While no doubt you will have put in place comprehensive service level agreements with your providers, these on their own cannot deliver maximum cloud cover.
In the end your cloud lives in a data centre, or data centres, which could be based anywhere. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t always particularly secure or efficient and even the most diligent cloud provider cannot predict or prevent the consequences of data centre downtime caused by power outages, storm damage or security breaches.
Many cloud providers are also often reliant on third party data centres for hosting services being delivered to your business, which can cause added complications. But in the end it will still be your company’s reputation, productivity and profitability on the line.
To maximise your cloud cover you need to consider what’s behind your cloud – not just who’s providing it. This means finding out who owns the data centres, where they are located, and which of your applications they are hosting. To do this check with your cloud providers and ask a few pertinent questions about the data centres they are using:
Data centre location will impact the cloud provider’s price and is influenced by cost of real estate, labour, and power supply. Compare prices against similar cloud providers using other data centre locations.
Access to data
Check that there’s a legal agreement in place should your cloud provider or their data centre partner go into administration. An escrow agreement will ensure you have legal access to retrieving your data.
Resilience and disaster recovery
Are sufficient back-up systems and fail-safe measures in place? ‘Tier 3’ category data centres should be used as a minimum.
For mitigating risks of downtime from natural disasters or terrorism, are they are located well away from flood plains, large urban areas or flight paths?
How well equipped are they for powering the latest high density racks required for cloud hosting? These can need 10KW, 20KW or even 60KW per rack. Ideally, the mains supply should come directly from the national grid which ensures reliable delivery and dramatically reduces outages caused by spikes and surges.
Which and how many carriers and ISPs are connected? A choice of networks will ensure competitive pricing and continuity in the event of failure. These should offer more than enough high speed bandwidth for your provider to deliver the applications concerned. While 15 milliseconds latency or less is considered reasonable for a cloud service, some data centres can now offer around one millisecond.
Last but not least, what level of technical support does the data centre provide to their cloud providers? For server installation and capacity planning, and performing such tasks as power cycling, visual inspections and cable replacements.
Simon Taylor is the chairman and co-founder of Next Generation Data, owner and operator of South Wales-based NGD Europe, one of the world’s largest data centres.