When companies transfer their business-critical applications to the cloud, one of the most critical decisions is selecting a hosting provider. Managed hosting essentially refers to leasing dedicated servers and associated hardware that is situated at the hosting provider’s facility and managed there.
There are two major advantages to this kind of solution. Firstly, it’s cheaper than hosting on-premise as it means less energy usage, and less tech-support personnel need to be employed. Secondly, it’s faster to implement because it’s all done off-site, at a dedicated resource centre, by a team with a great deal of expertise.
So, before selecting a hosting provider, there are a number of key things to consider…
1. Price – don’t make it your priority
Although price is obviously a consideration for every business decision, it’s important not to place too much emphasis on it as a deciding factor for your hosting partner.
First and foremost, you can’t put a price on the safety of your data. And a sluggish or temperamental operating system can be damaging to productivity and efficiency. Go for the cheap option and you could stand to lose a lot more in both time and damages in the future.
Most hosting providers will be able to guarantee a certain level of ‘uptime’, i.e. time that the server will be performing optimally without any problems. This should always be at least 99.9%.
Even if your provider can guarantee a good level of availability, it’s advisable to determine certain operational protocols, such as:
- The average utilisation levels of their connection,
- Whether they have redundant power going to their servers,
- Whether there is a generator onsite and how often it’s tested, and;
- What type of fire suppression systems they have in place.
Your hosting provider not only governs your level of uptime, but your connection and processing speed also very much depends on how efficient their systems are.
There are two main reasons why it’s so important to determine how the date centre is staffed: support and security. In the instance that technical difficulties arise, you ideally want your data centre to have adequate expertise on hand so that any issues are rectified as soon as possible.
You might also want to check what the support protocol is; are the data centres staffed by tech support personnel or experienced systems administrators? Some people are put off by support staff and would rather be put straight through to a specialised technician with the skills to take immediate action.
The other consideration is that data centres are essentially big warehouses of sensitive data – there should also be some sort of physical security presence.
4. Data Encryption
Again, the data centre is a great big juicy target for cybercriminals, who will attempt to hack into it to retrieve valuable data. And the more valuable your data, the safer you will need to keep it.
Just to be clear, this shouldn’t put you off migrating to the cloud. Yes, it’s part of an attractive target for cybercriminals, but the upside is that it’s under the care and attention of skilled and specialised technicians and data centre security is often more secure than anything the average company could provide on-premise.
At the very least, your data should be encrypted. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be stolen, but it does mean that cybercriminals will have a hard time accessing valuable information as they will have to decode it first.
Finally, check how often back-ups are performed, and what the failover protocol is. Should a server failure occur, you want to be secure in the knowledge that as little disruption will be caused to your business as possible.
Second site failover essentially means that all data can be immediately transferred over to an otherwise redundant server should technical difficulties arise, so you can seamlessly carry on working. Ideally, you will want your site to be backed up regularly, as trying to restore data from a failed hard drive is extremely difficult, risky and avoidable!
Migrating to the cloud can be a daunting step, particularly when business-critical applications and highly sensitive data is involved. However asking the right questions of your managed hosting provider can go a long way to ensure the greatest possible experience.
This is written by Ali Raza on behalf of Interoute, one of the UK’s premier providers of Application Managed Services, Managed Cloud Services and Infrastructure Solutions for Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors.