Cloud computing has revolutionised corporate IT – generally for the better. As the technologies have matured, early adopters have encountered some potential pitfalls that may add to costs – or limit your strategic outcomes.
Here are ten issues to address with a potential cloud partner to avoid these mistakes.
1. Where will our data be stored?
One of the best features of cloud platforms is the distributed storage of data. By spreading the load across pooled hardware, your systems are more resilient, stable and less prone to failure.
Before uploading any information, you need to know where your data will physically reside. Will there be any issues about data sovereignty if the information is transferred across international borders? Are there likely to be bandwidth problems if the data centre is too far away? Is there sufficient geographical separation between live data and backups to prevent permanent loss in a disaster?
As you negotiate with providers, consider the impact location may have on your data operations.
2. How do we manage our cloud assets?
Once your data is in the cloud, you need to be able to work with it – so how does the provider make that possible? What tools do they provide? Will your developers and administrators require additional training – and can the provider assist?
You will also want to know how much control and visibility you have your cloud assets. Can you report on performance, security and billing? Will you have access to the information you need to prove you are meeting your SLA obligations, or to calculate ROI.
Take notice of the available management interfaces and consider how easily your IT team will be able to adjust.
3. How do you work with us to maintain application performance?
Access to ‘unlimited’ computing resources should deliver unrivalled application performance, increasing speed and reducing latency. But you still need to ask the question to be sure.
Does the provider offer total transparency of their technology stack so you can confirm optimised application compatibility? And do they offer any kind of performance guarantees?
These insights provide important protection against poor application performance.
4. How do you secure our data? And what about compliance?
Moving data off-site involves a high degree of trust – you are responsible for what happens in the event of loss or theft. You need to ask the cloud provider some tough questions.
Where will the data be physically stored? If personal data is transferred out of the UK / EU, you may be in breach of the GDPR, risking a massive fine.
Does the service meet the specialist security and compliance demands of your industry? Pick an incompatible service and your business could be prosecuted.
How is data secured? Is it encrypted during transfer and at rest? How is access controlled? You must be 100% convinced that your information is safe before migrating to the cloud.
5. What are our data protection and disaster recovery options?
Cloud computing has resilience built-in as standard, but you still need to maintain proper backup, restore and disaster recovery (DR) provisions.
How is data backed up? Is it an additional service? How does it work and what does it cost? How can you recover data quickly? And what are your options for restarting operations following a disaster?
Maintaining continuity of operations is extremely important – and the right cloud service provider can become a key aspect of your DR strategy.
6. How will your network work with ours?
Accessed via the Internet, cloud services should “just work”. However, linking applications – or even other cloud services – is likely to require advanced networking skills.
You need to assess the abilities of your in-house engineers and whether they match with the service on offer. If you lack any skills, can they be sourced easily / cost-effectively? If a particular service requires specialist skills you cannot source, that may not be the right platform for your needs.
7. Can you assist with defining our IT strategy moving forwards?
Integrating cloud with the corporate IT strategy means being able to assess workloads and define the best location for each. Without extensive existing experience of using the cloud, this is often a difficult task.
Your ideal cloud computing provider should be a partner, capable of aligning their service with your strategy to deliver ongoing benefits. They can also help you refine and extend your strategy to take advantage of previously unrealised cloud benefits.
8. How will you assist with the onboarding process?
The most cost-effective, efficient cloud deployments tend to be more complicated than simply lifting-and-shifting existing infrastructure. Some of your mission-critical applications may need to be refactored for maximum compatibility for instance. Or you may just need assistance with uploading large volumes of data to a remote data centre.
Check with the provider what is included with the service, and whether additional assistance can be purchased. You should also ask for suggestions about how best to streamline the migration process and to maximise the return on your investment.
9. What level of support can we expect?
Some core business systems need to be available 24x7x365 – and you need a platform you can rely on. Although more resilient than the on-premise equivalent, you still need support coverage for your systems in the cloud.
Consider how your internal support resources need to be augmented to improve service coverage. And don’t forget to ask the provider what is included in the contract – including SLAs – as standard. If you need 24×7 support, it will almost certainly be a chargeable extra
10. What is the cloud going to cost us?
The pay-as-you-use cloud billing model is brilliant for reducing capital spend on IT hardware. But there are potentially dozens of consumption-based metrics used for billing – CPU cycles, disk storage, bandwidth used etc. This can make bills more complicated to understand – and higher than expected.
You will need a potential provider to explain their billing model, what it includes and whether there are pricing tiers to help better control costs. Using their experience, you should be able to define a cloud platform that will deliver against your strategic goals without busting your budget.
The choice of cloud service should be treated as a major strategic decision. With the right partner in place, you have a platform on which to build IT systems capable of delivering on your strategic growth goals.
So, put WTL to the test. Give give us a call and grill us about what you need – and how we can deliver cloud computing stategy that is right for your business.