9 Tips for Test-Driving a Cloud Computing Service
One of the main reasons why businesses adopt cloud computing is because of its cost efficiency. Other reasons include the possibility of unlimited storage, quick access from multiple devices, and the facility of using multiple computing services. There is, however, a lingering doubt about the security of data and the reliability of services. Many Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer free trials before signing up for their services to reassure their clients of their reliability. Here are nine important things you must check when taking a free cloud trial.
Identify Your Requirements
As with everything else, the first step is to have a clear idea of your own requirements. You would do well to classify the requirements as functional and non-functional. Says H. James Harrington, the first step towards control is measurement. Measurement helps understanding. Therefore, measure carefully the performance, security, and other expectations you have from your cloud service. Define each requirement and quantify the qualitative requirements. For example, when a vendor says he uses fast servers, ask how fast they are. Does your idea of speed match his idea? This leads us to the second important testing tip.
Understand the Services that the Vendor Provides
Having quantified and understood your own requirements, it would be wise to make a checklist so that you can revert to it when considering what services are available. Every CSP will provide scalability and flexibility that are the main advantages of cloud computing. However, it is important to understand the cost of these services. By cost, we mean not just the financial cost but also the opportunity cost. For example, if your data or applications require a particular configuration and the CSP has that required configuration on specific servers only, the cost of the cloud service could be higher than anticipated. It is also important to understand how the service is deployed, the tools you may require to use the service, competence and training of your employees, moving costs and other such requirements.
Understand the Geography of the Servers
Network Latency is different in different countries. It is also different for different servers, companies, and providers. For example, a Takipi speed test shows that the latency between Virginia and Oregon using AWS servers is about 4 seconds, while the same is a little more than 28 seconds between Australia and Virginia using the same servers. This means that proximate servers offer lower latency as compared to remote servers. Another important consideration is the law of the land. CSPs functions across national boundaries. Regulations in different countries may place limitations on the CSPs and these limitations could affect your service. It is therefore important to understand the geographic locations of the servers that you will be utilizing for your service.
Understand CSP Limitations
Although the cloud is said to be highly scalable and elastic, everything has a limit. These limits include number of service requests, bandwidth, and the number of servers among others. Generally, the number of service requests is low and providers configure their infrastructure in a way that these requests can be easily met. However, if you have an unusually large database and/or users, you should check the limits of the cloud service.
Test Before You Use
Before signing the dotted line, ask the vendor for a trial run. During the trial run, test the services thoroughly. Particularly you should test for the following:
- Elasticity: Although in theory it is easy to trust the elasticity of the cloud, there could be several issues in practice. For example, in the process of auto-scaling, some virtual instances may be lost. Over scaling may also affect the speed of deployment.
- Performance: Test the service for number of users that can work together on the system, the distribution of data storage, the speed of access, and the number of requests. It is advisable to plan carefully the performance testing well in advance with real test data. If you are planning to deploy your own applications on the cloud then you may test those too.
- Vulnerability: Testing the vulnerability of the cloud to identify weak encryption, open ports, and other weaknesses is an important part of the testing process. This testing ensures that your data cannot be hacked. Get professional help if it is not available in-house.
- Reliability: When testing your applications, check what happens when certain components are not available. How does your application perform at peak times? These tests are important if you do not want to give your customers the “system down” excuse.
Choose your Plan with Care
Select your Deployment plan with care. Do you really need a private cloud with dedicated servers? How sensitive is your data? How much data are you planning to shift to the cloud? Answers to these and other similar questions can help you decide on your service plan. Check the options that different vendors have to offer and select the one that best meets your requirements.
Pricing and Discounts
Testing is not just about how data is stored or how applications work. It is also about affordability. Check the costs of services offered against the ROI to your business. Cloud services are based on usage. Not all pay-as-you-go plans are cost efficient. Often monthly payment packages are available at discounted rates. Check the costing and discounts offered by the vendor carefully.
Ask your vendor if he will allow a parallel run at a lower cost before signing up for a long-term contract. Conducting a parallel run gives you the chance to put live data on the cloud while at the same time continuing your traditional procedures. You can then compare time frames, performance, productivity and other parameters to decide the cost efficiency and feasibility of the move to the cloud.
Even when you take the final step, it would be wise to have a fall back procedure in place. This will ensure sustainability in the event your cloud service collapses or fails to meet your requirements.