets since inception.
Millennia® acts as an extension of customers’ IT department and not just a supplier.