Considering New Cloud Hosting Services? Don’t Ignore These 5 Factors.

by Jay Gilmore

Published on May 28, 2019

Few would argue that selecting the right cloud service provider is a challenging task. There is no common framework for evaluating cloud hosting services, which makes it hard to pick apart the differences between cloud hosting providers.

If that was not bad enough, most companies do not adequately consider the implications of selecting the right cloud web host. Your cloud hosting partner directly impacts development and DevOps and also influences budgeting, marketing, and customer support.

So how do you select the right cloud hosting service for your current and future needs?

In this post, we will discuss in detail five factors you should consider when selecting a new cloud hosting partner. At the end of the article, you’ll be able to better compare different offerings and understand which cloud host suits your business needs best—so read on!

 

Why does your cloud web hosting partner matter?

Most organizations are familiar with traditional hosting providers. These providers merely provide space on a server for a fee. In most cases, this doesn’t come with much more, and many people have experienced outages, poor performance, or not being able to get help when you need it.

Large commodity hosting providers and many well-meaning web designers have done their best to train the world that your website hosting should be cheap. The reality is that too often you get more than you bargained for, and not in a good way, in the form of downtime, frustration, poor performance, reputational damage, sub-optimal configurations, and lost productivity. You’re left holding the bag for complex upgrades, critical server maintenance, and good luck getting support for the software that powers your site.

If you pause to think about it, spending more than a Venti Iced Frappuccino™ or a Netflix subscription on the infrastructure that powers your website probably makes a lot of sense.

But, your sites will not perform their best without the right cloud hosting partner.

 

What factors make for the best cloud hosting providers?

One of the most important considerations when selecting a cloud hosting partner is performance. While a vast body of evidence proves that (all things being equal) fast sites will beat the competition in both search engine rank and visitor engagement, performance is more than just a great website load time.

Below we’ll define the factors that affect provider performance and provide suggestions on which features you should evaluate:

  1. Productivity
  2. Security
  3. Speed
  4. Flexibility
  5. Support

 

1. Productivity

For cloud service providers, productivity is a broad topic. To be productive, you need a cloud host that suits a variety of workflows and has DevOps features built-in so your developers can focus on building and shipping products.

Key Features

  • Snapshots are a way to create copies of a website, or part of a website. A snapshot is a quick way to get up-and-running with a new website or to migrate your existing service to another instance, saving your team time.
  • Furthermore, the right cloud service provider will have custom workflows that help teams stage, test, and deploy code to production. Having the ability to customize your workflows in a dashboard, as opposed to build and maintain the workflow yourself, will reduce your overhead.
  • Offsite backups are another crucial part of the technology stack. An offsite backup is a copy of your website files and data stored in a geographically isolated location. Backups are vital because they can be a way to wipe the slate clean after an incident, such as a critical hardware failure or security breach.

Takeaway

Find a cloud service provider that has a suite of DevOps features out-of-the-box. When considering productivity, take a holistic approach and consider all the time and money that goes into maintaining and updating your website. This includes design and requirements, but also the time it takes to migrate services, update systems and put updates into production.  

Pro Tip

Even if your team could build these tools or features themselves, look for a fully-featured cloud host. Ultimately, you want to have to maintain as little of your web infrastructure as possible, so your team can stay focused on your core business.

 

2. Security

Security in the cloud hosting world covers a vast number of concerns things within and beyond the stack, such as controlling access to the underlying infrastructure and systems (e.g., through admin dashboards) as well as protections offered by running secure versions of system software and staying abreast of security patches.

Also, security extends to control over roles and permissions, and detailed audit logs of who has previously accessed a system.

Key Features

  • The best cloud service providers keep their stack up to date and provide fine-grained access management, which mitigates against both malicious and unintentional problems. Your cloud service provider should allow you to specify who has access to different resources and who can invite users.
  • Administrators should also be able to enforce strict account access, such as forcing two-factor authentication (2FA) and strong, unique passwords.
  • Your cloud hosting provider should also have features that enable your team to stay up-to-date without downtime. Ideally, upgrades should be done in a few clicks and should not come with substantial tradeoffs.

Takeaway

A cloud service provider will have a variety of built-in security features. When evaluating solutions, be sure to ask about security features and their configuration options.  

Pro Tip

There are multiple stakeholders involved in enforcing security policies. Business and engineering leaders should come together to discuss which features their cloud service provider needs to have. We recommend looking for, secure, up-to-date stacks, granular access management, 2FA, and tools to help handle security updates.

 

3. Speed

For a cloud service provider, speed results in a better visitor user experience. Faster load times and snappy responses are a direct result of the right hardware, software, and optimizations all working in concert.

