As our world becomes ever more digitized and companies demand increasingly modern and high-tech IT services, the vast majority of organizations are outsourcing their infrastructure. Considering that these companies’ technological needs are almost as diverse as the options available to meet them, ensuring your organization chooses the option that is most suited to your requirements is a top priority to business operations.

An overwhelming number of choices are available and, as these IT services have greater demand, their supply increases. The good providers will offer reliability, value for money and success. The bad comes with risk of downtime, security problems and a heap of other issues with the potential to put your business on the backfoot with customers.

So, when in the market for outsourced suppliers, what is the easiest way to sift through all of these options? What questions should you be asking?

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Be wary of deals

It is easy to be drawn towards a bargain. But, when it comes to something as important as a hosting provider, cost should not dictate over everything else. Emphasis should be on experience and expertise, as this will reap the greatest benefits in the long-run.

Experience is often the best means of knowledge, so finding a hosting provider who has previously worked with companies in your industry will make them more suitable for you too. The ability to provide solid answers to questions about your industry and the technical challenges (and opportunities) you may experience is invaluable. Don’t put yourself in the kind of position where your business may be used by the provider as a guinea pig to learn about a new sector.

The silver service

Sometimes it can be hard to work out exactly what you need from an infrastructure provider. Any professional partner can and should be able to work with you to identify your business needs and create a solution that is personalized to it. This is where Service Level Agreements (SLAs) first come into play, and are usually the foundation of performance guarantees offered by the host, therefore a vital part of the process of choosing a hosting provider. It is also however where proper advice or presales can play an important role. A good design is key and a professional hosting provider will be able to support you in finding the right infrastructure for your specific requirements.

Consistency and reliability are two of the top qualities that your provider should be able to demonstrate. There have been some very high-profile examples where hosts have proved unreliable because of a technology problem or human error. Being left without a functioning website for days or even weeks at a time is simply not an option for businesses nowadays.

This is why your host needs to offer capabilities such as fully redundant data centers and network infrastructure to provide your business with the assurance that they will perform consistently. Additionally, if high availability is important to you, it should also be taken into consideration when choosing and/or designing your infrastructure. Again, this is definitely something you should also discuss with your new hosting provider - they know best the reliability of their services and which ones to choose in which situation.

In terms of performance, it is not only important to look at the achievements of the provided cloud or servers, but also the network performance. Testing the network capabilities specifically towards those areas where your end user is strongly recommended.

Too far for comfort?

Location is important. Knowing where your data resides when outsourcing storage, management and security of data is vital. This can be even more important to organizations that work in regulated industries, for example, their policy may mean data must be kept within their national boundaries. It is important to note that the jurisdiction of the country where your infrastructure is hosted is probably the one to follow. However, it is also strongly recommended to check if this is the only jurisdiction applicable, due to the terms and conditions of the hosting provider or due to the location of the headquarter of your hosting provider.

Your hosting partner must be able to support your business in all the regions in which it operates in. The bigger the organization’s international footprint, the more important it becomes that it can work across these boundaries and provide a seamless service. As growth happens, this often becomes a bigger issue for businesses; a partner that might have been ideal for the home region of a business may no longer be the right option when international expansion comes into play. Thinking ahead and factoring this into your choices will make a huge difference.

To find the best location, you should not only look at the privacy data laws and jurisdiction, but also see how latency dependable your applications are. If this is the case, it might be best to host in close proximity to your end users, to give them the best user experience supported by low latency.

Being secure

Standards of security do vary, even though there is a mutual understanding in the industry of its utmost importance. . After all, we continue to see regular headlines that show the serious impact when a host suffers a security breach.

Looking at the track record of the hosting businesses you are considering is extremely important. Ask them about their security record and accreditations – don’t just rely on the incidents reported by the media (but don’t ignore those either). Review their terms of service to fully understand where their security begins and ends – what is their responsibility and what is yours?

It’s all in the delivery

More often than not businesses change from one infrastructure hosting provider to another because they have received poor service. And like all healthy relationships, your hosting partner should stick with you through the ‘thick’ and the ‘thin’. The times when a business needs help, has technical difficulties, or needs to adapt to changing circumstances (good and bad), is when an outstanding service from its hosting partner is most important.

Good service encompasses multiple components and it starts with an understanding of your company and its goals.. Once you’ve selected a partner, the next indicator of good service is the ability to effectively ‘onboard’ you as a new customer. Thereafter, good service can include responsiveness to standard service tickets, and what resources can be devoted to more serious problems.

A lot can be said for reviews, and ultimately, the most honest review you will receive of a hosting provider is from their current customers. Therefore, when you are talking to a prospective provider, ask for proof of excellent service. Your company's ideal infrastructure hosting provider should be able to deliver in all the key areas. When taking the best deal into account along with the questions regarding service, it should be a lot less overwhelming to choose one that suits your needs.