Does size really matter when it comes to the cloud?

In my experience, those tasked with making such business-critical decisions about what size cloud provider to opt for are confronted with several opinions on the matter, often from sources with their own biases on the subject.

To my knowledge, there is only one overriding advantage of a large cloud provider, namely price. Whilst companies who build bigger data centres can drive down the unit price offering cost savings to customers, flexibility in the contract is usually compromised as a result.

With large cloud providers it is nigh on impossible to get a contractual change, let alone a contract that is designed specifically for the needs of individual businesses.

Due to the sheer levels of governance in place, even the smallest of changes remain impossible as the system does not allow for flexibility – they operate on a “this is our offer, take it or leave it” basis.

In the case of small providers, however, such requests go directly to those in a position to make them and an instant decision can be made - the option for flexibility is there, meaning that customers get a service that is suited to their needs rather than to the needs of the provider.

The extent of this inflexibility has the potential to lose business for large providers. Due to the high on boarding set up costs, large companies are even turning to the smaller providers for assistance.

They don’t want to turn business away and through partnering with more flexible and agile companies, are able to cater for customers who require a smaller, more flexible contract.

With cloud still in its infancy, customers are naturally very keen to see where their data is held and smaller providers are able to fulfil this wish. By opting for a smaller provider, customers can visit the data centre, see firsthand the security checks and backups in place and reassure themselves that their business critical data is in safe hands.

This type of personal interaction is simply not possible with large providers such as Google, Microsoft or Amazon who would be overrun if such a service was available.

Whilst you may feel your data is fully protected by opting for a large well known provider, nothing is more reassuring than visiting a data centre ahead of signing and seeing the exact location of your data -  a very comforting option for those embracing the cloud for the first time and one that a smaller supplier can offer.

Due to their sheer scale, large data centres are prone to suffering what are often debilitating outages, leaving customers stranded and their data in jeopardy.

There comes a point where data centres become too complicated for things like DR rehearsal and testing to be carried out. With smaller data centres, however, it is not beyond the capabilities of the IT staff to fully understand what is going on and to plan for all sorts of scenarios.

In order for the data centre to run efficiently, it is vital for those in control to ascertain potential risk and deploy disaster recovery plans if needed. This risk assessment and crisis scenario process becomes all the more complex with larger data centres and often results in unexpected and unplanned outages.

In short, size really does matter when it comes to the cloud. Whilst on the face of it larger players may offer you a competitive price, the reality is that the backbones of the contract will leave you tied into a stringent situation.

When opting for a hosted solution, it is imperative that you understand where your data is held, right down to the individual rack, an opportunity that is usually only available with the smaller providers. 

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