How to Hire a Cloud Consulting Company
Big data is big business. Until recently, it was also limited to larger businesses that could afford the infrastructure to leverage vast amounts of information, and the personnel to keep it humming. The digital transformation brought on by cloud-based computing is a great equalizer, allowing small businesses to compete on an even playing field. However, the cloud, like much else in IT, is far from self-explanatory.
For this reason, your business—enterprise, SMB, or startup—is likely to need help. Outsourcing your business needs to a cloud consulting company ensures assistance with migration to the cloud, as well as providing managed services that help you make the most of every opportunity while also avoiding the pitfalls that lurk around every corner.
What is a Cloud Consulting Company?
Rather than keeping servers and other IT infrastructure on-site, the cloud moves various IT functions — data storage and recovery, plus the computing power that underpins the IoT (internet of things) and numerous SaaS (Software as a Service) applications — to distributed offsite data centers. Cloud consulting firms assist large businesses and SMBs with cloud adoption, offering cloud strategy and IT services ranging from project management to eCommerce, business continuity, cybersecurity, and a number of other professional services.
What are the Different Types of Cloud Consulting Companies?
Consulting takes many forms. An effective cloud consulting company should be able to anticipate numerous pitfalls and address a number of different needs, simultaneously.
Strategy and Implementation
What are your short-term goals, and long-term needs, in migrating to the cloud? A good cloud consulting company should be an active collaborator in identifying opportunities to introduce automation, save money, and improve workflow, meeting a variety of business needs.
Implementation is only a first step; ensuring that there’s ongoing support during day-to-day operations matters as well.
Public cloud companies like Amazon (AWS Cloud), Microsoft (Azure), and Google (Google Cloud) work in much the same way as shared web hosting. This, in turn, poses unique cybersecurity challenges; your cloud consultancy should be abreast of or strive to stay one step ahead of, those who would seek to interrupt or harm your business.
Financial and HR Concerns
A consultancy that’s a perfect fit for healthcare may not be right for a law firm; one that specializes in local business may not, in turn, be right for a business that operates across borders. Some consultants leverage specific expertise in areas like HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other legal or regulatory frameworks that impact your business.
Functional and Industry-Specific Concerns
As a codicil to our last point, even businesses in the same vertical can have vastly different needs for SaaS solutions, data center locations, disaster recovery, and more. It’s best to find a firm that understands your specific business and field wherever possible.
Why Do I Need to Invest in Cloud Consulting Services for My Business?
Experience has taught us that there are many reasons to adopt cloud computing. We are not alone in thinking so; Salesforce, a SaaS business that is itself no stranger to the cloud, points to twelve key benefits of cloud computing.
- Significant cost savings over on-site server space
- Higher security than is generally possible with a local solution
- Solutions that are inherently flexible, offering easier scalability
- Mobility, since cloud-based services can be accessed from nearly anywhere with an internet connection—a clear boon in our WFH age
- With that mobility and flexibility also comes an environment that fosters collaboration
- Greater insight through big data and advanced analytics
- The kind of quality control that comes from the ease of standardization in documents and data alike
- Improved resilience and disaster recovery that improves outcomes and business reputation alike
- Loss prevention, since key data is no longer constrained by local assets that are easily stolen
- Automatic software updates take place on an ongoing basis, improving performance and security for all stakeholders
- A higher degree of sustainability, since cloud computing has a lower carbon footprint than the alternatives
- A decisive competitive edge over companies that have not adopted cloud-based solutions
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Should I Hire a Cloud Consulting Company or a Freelancer?
If you are convinced that it’s time for cloud migration, the next logical question is how and where to start. The answer, in part, lies in choosing between a freelance cloud consultant, or a cloud consulting agency.
Positives and Negatives of Working With a Cloud Consulting Company
Cloud consulting companies tend to be the higher-priced alternative, but it’s worth asking what you’re getting for your money. Cloud computing may be less resource-intensive for your business, but it is by no means a low or no-maintenance affair. Because an agency can put a team of highly-trained and well-resourced cloud experts at your disposal, they tend to be the more effective choice.
Positives and Negatives of Cloud Consulting Freelancers
Why consider a freelancer? They’re inexpensive, they are typically responsive, and you’ll often get individualized attention from someone with years of experience. What’s more, cloud computing service freelancers are specialists by nature.
However, that level of specialization can have its drawbacks. If you know the area of expertise you need—software development, APIs and app development, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or a Salesforce consulting partner, for instance—it’s easy to find a freelancer with that specialty. They might, however, be at something of a loss when it comes to Kubernetes, or may direct you to a platform with which they’re more experienced instead of searching the right cloud solution for your business.