Key Features

  • You want to find a cloud host that is running the latest, stable and tested technology stack. It’s also essential to understand the specific resources (e.g., CPU cycles or RAM) that will suit your website or web application.
  • Beyond that, the right cloud service provider should allow you to connect with a content delivery network (CDN) easily and follow the best practice for asset caching, to increase your site performance and decrease costs.
  • Cloud hosting providers should be able to provide detailed analytics – including average load times, the number of requests, availability and resource usage, so teams can closely track and optimize performance.
  • Finally, we also recommend that organizations consider the availability of technical consulting services, such as performance optimization and performance audits, to help you get the most from your website.

Takeaway

The best cloud service providers allow you to select hardware, software, and optimizations carefully. A well-tuned system can dramatically increase your website or web application performance.  

Pro Tip

Performance is dependent on the slowest part of your technology stack. As a result, look for a cloud service provider that takes speed seriously and allows you to choose the right configuration. If one piece of the chain is not working effectively, it will serve as a bottleneck and slow down your whole system.

 

4. Flexibility

Flexibility for cloud service provider refers to the ability to evolve as needs change over time. Such change includes the ability to incorporate new hardware, software, and engineering best practices.

Key Features

  • A great cloud hosting provider will allow for a high degree of customization, allowing you to start at the right-sized solution and upgrade as needs change.
  • Cloud service providers should also have the right tools in place to upgrade, migrate, and add additional resources with ease.
  • For larger organizations, there should be enterprise-grade solutions, including high availability and the option to sign a service level agreement (SLA).
  • Some cloud hosting providers also offer white glove services, allowing the cloud service provider to work with you to figure out your exact wants and needs.

Takeaway

Selecting the right cloud hosting options can be confusing based on the sheer number of product offerings available from even a single vendor. We recommend consulting with a sales or customer support rep to clearly describe your needs to determine which product or products would be a fit. The best cloud hosting providers are flexible enough to support large deployments, and even offer white-glove services tailored to your exact needs.  

Pro Tip

The best cloud service providers will be able to share case studies describing and demonstrating how they helped a variety of organizations with their specific circumstances. Enquire about how easy it is to upgrade systems, migrate your data, or customize their offering to fit your exact needs.

 

5. Support

For cloud service providers, support goes above and beyond traditional customer support. Yes, you should look for a vendor that takes customer support seriously.

But there are also expert consultants and technical support, including the ability to help with migrations, optimize your performance, and troubleshoot problems.

Key Features

  • When evaluating a cloud service provider’s support, ask about their ability to support large enterprise clients. Although you may not be at this scale today, it’s helpful to know how they assist users with complex use cases.
  • Furthermore, cloud service providers should be able to provide hands-on guidance with database migrations, server migrations, and integrations. The support teams at cloud service providers should also be well-versed in helping you maximize your speed by making suggestions based on your specific website or web application.
  • Moreover, experienced technical support professionals will help you identify bugs and create detailed plans of action. They should be comfortable working side-by-side with development teams as they go through problems, big or small.

Takeaway

Customer and technical support can dramatically improve your experience with a cloud service provider. Whether you are looking for help with data migration or configuring your systems as you grow, the right support team can make a world of difference.  

Pro Tip

Support often overlooked when evaluating a new vendor. However, given the importance of picking the right cloud service provider, be sure to inquire about their support offerings.

We recommend asking about support is included for free and what additional support packages are available.

 

What is Enterprise Managed Cloud Hosting?

An enterprise managed cloud hosting provider goes above and beyond standard cloud hosting providers. Enterprise managed cloud hosts offer additional performance, security, and support that small, medium and large companies need to stay ahead of their competition—especially if they are quickly growing.

Managed enterprise clients require faster load times, lower latency, and near-zero downtime. They also demand SLAs, application-level support, granular user controls, logs, and the ability to assess and remediate network threats.

A growing business will often need cutting-edge features or insights that are not available from traditional cloud hosts. Selecting an enterprise managed solution allows you to quickly uplevel your technical capabilities without having to hire senior systems operations staff to maintain your infrastructure in-house.

The Right Questions to find the Right Partner

The right cloud service provider can provide a significant benefit to your organization. Finding the right combination of hardware, software, configuration, and support can reduce costs, increase performance, and enable your team to focus on what’s most valuable—your business.

Now that you better understand the cloud hosting ecosystem, you should feel confident to ask the right questions and pick apart the first tier vendors from the rest of the pack.

If you are looking for a great hosting provider that comes with plenty of features out-of-the-box, check out MODX Cloud Hosting today.

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