Cloud hosting is fundamentally about service. The phrases Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service aren’t just for marketing purposes, they perfectly sum-up the essence of Cloud.
Organisations once hosted I.T. hardware and systems in-house: typically, an area in their office was fitted with a secure door, air conditioning, fire suppressant gas and uninterruptable power supplies. This server room hosted the organisation’s critical I.T. infrastructure. I.T. managers were proud of this room and many were reassured to have their infrastructure nearby.
However, these server rooms were hosted in ordinary office buildings with ordinary power supplies and network connectivity. They consumed valuable office space, required organisations to deliver services outside their capabilities and, most importantly, failures happened.
Since then, most organisations have been on a journey with their I.T. hosting: first, co-locating equipment in a third-party data centre; later, replacing owned hardware with hardware leased from the data centre provider and possibly outsourcing further support services; finally, organisations stopped leasing hardware and instead “leased” virtual machines in the Cloud. The entire hosting operating converted to a flexible service that delivers exactly – and only – what the customer requires: a server. That service encapsulates the data centre, power, security, connectivity, networks and hardware.
So what? The point is that even the most commoditised IaaS Cloud offering is a service and organisations must ensure the Cloud provider’s service level commitments match the customer’s requirements. Furthermore, they must ask whether the provider is able to deliver those service levels. It’s easy to take Cloud hosting for granted. It is a commodity, it is ubiquitous and it is very reliable. But it relies on people and data centres and hardware, none of which are infallible.
In our recent blog on the Cost of Cloud Hosting , we discussed the fire at an OVHCloud data centre. Thousands of customers were affected, and this demonstrates that Cloud service issues happen. Furthermore, it was reported that the affected data centre had neither a VESDA (very early smoke detection apparatus) system nor a fire suppression system. This example demonstrates why customers must still perform due diligence on services that we take for granted.
Assuming the Cloud service provider can deliver the required service levels, what further services may be required? Does the organisation require service management and service reporting? For the hosting of key systems or large estates this can be essential. It provides visibility of what’s happening to the hosted environments and the service levels being delivered. It should also include a forum for forward planning and an effective escalation path.
Service management comes at a cost so it is essential to check what is included, but service management should deliver real service, adding visibility and control, that elevates the value achieved from Cloud hosting.
Are there other services that, combined with Cloud hosting, can benefit customers? Absolutely, but the services offered vary between suppliers and many of them aren’t relevant to every customer. Thus, it’s important to consider what services are required and which will remain in-house.
Backup services are almost always required. Disaster recovery may also be necessary. Can you afford to lose data and how much downtime can be endured? Despite the reliability of Cloud and it being a service, it’s vital to remember it is just a service involving people, data centres and hardware. Following the OVHCloud fire, one customer posted on social media: “I could never imagine a Cloud provider could have such a disaster on a such secured site.” It is therefore vital for organisations to imagine that such disasters can happen and plan for service failures. Cloud does not obviate the need for backups and DR.
Further services may be sourced as part of a PaaS offering, additional technical services or support services.
- Software Licensing
- System Automation
- Monitoring F
- Operating System Support
- Application Support
The sweet spot is finding a Cloud service provider that not only offers the services the organisation doesn’t want to deliver in-house, but has a proven track record of doing so, supported by appropriate SLAs, KPIs and service credits. That may sound straightforward but due diligence is required.
Many providers now offer Cloud services but not all have the culture, processes or skills to deliver as a service provider. However, choosing the right Cloud provider will deliver service improvement, lower costs and remove many of the headaches of hosting and supporting I.T. systems.