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How do I go about choosing a cloud provider for my company?

Choosing a cloud provider for your company can seem impossible until you compare your needs to a provider's core business.

How do I go about choosing a cloud provider for my company?

When choosing a cloud service provider, the list of choices can seem endless, with everyone from traditional hosting providers and software vendors to systems integrators and telecom providers offering Infrastructure as a Service, Software as a Service or Platform as a Service. The fact that IaaS market-maker Amazon Web Services is a unit of Amazon the online retail giant is emblematic of the unique character of the cloud provider landscape. AWS was created when Amazon turned its excess server capacity into a multi-billion dollar a year business.

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No single category of cloud provider can be singled out as the best fit for all types of on-demand services. But you can narrow down your choices based on the general strengths of the provider's resources and experience. We can break down the competitive field by the type of cloud service (IaaS, SaaS and/or PaaS) you need and by the category of the cloud providers' core business.

The IaaS market is naturally populated by providers that have extensive data center infrastructures, including traditional hosting providers, systems integrators and telecommunications providers. Web-centric providers like Amazon Web Services and Google can offer on-demand compute or storage services leveraging their existing infrastructures, as well as some PaaS offers. Storage vendors also offer hosted backup and recovery, archiving and other cloud-based services to their clients.

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Each type of provider brings a particular skill set and resources to the cloud. For example, hosting providers have the facilities, virtualization expertise and, in many cases, the mature delivery model and support experience to put together comprehensive IaaS packages. Telecommunications providers have an end-to-end delivery advantage that comes from having both extensive data center facilities and network infrastructure, which enables them to provide greater stability and better performance end-to-end. Many of the Web-centric providers can cite their scale. Google has also invested in building out a network footprint of its own.

SaaS providers include software vendors that host applications in their own facilities and deliver those solutions via an on-demand model. Web-centric companies like Google can also deliver applications, including collaboration and productivity suites, through the cloud. Security vendors also offer some of their solutions via a Security as a Service model.

This was last published in April 2013

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