Information Technology Blog

Cloud Computing: Top 10 Things You Need to Know! (Part 3 of 3)

The buzz of cloud computing seems to have hit a fevered pitch in industry magazines, trade publications, and the mainstream media recently.  It seems like every day our Technology Services Group is being asked by clients what the "cloud" is, or to suggest cloud-based solutions for applications or services that were (or are) typically on a server in their offices.  

Is your business thinking about making the switch to cloud computing? If so, we've put together a quick list of things you need to know when thinking about moving to the cloud.

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this article.

6. Internet access considerations: Cloud computing relies exclusively (in most cases) on the connection to the internet.  One of the great advantages of cloud computing is that every employee can have access to it no matter where they are.  The downside is that if the internet connection in the office goes down, so does access to your data and applications.  Internet connection redundancy (having two internet connections from different providers, and a router or firewall that can automatically switch between the two), is an important option to consider when evaluating these solutions.

7. Service level agreements (SLA’s):  Find out what kind of service level agreement is being provided by the cloud vendor, including uptime guarantees. An uptime guarantee is typically used as a way to measure the reliability of the service a webhost can provide.  In the case they do not give you this “level” of service, they may compensate you based on the terms of your agreement. There is a big difference between 99% uptime and 99.999% uptime. 

Uptime (%) Downtime
90% 876 hours (36.5 days)
95% 438 hours (18.25 days)
99% 87.6 hours (3.65 days)
99.9% 8.76 hours
99.99% 52.56 minutes
99.999% 5.256 minutes
99.9999% 31.536 seconds

And be sure to challenge the vendor if they offer a 100% uptime guarantee – chances are, there will be a lot of fine print there.  And, if they do offer some sort of guarantee, what is the guarantee?  Will they offer you a service credit or free months of service if they don’t meet the SLA?

8. Security: Security can be a deal breaker for a move to the cloud, depending on your industry.  The cloud provider may have data centers located in different countries around the world, so you need to find out if your data will be stored domestically or internationally.  Some industries, such as financial service and healthcare, have very specific rules surrounding data storage.  Insist that the providers’ security policy is detailed in your agreement with them.  Ask your cloud provider if their systems and/or data center have had a SOC Report prepared (previously known as a SAS 70, this is an independent review of their systems, processes, and security).   Additionally, be sure that the provider has auditing mechanisms in place for managing users and security. This will give you the opportunity to see which of your users has accessed what piece of data, and when.  Finally, what happens to your data after you terminate the agreement?  Does the vendor keep it for a period of time, or will they guarantee your data has been deleted?

9. How do I get my data back?  What happens if you decide to bring your data back in-house?  Or move it to another provider?  These are important questions to ask any cloud provider, and they should have a very clear answer for you.  There are standards being developed in the industry, but most cloud providers have their own policies and procedures for data transfer. 

10.  Support:  As excited as we might be about having a bigger, better infrastructure to support our email or data, what happens if there’s a problem?  Who do we call?  If purchasing cloud solutions through a local IT consultant or reseller, be sure to ask about the support procedures, (including support hours).  Many of these solutions are a critical part of your business, so be sure to have a strong understanding of how it will be supported and what you can do if there’s a problem.

Cloud computing has come a long way, and the best is yet to come.  Many business owners and decisions makers like the concept of cloud computing and would like to test it.  But many are still fearful due to some of the security and control issues highlighted above.  Cloud computing can be a competitive advantage for your business if designed and implemented properly.  But it could also be a bad business investment if you overlook the details or enter into an agreement with the wrong vendor.

Make sure that your decision fits into your overall business plan and is flexible enough to move with your business as it grows or changes.

Is your business thinking about making the switch to cloud computing? For more information, please feel free to leave a comment below, or contact Brian Rosenfelt in Skoda Minotti's Technology Services Group by calling 440.449.6800.

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