Why You Should Hire a Cloud Consulting Company
As we saw above, there’s no single magic bullet that will solve all of your cloud computing problems; rather, you will need to draw on multiple areas of expertise, and many areas—cybersecurity by no means the least among them—require constant learning and adaptation.
If cost is a consideration, agencies still come out on top. It is by no means impossible to source a pool of freelance talent that can cover the same ground, but those costs add up quickly; there is also the hidden time sink involved in managing a team of freelancers, or the added expense of hiring a project manager. Keeping your managed computing and its many moving parts on track is easier to accomplish under the aegis of an experienced agency.
Hiring a Cloud Consulting Company
Now that we’ve addressed the whys and wherefores, let’s turn our attention to how, exactly, you should find the right cloud consultancy for your needs.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Cloud Consulting Company?
Pricing for cloud consulting services varies widely — as low as $60 per hour, and as much as $250 per hour or more — so it’s important to shop wisely. Among the key pricing determinants are the amount of data to be migrated, the kinds of cloud-based applications you plan to run, app integrations, the location and number of data centers required, and of course, any custom app development you may require.
How to Find a Reputable Cloud Consulting Company
When searching for a vendor, many businesses’ first step would be to open a browser tab and search. That raises a problem, however; simply Googling “cloud consulting companies” returns more than 44 thousand results (or 350 million if you searched without putting the phrase in quotes). How do you cut this down to size?
- Start close to home, especially if your business has a highly localized or regionalized presence.
- Think about your industry’s unique legal and regulatory challenges; specifically searching for specialists that cater to your industry will further separate the wheat from the chaff.
- Still stuck? Try a B2B marketplace like UpCity, which offers ways to search at a more specialized and granular level, while also getting feedback from the business’s clients.
- Speaking of feedback, vet businesses via their social media mentions, reviews, and word of mouth in industry-specific fora.
- Your competitors, and others in your vertical, have probably been where you’re going. Work your contacts to see which vendors they’ve used and found satisfactory.
Traits to Look for in a Cloud Consulting Company
Given that this industry is just as data-driven as your own, any cloud consultancy should be able and willing—eager, even—to furnish you with key statistics to back their claims. Guiding Metrics pinpoints several that are especially useful when vetting an agency before you hire.
System availability, or uptime, is especially important; as Guiding Metrics points out, even 99.9% uptime represents 42 minutes’ worth of outages, during which your customers are in the dark.
The cloud still relies on physical hardware. Reliability, expressed as mean time between failures (MTBF) and mean time to repair (MTTR), is a window on how quickly service repairs or replaces that hardware if it fails.
Response time is the time elapsed between demand for resources and its fulfillment (the time between clicking “save” and the document actually being backed up, for instance).
Cybersecurity is too large and complex a subject to summarize in a bullet point. Suffice it to say, however, you’ll want to evaluate security standards, data protection, network, and infrastructure security, and any industry-specific data security needs your business may have.
Throughput, or bandwidth, is the number of transactions per second a system can handle. This varies based on the nature of the data being sent over a network and has an outsized impact on your ability to reliably deliver services and content to your customers.
Capacity, in the meantime, measures the volume of workload versus the infrastructure that’s meant to carry it. When there is insufficient capacity, there won’t be sufficient resources to balance supply and demand.
Scalability refers to a system’s capability to allocate resources in response to spikes in demand; this, in turn, is a function of the system’s bandwidth and capacity.
Latency is a measure of the time elapsed between the submission of an information packet and its arrival at its destination. Higher latency means more of a lag between submission and acceptance, causing frustration for customers.
It’s equally important to evaluate an agency’s performance beyond the cloud. How is support rendered when you need it, and how quickly? To whom are your inquiries directed, and how are they escalated if necessary? And, finally, how do all of the preceding considerations translate into cost per customer?
Hiring a cloud consultancy isn’t the end of the process; you should, instead, think of it as a midpoint of sorts. As your contract unfolds, you will need to evaluate the company’s performance to ensure that you’ve found a cost-effective partner. In addition to measuring performance against the metrics mentioned in the previous section, The Open Group identifies a number of KPIs through which you can gauge your cloud computing ROI, among them:
- Time, including optimizing delivery and execution, and controlling both predictable and variable workload costs
- Cost, including optimal capacity cost, ecosystem optionality, and instance to asset ratio
- Quality, including optimizing delivery and execution costs through intelligent automation, plus environmental considerations and customer experience (CX)
- Margin, accounting for margin optimization, revenue efficiency, and market disruption rate
Getting Started With a Cloud Consultancy
Saying that someone had their head in the clouds used to carry a negative connotation; these days, businesses can’t afford to avoid the cloud. Profit, efficiency, and innovation all depend on being conversant in its possibilities, or on having a partner that can help you navigate what had been unknown territory. It’s an easier voyage when you’ve got the backing of the best cloud consulting company in your area.