A cloud provider is a company that offers some component of cloud computing – typically Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) – to other businesses or individuals. Cloud providers are sometimes referred to as cloud service providers or CSPs.
There are a number of things to think about when you evaluate cloud providers. The cost will usually be based on a per-use utility model but there are a number of variations to consider. The physical location of the servers may also be a factor for sensitive data.
Reliability is crucial if your data must be accessible. A typical cloud storage service-level agreement (SLA), for example, specifies precise levels of service – such as, for example, 99.9% uptime – and the recourse or compensation that the user is entitled to should the provider fail to provide the service as described. However, it’s important to understand the fine print in that agreement because some providers discount outages of less than ten minutes, which may be too long for some businesses.
Security is another important consideration. Organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) offer certification to cloud providers that meet their criteria. The CSA's Trusted Cloud Initiative program was created to help cloud service providers develop industry-recommended, secure and interoperable identity, access and compliance management configurations and practices.
Amazon was the first major cloud provider, with the 2006 offering of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Other cloud providers include Apple, Cisco, Citrix, IBM, Joyent, Google, Microsoft, Rackspace, Salesforce.com and Verizon/Terremark.
A telecom cloud provider is a telecommunications company that has shifted its focus to dedicate existing infrastructure to provide cloud services.